Mother of Rhys's killer is jailed

Court gasps at evidence as Janette Mercer is imprisoned for lying to police
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The Independent Online

The mother of the gunman who murdered Rhys Jones was jailed for three years yesterday for lying to detectives who were investigating the schoolboy's murder.

Janette Mercer, 49, admitted perverting the course of justice by supporting her son Sean when he told the police he owned a black and cream mountain bike, not the silver bicycle that was caught on CCTV being used by the gunman.

Rhys's parents Stephen and Melanie Jones were in court to hear Judge Henry Globe QC tell Mercer: "Your son was a key suspect in the murder and you knew he had told a pack of lies. You backed him up and you told more lies."

Also sentenced yesterday were Francis and Marie Yates, the parents of Sean Mercer's co-accused James Yates. Marie Yates, 51, hindered the murder investigation by destroying a mobile phone SIM card belonging to James that could have provided police with crucial evidence.

Gasps were heard in Liverpool Crown Court as bug evidence from the Yates's home was heard. Discussing the murderer's recklessness in shooting across the car park of a crowded pub, Yates, a mother of three, said of Mercer: "Oh my good God, brave isn't it? Whoever has done it has a lot of bottle."

Francis Yates, 49, was with his wife when the SIM card was burnt. He also suggested a false alibi to help Mercer cover his tracks. Both were sentenced to 18 months in jail for destroying the SIM card and Francis Yates was jailed for three years, to be served consecutively, for helping establish the alibi.

Judge Henry Globe said the shooting of Rhys Jones was the result of "mindless" gang warfare and "saddened the lives and touched the hearts of all decent people". He added: "The complexity of the police investigation was such that nobody was able to be charged for many months. All the while, grieving family and friends of Rhys Jones anxiously waited for justice.

"Each of you in your actions was misleading to police and frustrated the investigation into the murder. You wasted valuable police time and undermined the prospect of justice. While all that was ongoing, the family and friends of Rhys Jones continued to grieve without knowing who was responsible for the terrible crime."

Outside the court, Rhys' parents Stephen and Melanie spoke of their satisfaction at the case's conclusion. Standing alongside his wife, Mr Jones said: "Today we feel we have finally got justice for Rhys.

"In our eyes Mrs Mercer and Mr and Mrs Yates have always been as guilty as their sons. As adults they should have known right from wrong. They knew of the terrible crimes their children had committed.

"They should have done everything in their power to bring them to justice. To cover up Rhys's murder and to protect a murderer and his accomplices and prolong our agony is unforgivable. As parents themselves they should have understood our pain but they chose to ignore it. For us no prison sentence for these people would be long enough."