Ashley Dale’s devastated father reveals youngest son was also shot dead in case of mistaken identity

Half-brother of Ashley Dale was also murdered seven years ago

Tom Watling
Thursday 23 November 2023 12:38 GMT
Ashley Dale: Parents speak out as men convicted of murder

The heartbroken father of a 28-year-old woman who was gunned down in the crossfires of a gang feud has revealed that his youngest son was also shot dead seven years ago in a case of mistaken identity.

Steven Dunne, the father of Ashley Dale and Lewis Dunne, wrote in a statement read out to Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday that “history was repeating itself”, adding that his life was now a “living nightmare”.

He said: “Ashley is the oldest of my three children, Lewis the youngest - both are now deceased.

“My son, Lewis Dunne, had been shot dead seven years previous at only 16 years of age.

“He was shot at close range in the back with a shotgun in a case of mistaken identity; an innocent victim caught in the middle of a gang feud.”

He said he had spent seven years trying to put his “life back together” following Lewis’s death but after Ms Dale was killed last August, he said he was “put back to day one”.

Ashley Dale was murdered in August last year
Ashley Dale was murdered in August last year (PA Media)

He added: “I am now sitting with my one remaining child, having been put through the trauma of yet another trial, listening to those verdicts being read out in relation to Ashley’s murder.

“I have lost another child; a victim of big egos running around the city with powerful guns, involved in petty feuds and killing innocent people.”

Ms Dale, an environmental health worker, was killed when gunman James Witham, 41, forced his way into her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, in the early hours of 21 August last year and opened fire with a Skorpion submachine gun.

Mr Justice Goose said during the sentencing on Wednesday the crime had “shocked both the local community and many in this country” and was “beyond any understanding”.

He told the court that just after 12.30am, Witham, wearing a balaclava and carrying a gun loaded with 15 bullets, broke through the front door of Ms Dale’s home.

Ms Dale was standing by the back door in the kitchen when she was hit in the abdomen, the court heard.

Mr Justice Goose said: “Witham wickedly fired 10 bullets towards her as she was vulnerable and defenceless. Her screams were heard by neighbours.”

On Wednesday, Witham and three other men convicted of the murder - Niall Barry, 26, Sean Zeisz, 28 and Joseph Peers, 29 - were all told they would serve minimum terms of more than 40 years.

Undated handout comp of photos issued by Merseyside Police of (left to right) Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Joseph Peers and James Witham
Undated handout comp of photos issued by Merseyside Police of (left to right) Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Joseph Peers and James Witham (PA)

The four men were found guilty following a seven-week trial of the murder of Ms Dale, conspiracy to murder her boyfriend Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon - a Skorpion sub-machine gun - and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Barry, who was described by the prosecution as the “malign presence” behind Ms Dale’s killing, was sentenced to a minimum term of 47 years.

Reading a statement from the witness box, Ms Dale’s mother Julie, 46, looked at the four men in the dock and said: “I hope you all understand that I will never ever forgive you, for the life sentence you have given to me and my family.”

The jury was told that a “drug feud” between Barry and Mr Harrison, Ms Dale’s boyfriend, had been “re-ignited” at the Glastonbury festival in June 2022.

During the festival, Barry was heard threatening to stab Mr Harrison and Zeisz was assaulted by a group said to include Jordan Thompson - a friend of Mr Harrison’s and member of the Hillside organised crime group with which he was associated.

Voice notes and messages sent to friends by Ms Dale in the two months before her death were played during the trial describing the fall-out, which intensified when mutual friend Rikki Warnick took his own life in July last year.

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