Gun death boy 'unlawfully killed'

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The Independent Online

A coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing yesterday over the death of teenager Jessie James, who was shot dead in Manchester's Moss Side nearly four years ago and whose killers have never been caught.

The 15-year-old was murdered while riding his bike by a gunman hiding in bushes in Broadfield Park at 1am, on 9 September 2006, after he was turned away from a party. Despite numerous high-profile pleas to witnesses and a £50,000 reward, no one has been charged with his murder. The inquest opened in August 2007 but was halted when witnesses named two suspects. The pair were arrested and interviewed on suspicion of murdering the schoolboy but were ruled out.

Jessie's mother, Barbara Reid, told the inquest in 2007 that she believed her son was killed for refusing to join a gang but no one is sure why he was shot. During the inquest, some witnesses gave evidence anonymously behind screens, with voice distortion.

Police have promised any informers anonymity in court, to try to convince those who hold the crucial evidence to come forward. However, an investigation by The Independent in 2008 found that although people in Moss Side were able to give a name to a possible killer, they would not tell the police for fear their identities would become known. Yesterday, Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Greater Manchester Police insisted there were "key individuals" they needed to speak to. Detectives stressed in a fresh appeal to potential new witnesses that their information would be confidential. Detective Chief Superintendent, Jane Antrobus, said: "Jessie's family deserve to see his killers brought before the courts. Someone will have a vital piece of information which will help us to prosecute the people responsible.

"Since Jessie's murder, we have seen gang members convicted and given significant sentences thanks to the testimony of protected witnesses. Those people who may have been reluctant to come forward can now see what their evidence could do."