Police appeal for help after boy is shot dead in shop: Residents of Moss Side are urged to give information to detectives after gunman strikes in takeaway

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The Independent Online
POLICE in Manchester appealed yesterday for help from residents of Moss Side after a 14-year-old boy was shot dead while queuing for a takeaway meal.

The killing of John 'Benjie' Stanley on Saturday night is believed to be the latest outbreak of drug-related violence that has seen 100 reported shooting incidents in inner-city areas since August.

Yesterday, Det Chief Supt Ron Astles, commander of a special team investigating drug-related shootings in the city, said: 'A 14- year-old boy at the start of his life died last night. We don't want it to be the first of many - it should be the last. This incident has got to be the catalyst that persuades the public to come forward and give us the information we need.

'People who are resident there know what is going on and it is up to them to come forward and help us to make this area a better place for everyone. Without their help it is a very difficult task.

'The motive for this shooting is not known at this stage although the possibility that the cause stems out of the recent outbreak of drugs-related firearms incidents cannot be eliminated.'

Mr Astles said that the boy had no criminal record and was 'unknown to them'. The fact that he was unknown strongly indicated that he was not involved in drug dealing. He said that the police were firmly committed to tackling the outbreak of violence but admitted that the boy's killing in a shop queue probably represented 'a new dimension'.

Mr Astles added that he was 'aware that some people with information are reluctant to come forward - we are in a position to offer them protection'.

Benjie, who lived with his mother, stepfather and two older brothers in Cadogan Street, Moss Side, was queuing with his friend Neville Gunning, 15, at 'Alvina's Pattie and Dumplin Shop' on Great Western Street shortly before 8pm on Saturday when a masked gunman fired a single- barrel shotgun through the glass front door.

The shot missed the boys but the gunman, described by police as black and wearing a camouflage combat jacket and balaclava helmet, entered the shop, approached Benjie and shot him in the chest at close range before escaping. Benjie died later in Manchester Royal Infirmary. Two other customers were in the shop.

Mr Astles said that it would be pure speculation to suggest anyone else could have been the killer's target: 'The gunman had the opportunity to shoot any one of four people who were in that shop but he didn't. He shot the young boy Stanley.'

Yesterday, the boy's mother, Olive Smith, left a photograph of her son outside the takeaway shop. Across the back of the photograph she had written: 'Please find my son's murderer'.

Police have confirmed at least 40 of the 100 reported shooting incidents. In November, they launched a special operation focused on drug-related violence.

Mr Astles said that about 40 people had been charged with offences including rape, attempted murder, abduction, possession of weapons and drugs offences. Ten firearms had been recovered, including pistols and shotguns; survival-type machete knives had also been seized. Other deadly weapons were still stockpiled in the area, he said. 'People must know where these are - it is in their interest as well as ours that they are taken from the streets. The escalation of violence is all too apparent for all of us to see.'

Yesterday, detectives interviewed Neville Gunning, the two other customers in the shop at the time and Alvina's staff. The police have not established how the gunman escaped, although there were reports of a silver-coloured car leaving the area. Neville Gunning was not injured by the few shotgun pellets which struck him, but Mr Astles said that the boy was in a state of 'serious shock'. The police have promised 'all the resources and high-profile policing' necessary to stop the violence in Moss Side, which some people claim took root in the 1980s when the drug culture was allowed to flourish in the hope that it could be contained within the area.

(Photographs omitted)