Teenager arrested as parents visit scene of son's murder

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The Independent Online

A teenager was arrested last night on suspicion of the murder of Rhys Jones, as the parents of the 11-year-old schoolboy laid a floral tribute at the spot where he was shot.

Melanie and Stephen Jones wept as they read messages laid beside the car park of the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth, Liverpool, where Rhys was shot in the back of the neck by a lone teenage gunman riding a BMX bicycle on Wednesday night.

Merseyside Police said they had arrested a 16-year-old in connection with the killing amid reports that they were also examining at least two bicycles.

Two other youths, aged 14 and 18, who had earlier been arrested were released on police bail.

The latest arrest came after a senior officer had expressed disappointment at the lack of information from the public and promised anonymity for witnesses. Assistant Chief Constable Patricia Callan made an appeal outside the pub, which Rhys had been passing on his way home from football practice.

She said: "He was an innocent and we need the help of everyone within this community to tell us who is responsible for this crime. We need to get this killer off the street. Within this community people know who is responsible for this crime. We need your help. Come forward now and help put the suffering of Rhys's mum and dad at an end."

Police said they were seeking a white suspect aged 13 to 15, about 5ft 8in tall and wearing dark clothes and white trainers. The murder weapon is thought to have been a black handgun with a long barrel.

Witnesses described how the killer had stood coolly beside his bicycle and held his gun with both hands before firing three bullets, two of which were apparently aimed at Rhys. Earlier, his grieving parents had laid a bouquet of blue roses and gerberas to match the colour of their son's favourite football team, Everton, alongside a growing pile of tributes. Mrs Jones, 41, clutching a small teddy bear, and her 44-year-old husband spent several minutes looking at the flowers. The message on their own bouquet read: "Goodnight and God bless son, till we meet again."

On Thursday the couple spoke movingly of their son and the horror of his death, explaining how they had returned home from hospital to find his bedroom wardrobe full with his new uniform for secondary school and his unopened school equipment. Mr Jones said: "It's just horrific. Your worst nightmare."

Mrs Jones had arrived at the scene minutes after the shooting to cradle her son as he lay unconscious in a pool of blood.

In Croxteth, an eerie silence descended last night on the leafy estate where Rhys lived. Lines of specialist search officers were still scouring the area for evidence while young children who a few days ago would have been playing in the streets were kept firmly behind closed doors.

Fourteen-year-old Alex, standing watching police as they searched outside the pub, said many parents were now afraid to let their children out. He said: "Everyone's scared now, it's a nice estate here and it's unexpected. My parents are being more strict about when I go out and most younger kids are being kept in."

The political ramifications of the killing, the latest in a series of fatal shootings of young people, continued to be felt as the Tory leader David Cameron used a highly-charged speech to declare that the murder of Rhys showed a need to rebuild society.

Research released yesterday showed the extent of the growing gang culture in London. Figures released by Scotland Yard showed there are 257 known gang names, a 50 per cent increase on a year ago.

The problems of gun crime were further underlined after shots were fired at a police car after officers approached a parked BMW during a routine check in Gloucestershire. Two shots were fired by a passengers as the blue L-registration BMW sped off up the M5 motorway.

Police in Liverpool reiterated that there was no evidence that Rhys was involved with gangs.

The killing will be marked today by a minute's silence at the Premier League match between Everton and Blackburn. Players will wear black armbands.