Ashley Dale's younger sister was due to have a sleepover at her house on the night she was shot dead.

The 28-year-old Knowsley Council employee, who was days away from starting a promotion at work, was sat in her pyjamas having a drink on the sofa in the living room of her home on Leinster Road in Old Swan, with her dachshund Darla. At around 11.30pm, Ashley's peace was disturbed by the alarm on her Volkswagen T-Roc sounding outside.

She mistakenly believed this had been as a result of the inclement weather, but in actual fact her tyres had been slashed by a hit team who, an hour later, would barge through her front door and shoot her dead with a Skorpion submachine gun. The gunman, James Witham, and his driver, Joseph Peers, had been dispatched to the scene by Niall Barry.

READ MORE: Four men found guilty of the murder of Ashley Dale

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A tall, stocky trafficker of both drugs and firearms nicknamed "Branch", his "beef" had been not with the slightly built young woman who fell victim to it, but instead with her boyfriend Lee Harrison. Witham shot more than a dozen bullets from the submachine gun, at least eight of those were fired towards Ashley as she tried to flee danger.

Senior Investigating Officer Cath Cummings added that it was "unbelievable" to think Ashley's younger sister was due to be staying at her home the night of the shooting, and it was only by chance that she didn't."

She said: "James Witham has forced entry into the address taking the door down completely, only leaving the frame intact. Ashley has started to flee the address from the dining room area.

"We could see from the footwear marks and from the ballistics evidence at the scene that there were eight shots at least that were fired directly towards Ashley whilst still walking towards her. There were two that were shot further towards the skirting board area, so we believe that was intended towards the dog, because the dog cage was there toward the right hand side.

"Then he's continued to go upstairs to the spare bedroom, where the light was off, where he's just about walked in then a further five have been fired over the top of the bed.

"It's unbelievable to think Ashley's younger sister was due to be staying there that night, and it's only by chance that she didn't. Or this could be another story that we're telling here as well in addition to Ashley, which is bad enough."

Branch's dispute with Mr Harrison, also known as "Saz", began to take root around 2018, when a quantity of cocaine and cannabis worth somewhere in the region of £40,000 was stolen from a stash house under Barry's control. The Hillsiders - an organised crime group based on the Hillside estate in Huyton, with whom Harrison had been affiliated - were apparently to blame.

Paul Greaney KC told jurors during the prosecution's opening last month that gunman Witham and "driver" Peers, were "dispatched" to Leinster Road to assassinate Harrison and "leave no witnesses".

Mr Greaney said that "certain events at Glastonbury Festival" in June 2022 had "played an important part" in the alleged motive behind the attack, adding: "Ashley Dale and Lee Harrison, her boyfriend, attended the festival, as did at least four of the defendants - Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Ian Fitzgibbon and James Witham. A group of other young men from Liverpool were also present, one of whom was a person called Jordan Thompson - who was known as Dusty.

"Lee Harrison seems to have had an association with the group of which Dusty was part. Whilst at the festival, Sean Zeisz was assaulted, and his attackers included Jordan Thompson.

"This attack appears to have occurred because Sean Zeisz was, as it was later expressed, arguing with everyone for Niall Barry - who was known as Branch. To compound the loss of face for Sean Zeisz, in the aftermath of the assault his girlfriend - a woman called Olivia, known as Liv, McDowell - stayed with the group of which Jordan Thompson, Lee Harrison and Ashley Dale were part.

"It is clear that Sean Zeisz felt deeply humiliated from what had happened at Glastonbury."

The court also heard that Barry then sided with Zeisz, with this "fresh" dispute having compounded a "separate and longstanding antagonism towards Lee Harrison", who was not present at the time of the attack. The suicide of Rikki Warnick, who had apparently been "bullied" by Thompson before his death, was also said to have increased tensions between the two factions.

Mr Greaney said: "Niall Barry used these new events at Glastonbury to reignite that old feud. And, as tensions simmered in Liverpool, Niall Barry made a series of threats directed towards Lee Harrison."

Witham, of Ashbury Road in Huyton, admitted barging down the door of Ashley's home and spraying the property with bullets using a Skorpion submachine gun. But the 41-year-old claimed he did not see or hear Ashley inside and was instead attempting to "send a message" to Harrison, with whom he had supposedly been in dispute with over drug dealing in North Wales.

He denied having plotted with others to arrange the shooting beforehand, stating that he had decided to discharge the gun at the address, which he said he believed was empty, on the spur of the moment while drunk and high on cocaine. Witham maintained that he had found the weapon buried in Stadt Moers Park, having learned of its existence after speaking to a pair of brothers called "Big Dave and Little Dave" while at the Everton v Nottingham Forest match on the afternoon of August 20.

Peers, 29, of Woodlands Road in Roby, meanwhile told the court he had been at home watching a fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk on the television with his dad at the time of the shooting. Barry, aged 26 and of Moscow Drive in Tuebrook, 28-year-old Zeisz, of Longreach Road in Huyton, and 28-year-old Fitzgibbon, of Heigham Gardens in St Helens, also said they had been watching the boxing in the Pilch Lane flat and had no knowledge of any plan to attack Leinster Road.

Radford, of Trentham Road in Kirkby, was accused of making arrangements for the Hyundai i30N Performance used in the shooting to be stored at an address in St Helens in the aftermath of the incident. But the 26-year-old claimed to be unaware that the car had been used in connection with any crime.

Four men, Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Joseph Peers and James Witham, were unanimously convicted of Ashley's murder by a jury on Monday afternoon. They were also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Ms Dale's boyfriend Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

A fifth man accused of Ms Dale's murder, Ian Fitzgibbon, was cleared of these three charges while a sixth defendant, Kallum Radford, was acquitted of assisting an offender.

The verdicts were delivered after nine hours and 22 minutes of deliberations by a jury of five men and seven women.

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