Liverpool gang members jailed for shootings


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The Independent Online

Five members of an underworld gang responsible for a series of shootings, and leaving a hand grenade on the front wall of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's home were today jailed for life.

The criminal group were led by Kirk Bradley and Anthony Downes, both 26, and who both escaped from a prison van last July.

The pair were on their way to stand trial at the time but fled and went on the run.

Bradley, of Birkey Lane, Formby, Merseyside, is still missing but Downes, of no fixed address, was arrested in The Netherlands on Friday.

He will be flown to the UK soon to begin serving his time.

Today at Woolwich Crown Court they were both jailed for life with a minimum of 22 years after being convicted in their absence of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to cause damage with intent to endanger life.

Three others admitted possessing firearms and causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life and were jailed for life.

Gary Wilson, 27, of Promenade in Southport was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years; Joseph Farrell, 23, of Brandearth Hey in Stockbridge Village, Knowsley, will serve a minimum of 12 years and Craig Riley, 25, of Boode Croft, also in Stockbridge Village, will serve a minimum of 14 years.

The gang carried out shootings and grenade attacks and operated on behalf of others in the Liverpool underworld.

The grenade was left on Mr Dalglish's front wall in July 2009, when he was not the five-time European cup winner's manager, and it was not intended for him.

It was believed to be intended for wealthy businessman John Ball who was also the target of two shootings and a neighbour of Mr Dalglish.

Mr Ball hired a security guard to keep watch on his home in Selworthy Road, Southport, following attacks in March and June 2009.

The grenade was left on the wall by one of two men who ran off when police arrived - but another was arrested.

Between 2009 and 2010 Bradley and Downes, who described themselves as blood brothers, ran their network but did not get their hands dirty with the numerous shootings and bombings they ordered.

Downes was serving a seven year jail stretch for multiple attacks on cash machines but was the "chief executive controlling and organising events from his prison cell," said the judge Mr Justice Henriques.

When he was arrested last week in Goes, Zeeland, he was checking into holiday accommodation but was caught with a loaded .44 Magnum revolver and two fake passports.

The judge said of Bradley, who was convicted of robbery aged 15: "Bradley is plainly a very dangerous man.

"There is a serious risk to members of the public of serious harm being occasioned by him of further specified offences."

He added: "Any right-thinking member of the public would feel abhorrence and outrage at this merciless campaign which Bradley oversaw and co-managed."

Among their crimes, the gang were responsible for kidnapping a man, shooting him and leaving him abandoned in a wood; shooting another man in a pub; for seven bullets being pumped into someone's house; for a man being gunned down because he ejected gatecrashing troublemakers from a party, and for various grenade attacks.

Between June 2008 and March 2010 there were only seven hand grenade explosions in the UK - but five were in Merseyside.

One of those was launched into the home of a man targeted by the gang.

He was asleep upstairs with his partner and two children when the gang struck - he later told police the bomb "blew the place to bits".

"It was remarkable no one was injured," said Mr Justice Henriques.

The judge described Wilson as Downes's "right hand man, furnishing him with information and receiving instructions from him".

There were more than 1,000 phone calls between them, investigators found.

"You were a most important cog in the workings of this conspiracy," the judge told him.

Co-accused Riley, who has previously served four years for possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply, was a "highly significant" gang member who played a part in several attacks and was responsible for moving around an Uzi machine pistol the thugs owned.

Farrell admitted providing a firearm for the shooting of two men and providing another gun used to spray a house with bullets.

Referring to the tragic murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones in 2007 who was caught in the crossfire of a Liverpool gang war, Mr Justice Henriques said: "Merseyside has learned the hard way when it comes to stray bullets."