PC's shooting linked to drugs turf war

Fight against crime: Violence in Liverpool continues with six men shot in five days as watchdog queries police effectiveness of force
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The Independent Online
Detectives investigating the shooting of an off-duty police officer at his home are examining possible links with a violent turf war being waged between rival drug gangs.

The shooting of PC Stephen Hardy, 26, in both legs and an arm, was the latest in a spate of attacks involving firearms in Merseyside. Since Saturday six men, including PC Hardy, have been shot in the legs in five separate incidents.

Police said yesterday they were investigating potential connections between the shootings and a string of attacks sparked off by the murder of David Ungi, shot dead in an ambush in his car in Toxteth in May last year. Many of the shootings are known to be connected to the city's thriving drugs trade.

PC Hardy, who has three years' service in the police, was in bed with his girlfriend on Tuesday at the home they share with their 12-month- old child in Croxteth Park, Liverpool, when the gunmen broke in.

The couple investigated and were confronted by two masked men who made them lie on the floor. PC Hardy tried to raise the alarm by dialling 999 but he was shot four or five times.

He underwent surgery yesterday. His condition was described as "serious but stable".

Neighbours suggested yesterday that the gunmen may have called at the wrong house - residents of a nearby property were said to have been selling drugs, but left abruptly recently. The young officer had not been involved in any investigations into any of the earlier firearms incidents.

The incident follows the shooting of three men in the legs at a pub late on Saturday night in the Old Swan area of Liverpool. The following day shots were fired into a house about half a mile away. No one was injured but the owner of the house, a pregnant woman, was treated for shock.

On Tuesday four to five men burst into a house in the Bootle area and shot a man twice in the legs with a handgun.

On the same day three men entered a house in Old Swan and shot a man in the legs.

Armed police patrols have been increased in response.

Jim Sharples, Chief Constable of Merseyside, said yesterday that there appeared to be no motive for the "despicable" attack on PC Hardy.

He added: "There are a number of criminal elements in this city who think the only way they can settle their differences is by shooting each other.

"There is casual indifference to the use of firearms now with kneecappings becoming more common . . . It used to be the baseball bat, then the knife but now we have come through a threshold and it is the gun."

"The problem stems from drugs and the drug-related trade. Drug dealing by its nature is territorial. There is an increase in firearms which is directly linked to the drugs trade."

Mersey's rising tide of lawlessness

Merseyside risks being labelled Britain's drugs and gun capital. Chief Constable Jim Sharples's annual report reveals that:

Recorded offences went up 12 per cent to 15,793

Drugs trafficking offences rose 60 per cent to 696

Robberies went up 35 per cent to 2,777

Fraud/forgery increased 39.8 per cent

House burglary saw a rise of 14.7 per cent

Car theft was up 19.3 per cent