Gang duo convicted of killing Danielle in drive-by shooting

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The Independent Online

Danielle Beccan, 14, was among a group of children returning home to Nottingham's St Ann's district from the city's Goose Fair when a gang including Mark Kelly, 20, and Junior Andrews, 24, cruised through in search of someone to "shoot up".

Kelly slowed down long enough for Andrews to fire at Danielle with a pistol, leaving her fatally wounded on the pavement. As the car pulled away, Andrews made a "victory roll" from the window, forming a W sign with his hand in allegiance to the Waterfront Gang, whose members have a hatred for people from St Ann's.

The murder contributed to Nottingham's reputation as a gun capital which led to an admission by the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, Steve Green, seven months ago that his force could not cope with the five category A murders it was investigating each year.

Andrews and Kelly were convicted by a majority 10-2 verdict by a jury which deliberated for 16 hours at Birmingham Crown Court. Mr Justice Butterfield ordered each to serve at least 32 years before being considered for parole.

"This was a terrible killing," he told them. "You armed yourselves with a handgun and set out cruising around St Ann's looking for likely victims. Your pathological and illogical hatred of everyone from St Ann's was so intense you [wanted] to kill. You robbed a bright young girl of her life and blighted for ever the lives of her family and friends."

Andrews, a known drug dealer, has the initials "WFG" (Waterfront Gang) etched on his arm, along with images of a revolver and bullet, and the words "Thug Life" - in memory of his idol, the US rapper Tupac, who had it written on his stomach. The Meadows' postcode "NG2" is tattooed on his neck.

His desire to prove himself a worthy gang member was laid bare in a video he made of himself walking in St Ann's a week before the shooting. He filmed himself on his phone rambling about being "a real killer" and could be heard saying: "I'm on the creep. I haven't even got no gun ... I'm a real killer, you can't see any Waterfront man come this way."

Danielle was on the receiving end of this vitriol shortly after midnight on 9 October last year when, after an evening spent burgling in the more affluent area of Clifton, Kelly and Andrews entered St Ann's in Kelly's mother's car. Kelly dipped his headlights as the gang came across the children, who dragged Danielle into an alleyway after she was hit yards from her home in Rushcliffe Close.

Her mother, Paula Platt, was brought to her daughter's side within minutes. "I'm not going to make it ... I'm dying," the teenager had said. Mrs Platt told the court: "I was telling her to stay awake but I could see her eyes rolling into the back of her head. Every time she closed her eyes they were staying closed for longer."

Kelly was arrested in London two days later after being pulled over for a driving offence. Andrews took a £350 taxi ride with his girlfriend to his mother's home in Aberdeen. He was charged with murder on 21 October. Forensic examination of the car found gunshot residue matching the bullets fired. Mobile phone records put the two at the scene of the shooting.

It took the courage of 15 of Danielle's school friends, who were granted anonymity in court, to secure the convictions in the face of gruelling cross-examination.

Mrs Platt, 32, became a figurehead for the war on teenage gun crime and the city's gun crime rate has fallen 30 per cent in the past year. Teenage gang members had no "hope [or] expectation for the future", she said last night. "I wanted this to shock them into a realisation that life can be too short. But I think more recently they've become complacent again - they're back on the streets. That really saddens me. It makes me think: what does it take? You've seen one of your peers lose her life. I hoped Danielle would be the last, but I knew she wouldn't be."