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Justice for Rhys

Guilty verdict marks end of ten week trial and 16 months of anguish

Published on December 17th 2008.

Justice for Rhys

SEAN Mercer will serve a minimum of 22 years in jail after being found guilty of murdering Rhys Jones, the 11-year-old who was shot as he walked home from football practice in Croxteth last year.

The verdict and sentence came following an emotional ten week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Rhys was hit in the neck by one of three bullets fired across the car park of the Fir Tree Pub in August 2007, by Mercer, now 18, who had been aiming at members of a rival gang. He died in his mother's arms shortly afterwards.

The shooting of the fanatical young Everton supporter made national headlines, and a wave of revulsion over the rise in gun and gang crime spread locally and throughout the country with campaigns to rid the streets of firearms.

Prosecutor Neil Flewitt said the shooting was the result of a violent rivalry between Croxteth's Crocky Crew, of which Mercer was a member, an the nearby Norris Green's Strand Gang.

The court heard that immediately after the shooting, Mercer set about getting rid of his clothing, his bike and the murder weapon, with the help of six other members of his gang.

Rhys's mother clutched a gold pendant bearing a photograph of her child and burst into tears as her son's killer was found guilty amid emotional scenes at Liverpool Crown Court, the climax of a trial lasting ten weeks.

The verdicts, which happened on Monday afternoon, could not be reported until today, Tuesday, because the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of the seventh defendant, identified only as Boy K, 17.

Shortly before 7.30pm on Wednesday August 22 2007, Rhys was walking home from football practice outside the Fir Tree pub after fatally turning down the offer of a lift from his trainer.

Mercer, his face hidden under a hood and astride a mountain bike, emerged

from the shadows to fire three shots. His intended target was Wayne Brady, 20, a leading member of the rival Nogga Dogz, based in Norris Green, who had ventured into "hostile territory" with two others to borrow a bike.

Neil Flewitt, QC, for the prosecution, said that Rhys was the youngest and most tragic victim of the senseless spiral of violence between the Nogga Dogz and Croxteth Crew gangs.

The barrister said: "Rhys Jones died because of Sean Mercer's hatred for members of the Strand Gang. Sean Mercer's hatred was so intense he was willing to take the risk of firing shots across the car park of the Fir Tree public house in full view of the many customers who had gone there for a quiet drink.

"His victim was a wholly innocent schoolboy who was making his way home from football practice. The fact that he remained at liberty for so long is a consequence of the willingness of certain residents of Croxteth to cover up even the most appalling of crimes".

Melanie Jones, 42, the murdered schoolboy's mother, appeared to close her eyes as Mercer's fate was announced. Then the tears flowed and she buried her head in her husband Stephen's shoulder.

A few yards away, Joe McCormick, Mercer's father, also burst into tears. As he wiped away the tears, he mouthed the words "I love you" to his son. His mother, Janette, was not present.

Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, was found guilty of murdering Rhys. He was joined in the dock by James Yates, 20, of Dodman Road, Croxteth; Gary Kays, 25, of Mallard Close, Croxteth; Melvin Coy, 25, of Abbeyfield Road and Nathan Quinn, 18, of Wicket Close, both Croxteth. There were also two juvenile defendants, Boy K, 17, and Boy M.

They were all found guilty of assisting an offender. Yates was also found guilty of possessing a prohibited firearm, the .455 Smith &Wesson revolver.

Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, who led the murder investigation, said: "I have been a police officer for nearly 30 years and this investigation has been the most challenging and moving investigation I have ever had to deal with.

"At the time, it was said that Rhys was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mel and Stephen took exception as he was doing what he was entitled to do – travelling home alone from football practice."

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32 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousDecember 16th 2008.

THE Police have known for ages what has been going on in this area for a long time. They should have dealt with this problem sonner, or is it because the youth disorder they have created does not fall part of Crime statistics anymore. We need tougher Sentances,more police and less people covering up for these scum. The sooner people in Communities like Norris Green get off their backsides and give information to the police about these problems then these problems will be sorted sooner. I would be very interested to know whether their will be any change in policing,because the Police do not want to know about serious youth disorder.

13th ManDecember 16th 2008.

London Road. I appreciate why you may think this is the wrong time. It was not because I do not feel great sympathy for Rhys's family. It is because I feel my message is important and this is an opportunity to tell it. We cannot change the past but we may influence the future. While we fail to act to deter criminals we must expect moer crime. Sadly, many will be as appalling as this was. My words were not "hate filled poison" and I have a deep dislike of the BNP. My apologies to the family of Rhys if I appear callous for using this site in this way. I seek only to reduce the likelihood of similar crimes.Rob Slack

barbra 2niceDecember 16th 2008.

Dig, its nothing to do with other cities. This happened in Liverpool. Remember the James butler case when the baby was murdered on a railway line? - Liverpool. Remember murders at Heysel? - Liverpool. Remember Hillsborough and fans robbing corpses? Liverpool.Its more than just coincidence and the mindless thugs of Liverpool get off scot free over and over again.

frightenedDecember 16th 2008.

Just seen ross kemps programme on gangs in Liverpool. What sort of people are they? In all likelihood the offspring of benefit swindling, shell suited, overweight smokers with motability cars.Why does anyone defend this vile city? These young thugs openly boasted about intimidating old people and extorting money from vulnerable groups for drugs and cheap alcohol. (every street in liverpool has a cheap booze store- admittedly hidden behind armour plated glass and wire).The police should disarm these murdering monsters and imprison them. There are certainly enough prisons in Liverpool and it is unlikely these rich little godfathers would respond to anything else.

sandgroundergirlDecember 16th 2008.

God Bless Rhys`s family and friends. As for Mercer and all his croneys. They will only be living a better life inside with all the luxuries that british prisons have to offer. Puter, Gym, Pool table, Wi Toy, Education, T.V. and drugs on tap. Crime will never go down until we get rid of the so called human rights in prison. How can people like the accused be entitled to Human Rights. If we made prisons absolutely hell, stone cold floors, an itchy blanket, NO LUXURIES, and certainly no pampering, then maybe, just maybe it would be a deterrent.

DigDecember 16th 2008.

You may be proud of being from Manchester but the people I know from Manchester would not be proud of the likes of you representing them with that offensive, ignorant drivel.

OutsiderDecember 16th 2008.

PC 49 speaks much truth about the glorification of gangsterism in the media. Stamping it out, however, might not be so simple. I'm not sure of the power of broadcasters any more. Certainly there are cretinous DJs and the like who actively promote this tripe, but even if they didn't, would it stop? Quite so that parents and their children need to get a grip - but does that not call for a cultural struggle against baboonery (incidentally not all of which emanates from the US)? And is that not what Man of the World advocates? His analysis may be less comforting, but surely he is right that regionalism (call it parochialism or tribalism if you wish) is much to blame. And there are no 'innocent' forms of regionalism.

MISSYB - VERY ANNOYED !December 16th 2008.

I have only just read this rant am guessing its a older one. But very interested in the narrow minded and uninformed drivel of barbra2nice. What crap ! You ignorant lady. You say you come from Manchester and proud and you have every right to be proud, Its a beautiful city, Full of talented and creative people. But you have spoken like a child would, uneducated and feckless. I have lived in this city all of 29 years. I was educated here and I am proud of the city although toffesfan quite dissapointed with the stupidity of your comment reagrding football fans, what a ridiclous comment. All Liverpool fans are thugs then you later advise that they are mainly eastern european mafia and foreigners ! make your mind up IDIOT ! oh and I am blue supporter not that holds any bearing on the topic ! Anyway back to Barbra2nice. Where does you bigoted and rude, disrepectful and distasteful comments come from ? You are so sure manchester is perfect and free from tragedy and bad people. There is a small minority of youths in this city who are branded gangsters - like Dig said they are kids, mostly 13 - 19, they are not gangsters, they are uneducated and parents mainly who do not seem to care. Believe me that goes on in most cities. And where there is irresponsible parenting, there will be stupid and dangerous children. They get guns and they think they are soliders. This city is no more dangerous and no more criminal than the next. As mentioned about your glorioustrafford centre yes it is a modern and very grand, beautiful, but a short distance away over the road in fact is run down boarded up houses, Does this make your city a run down hovel ? No of course it doesn't because we all have parts of the city we wish were better and people in our cities who we wished were nicer, smarter and well educated but its not and its due to people like you who will educate your peers and youngsters that LIVERPOOL is full of criminals and a underclass. That my dear creates divison between cities of the same region, never a good thing, that eventually turns people towards hatered and anger. There are gangs for a reason, they hate each other ! it's beacuse idiots like you create divison ! Are you so mindless to not realise what you are creating by insulting Liverpool people in a way that the gutter press portray us !

13th ManDecember 16th 2008.

PC 49 and ManOfTheWorld mention "regionalism" and "parochialism". Both may be forms of tribalism. We have seen that is many forms; Mods/Rockers,England/Germany at football, the right brand trainers etc. Is it that we, as a race, have tribal tendencies that we express in whatever way catches on? I.E. is it deeper and more fundamental than the particular expression? Does it surface when people have little else to do? The devil makes work for idle hands.

London RoadDecember 16th 2008.

13th man: This is not the right time, nor is it ever the right time, for your hate filled poison. It is this BNP-disguised bile that causes problems like this in the first place. Crawl back under your stone and have a bit of respect.

DigDecember 16th 2008.

Where are you from Incredulous? Liverpool is way behing a few other UK cities in terms of gun crime. Anybody anywhere in the UK has access to violent and pornographic films and cheap alcohol. Also anybody anywhere has access to drugs and weapons, including guns. If you want something most people will find a way to get it. I'm sure you eat your tea with a fork & knife Incredulous? Both of those are weapons if you choose to use them as such. After such a crime it's easy to point the finger at Liverpool. I was upset, angry, disgusted & embarrassed about our society for a while. Violent crimes are becoming a national epidemic, not just a regional one, even if they are crimes that most people won't witness, fall victim to or carry out in their lives.

13th ManDecember 16th 2008.

If the gangs were well known, why was nothing done to break them? We may need new laws or perhaps stricter enforcement of existing laws. It seems clear the threat of imprisonment does not deter all crime (it may have deterred some). Is it not time to reintroduce flogging and perhaps hanging? Some say that would be barbaric. What is wrong with trying to reduce such appalling crimes as this? Why not sterilise criminals so they will not pass on their criminal ways to others? (It is clear criminals breed criminals, either biologically or socially. Sterilisation of those who are not deterred by the threat of flogging would surely reduce crime.) We must stop blaming "failed societies*". People are responsible for their own actions. Blame is with those who do it.(As Maggie Thatcher said, "there is no such thing as society". It isn't real. It is a way of thinking. People are real. People make choices. People commit crimes, not society.

AnonymousDecember 16th 2008.

I would like to point out that the vast majority of decent people living in the Norris Green/ Croxteth/ West Derby area that knew anything about the shooting DID speak to the police. The police were besieged with phone calls immediately after the shooting giving vital evidence & ended up with over 190 witness statements from members of the public wanting to see this terrible crime solved. The only 'wall of silence' the police encountered was from the vile boys involved and some (but not all) of their parents/ family members who either kept quiet or lied to protect them. I object to this idea that local people were not helpful that the national media has put out and that is highlighted in the article above. The police 'took their time' with this as they wanted to make sure that they had enough evidence to ensure that they would all get put away.The idea that people in the area would not speak to police over the murder of a little boy has appalled most local people as this is totally untrue.

AnonymousDecember 16th 2008.

It is terribly, terribly sad and a complete waste of life. I don't know how his mother and father will cope with Christmas, the whole thing being raked up again at such a poignant time of year and, as a parent, it makes me feel very emotional just reading the bare facts. My heart really does go out to them. Be brave.

June WoodhouseDecember 16th 2008.

Our deepest sympathy for Rhys and his family, he looks so much like our grandson. 22 years for Mercer is not long enough! The rest of the gang should get the same.

incredulousDecember 16th 2008.

The city of Liverpool must be a sewer of amoral attitudes. This terrible tragedy is what happens when you allow a barely educated underclass access to weapons, violent and pornographic films and cheap alcohol. The animal who murdered this child should be swinging at the end of a rope not living out the life of riley in some feather bedded institution.This pea brained thug has not only brutally murdered a child but has also destroyed the lives of a whole family forever.The police know who these insects are. Why dont we give them the powers to eradicate them once and for all?You dont reason with cockroaches - you destroy them utterly.

DigDecember 16th 2008.

If you don't even know it was James Bulger and not Butler then it is ignorant and offensive drivel. You should learn and know your facts prior to attempting to join or start a debate.

Granda Punk from CroxtethDecember 16th 2008.

Come away stolen child to the waters and the wild,For the world's more full of weeping than you will ever know.........WB Yeats

Sandra PDecember 16th 2008.

Needless and awful. This boy's parents must have amazing strength.

13th ManDecember 16th 2008.

To Alex. I think you have misread what I wrote. I said "It was not....". I do feel great sympathy for Mr and Mrs Jones.To London Road. I am missing your point about 13th Man. I first used the name when commenting on cricket. It is a measure of my skill level.I think your interpretation of my comment re. sterilisation misses the point. Sterilisation of offenders would target only those who offended (and it could be for a second offence.). I believe deterrence to be the right focus of the criminal justice system; more important than punishment or rehab. I believe stiff penalties can deter potential criminals. I have heard criminals say that (murderers, armed robbers and London N9/18 gang members).

man of the worldDecember 16th 2008.

Does it cross anyone's mind that one of the culprits in this appalling tragedy is the ridiculous cult of regionalism that so infects this benighted country? Between the poison of the BNP ranting about 'their' white Britain, and the obscene tribalism of local gangs murdering teenagers for straying onto 'their' patch, we have the apparently 'acceptable' diatribes of the supposed superiority of one city over another. And here, I regret to say, Liverpool is as guilty as anyone. How often have I heard or read regional bigotry about Liverpool's 'superiority' over Manchester or 'that London' (& its 'London types') etc etc ad nauseam. When are we going to grow up? We are ALL citizens of a big world now. To hell with regional 'pride' and 'local identity' the rest of the provincial crap! 'Local pride' is the canker that feeds the infantile but homicidal narrow mindedness of the gangs that murder children. Get a life, before more children die in regional factional in-fighting. Liverpool should do its bit to blaze the way: no more regionalism, no more 'Royston Vasey' localism and bone-headed 'Scouserism' - let us be proud of ourselves for being a great INTERNATIONAL city, and condemn mindless regionalism in ALL its forms.

barbra 2niceDecember 16th 2008.

Dig, why is it offensive to state facts about the criminality of the scouse underclass? Hiding from these people makes it worse.

DigDecember 16th 2008.

To label these kids as gangsters is ridiculous. Riding around on mountain bikes firing World War 1 antique guns. That's not a gangster. That's a kid with an old gun. The term gangster is just convenient for the media to shift papers. To compare these kids to Triads or The Mafia is laughable. These kids get nose bleeds if they leave their own housing estates yet they're on national news telling the nation they run Liverpool. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Let's not forget Rhys but forget the embarrassment for the city that surrounded his tragic death..

MissybDecember 16th 2008.

I would like to add that respect and wishes go to the family of Rhys Jones. R.I.P young man.

London RoadDecember 16th 2008.

Your arguments are far too simplistic, stark and terribly frightening Rob, and I am sorry if I accused you of being a BNP member, but "13th Man" is a bit of a giveaway. Nevertheless, can you imagine living in a world where we sterilised people in case they bred other people who fell the wrong side of the law? What would that make us?

barbra 2nice.December 16th 2008.

oh, Manchester before you ask and proud of it.How long would the Trafford centre last in drugsville Liverpool without being ruined?

toffesfanDecember 16th 2008.

My vote is change the city name to Everton.The only ones who are thugs are Liverpool supporters - true Liverpool residents mainly support Everton not the red scum.This is plain to see on match days. Very few Evertonians are from outside the city, the majority of standticketers at Anfield are foreigners and Eastern europe mafia crooks.

AnonymousDecember 16th 2008.

Make the punishment fit the crimeSince the 30 year sentence for the great train robbers no one has robbed a train since.....

Man of the WorldDecember 16th 2008.

Barbra 2nice is a splendid example of the cretinous regionalism I was criticising in my earlier contribution.

Alan, Beatles&Liverpool fanDecember 16th 2008.

My deepest sympathy to the family of Rhys, such a waste of a young life. It is so sickening the mindless hatred between gangs, and certainly not in keeping with the friendly and welcoming nature that I have come to expect from all of my visits to Liverpool over the years since 1994.The idea of gangs should be made illegal.

AlexDecember 16th 2008.

'13th Man' please tell me that this was the worst typo that I could have the misfortune to read - 'I do not feel sorry for Rhys' parents'.They are remarkable people. I live 200 yards from where he was killed and I'm not aware that I had ever seen them before this tragedy. I have seen them so often that I feel like I know them, including at the funeral.Their other son, Owen, seems a very impressive young man and they are the sort of family that the families of those convicted today should have aspired to being, if only they weren't content to be the utter pondlife that they became.

wirral n proudDecember 16th 2008.

glad the murdering scum got a nice long jail term,hope he meets a nice big cell mate who likes him a lot. good luck to mr and mrs jones for the future.

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