New Year shooting that killed girls 'meant to hit rival'

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Two teenagers died in a "hail of bullets" when a car of young gang members tried to shoot dead a rival outside a party, a court heard yesterday.

Two teenagers died in a "hail of bullets" when a car of young gang members tried to shoot dead a rival outside a party, a court heard yesterday.

Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17, were the innocent victims of the drive-by shooting in Aston, Birmingham, on 2 January 2003. The intended target was standing next to the young women, Leicester Crown Court was told.

Charlene's twin sister, Sophie, their cousin Cheryl Shaw and Leon Harris were injured in the attack with an automatic weapon outside a hairdressing salon near Birchfield Road shortly after 4am.

Marcus Ellis, 24, Michael Gregory, 22, Nathan Martin, 25, Rodrigo Simms, 20, and a 22-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons, deny two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Timothy Raggatt QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that the shooting was a "joint enterprise". He said that inside the red Ford Mondeo from which the shots were fired were four men and three guns. Mr Simms is accused of being a "spotter" who help direct the attack.

One of the weapons was a Mac10 machine pistol, which was capable of firing 37 bullets in six seconds.

Mr Raggatt said the gunmen, who were members of a gang called the Burger Bar, opened fire on a crowd of people standing in the street. He argued that the target was a rival gang member, Jermaine Carty, who belonged to the Johnson Crew.

He said at least 14 shots were fired and the two murder victims were both hit three times. "They opened fire in a burst from the machine gun that tracked along the wall by the entrance to Uni Seven and discharged what I can only sensibly describe as a hail of bullets." He continued: "They, in fact, killed two innocent little girls and wounded two others." Mr Raggatt told the jury: "The military call it collateral damage. In the streets of Birmingham - in the streets of any city in this country - we don't have collateral damage, we have murder and that is what lies at the heart of this trial."

Earlier that evening the four girls had been at a nightclub in Solihull called Rosie O'Brien's. Mr Carty, 24, was also in the club, where he was seen with a handgun, "bigging it up" or bragging, Mr Raggatt said. He said thatwhen the shots were fired from the Mondeo, Mr Carty shot back with that gun. The shooting was in revenge for the murder of Nathan Martin's brother Yohanne four weeks earlier, Mr Raggatt said.

Mr Carty, of Handsworth, Birmingham, denies two counts of possessing a firearm with intent on the night.

The case continues.