Footage of Rhys shooting shown to murder trial

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A gasp was heard from the jury box as CCTV footage of the shooting of Rhys Jones was played at a murder trial today.

Seconds before the three-second clip was shown, the schoolboy's mother, Melanie, 42, fled the court in tears as the prosecution began to outline her son's final moments.

The CCTV clip showed Rhys crossing the car park of the Fir Tree public house, in Croxteth, Liverpool, and become distracted by the sound of a bullet striking a container nearby.

The court watched as the CCTV footage showed Rhys turn to look in the direction of the container and as he did so he was struck by what the prosecution say was the second bullet fired by the gunman.

The images showed Rhys, 11, fall to the ground where he later died in his mother's arms.

Mrs Jones, wearing a purple dress and cardigan, had sat through the opening of the trial alongside her husband, Stephen, 45, who wore a grey suit and a purple ribbon, a symbol of an anti-gun campaign launched in Liverpool in memory of Rhys, on his lapel.

She heard prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC describe how her innocent son had died when he strayed into a feud between rival gangs.

He was hit by a bullet fired by teenager Sean Mercer and died a few hundred yards from his home, it was alleged.

Mercer, 18, who denies the 11-year-old's murder, immediately tried to cover his tracks and was helped by six fellow gang members, including three other teenagers, the court heard.

Opening the prosecution case, Mr Flewitt told the Liverpool Crown Court jury: "Immediately after he killed Rhys Jones, Sean Mercer set about distancing himself from the tragic events at the Fir Tree public house.

"He moved quickly to dispose of his clothing, his pedal cycle and the gun that he had used to such devastating effect."

Rhys was shot dead on August 22 last year as he made his way home from football training in Croxteth Park.

Mr Flewitt said: "At almost exactly the same time as Rhys Jones walked on to the car park, a hooded gunman on a bicycle approached the scene from the rear of the Fir Tree pub and took up a position on the grass in front of the fence running alongside the path on the far side of the car park.

"The gunman fired a total of three shots across the car park.

"One of those shots hit Rhys Jones in the neck and killed him.

"It is the prosecution case that the defendant, Sean Mercer, was the person who fired that fatal shot and that he is, therefore, guilty of the offence of murder."

Mr Flewitt said Mercer, who was wielding a Smith & Wesson .455 revolver, had not intended to shoot Rhys.

"On the contrary, it is the prosecution case that he was the innocent victim of a long-running feud between rival gangs operating in and around the area of the Fir Tree public house."

The shooting was the result of "fierce and frequently violent rivalry" between young gang members from Croxteth's Crocky Crew and nearby Norris Green's Strand Gang, also known as the Nogga Dogs.

The prosecution alleges that Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, was helped to avoid justice by six other members of the Crocky Crew.

James Yates, 20, Melvin Coy, 25, and Gary Kays, 25, as well as two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year old boy, who are too young to be named, all deny assisting an offender.

Mr Flewitt said there had been more than 70 incidents involving the two gangs, including tit-for-tat shootings.

He said Mercer was firing at three members of the Strand Gang that night.

"It is therefore the prosecution case that the murder of Rhys Jones was yet another, and even more tragic, example of the mindless and indiscriminate violence that is a feature of the rivalry between the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Gang."

Mr Flewitt, talking the jury through geographical diagrams and outlining the history of the gangs' violence towards one another, said the Croxteth Crew's activities "not only provide the motive for the murder of Rhys Jones but also led to the involvement of the other defendants in this appalling episode".

He said "the strength of the loyalty that existed among gang members and their associates explains the speed and enthusiasm" with which the six co-accused "help Sean Mercer avoid responsibility for the dreadful events of August 22 2007".

CCTV footage of the gunman stopping on his bike, firing, then riding off was played to the court.

The first shot blasted through the windows of a BMW before hitting a metal container.

The second bullet hit Rhys and the third bullet impacted on a stone wall - which on CCTV footage threw up a puff of dust.

The killer is filmed cycling away from the pub.

Recalling the moments after Rhys's shooting, Mr Flewitt said: "Rhys Jones was lying on the ground where he had fallen a few minutes earlier.

"His mother was by then at the scene and was by his side.

"It was immediately clear to the paramedics that Rhys's condition was serious and that he was unlikely to survive as he was already in cardiac arrest."

Rhys was rushed to Alder Hey Children's Hospital where he was examined.

But the boy had no pulse and attempts to resuscitate Rhys failed.

He was declared dead at 8.46pm.

Home Office pathologist Dr Paul Johnson said Rhys was actually shot in the back, slightly above the left shoulder blade.

The bullet exited from the front right side of his neck.