Gun victim Dillon's mother faces eviction

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The mother of Dillon Hull, the five-year-old boy gunned down in a drug feud attack last week, is to face an eviction battle less than a week after the boy's death.

Jane Hull's landlady, Daxa Patel, is meeting lawyers tomorrow following concerns voiced by neighbours that their children are in danger so long as Dillon's stepfather, John Bates, remains in her pounds 70-a-week house.

Mr Bates, 28, a convicted heroin dealer, was injured in the stomach when a gunman attacked him and Dillon 50 yards from their home in Jauncey Street, Bolton, in Greater Manchester, last Wednesday. Dillon was shot through the head.

Mr Bates and Ms Hull, 29, rejected a police offer of a safe house, choosing instead to return under guard to the small terraced property owned by Mrs Patel. Yesterday, Mrs Patel told the Independent on Sunday that she was seeking legal advice as the number of names on a petition calling for Ms Hull and Mr Bates's removal topped 200. She appeared reluctant to act against a mother who has just lost a son, but said she had a responsibility to the other residents of Jauncey Street.

"I am taking legal advice on Monday to see what my position is," she said. "There is this petition and we have to hear everyone's views, and if that is what the view is, then that is the option we have to take.

"No one would expect a landlord to put up with bullets coming through a window."

Mrs Patel was referring to an incident in the early hours of Wednesday in which shots were fired into Mr Bates's living room. Later, he showed the bullet holes to glaziers and said: "I know who did this - and I'm going to get him." Five hours later Dillon lay dead, apparently a victim of the feud.

Asked whether she would opt for eviction if her lawyers said she was legally entitled to it, Mrs Patel replied: "Yes." However, in a climate of growing anger and recrimination, Mrs Patel refused to join in the widespread criticism of Mr Bates and Ms Hull.

They have been castigated by the people of Deane, on the northern fringe of Bolton, since it emerged that both had drug-related convictions - his for dealing, hers for allowing her previous home in Blackburn, Lancashire, to be used for his enterprise.

"They seemed very nice to me," said Mrs Patel. "The house is in Jane's name and she always pays the rent on time. They keep the house tidy and, until this week, I had had no complaints about them.

"Dillon was a lovely little boy, very happy and very clever. They cared for him very well."

However, such kind words are in short supply in Jauncey Street. On Friday, Ms Hull's father, Robert, revealed that she was a registered heroin addict and that her second son, Codie, was born three weeks ago addicted to the drug. Furthermore, court records showed that, while being given two years' probation at Burnley Crown Court on her drugs charge, Recorder Arthur Noble told Ms Hull that she avoided prison only because she had Dillon to care for.

Prophetically, he added: "I hope that you will bring your son up properly and make sure he doesn't have any such involvement [with drugs]." Armed with such information, residents from each of the 80 houses in Jauncey Street felt compelled to call for the couple's removal.

"It just isn't safe for our kids to play in the street while John Bates is living here," Brian Brown, one of the petition's organisers, said yesterday.

"On Friday, this street was full of kids playing. But once the news came through that he was back, it became empty. No one will let their kids out. These people have tried to shoot him once and Dillon got in the way; what if they tried it again and hit one of our children?" Another of the petition's organisers, a woman who refused to be named, said copies would be sent to the police, Mrs Patel and the local Labour MP, Brian Iddon.

"We don't want to make them homeless. We just want them to accept the safe house the police have offered them," said the organiser. However, she also said she didn't want them to return.

"If they refuse to go, then we will move on to the next step - nothing violent, no bricks through windows, but a demonstration, perhaps a sit- down, in front of the house."

As police enquiries continued yesterday, the lack of an arrest was matched only by the absence of calls for calm or understanding. Inside 4 Jauncey Street is a young mother who has lost a son and whose second baby is in hospital being weaned off heroin. Meanwhile, she is fighting her own addiction with nothing more to look forward to than eviction.

Hungerford 10 years on, page 5