‘Cowards’: Fear turns to fury in Liverpool community where Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9, shot dead

‘Justice will be done,’ says one Liverpool resident following young Olivia’s killing

Colin Drury
Wednesday 24 August 2022 19:24 BST
Police appeal for information on murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool

At a community centre in Dovecot, Liverpool, there were many emotions on show on Wednesday: fear, pain, horror.

But, as more details emerged of how nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in her own home in this neighbourhood, there was also a growing sense of determination to see justice done.

As residents gathered at The Drive community centre for the day’s food club, kids activities and financial advice sessions, they spoke of both their fury at the killing and of how this close-knit community would do everything to see the perpetrator caught.

Olivia’s family used the centre occasionally. “They’re lovely,” said Joanne Kennedy, manager. “Completely normal. That’s why this is so shocking.”

A name for the suspected gunman - thought to be member of a city gang - has already been given to staff here by two separate people, and has been passed on to Merseyside Police.

“People are in shock,” said Peter Mitchell, chief executive of the Big Help Group, which runs the facility. “They are feeling raw and in pain that this has happened in their community – on their street in many cases – and they also feel a level of intimidation that if they speak out, that may put themselves at risk. That is absolutely natural.

“But places like this have an in-built resilience and in-built sense of right and wrong so I think, if we can provide a safe space, they will come forward. We say to them, ‘If you won’t tell the police, tell us because then it’s our responsibility instead of yours’.”

Olivia was shot and killed by a masked gunman on Monday
Olivia was shot and killed by a masked gunman on Monday (Supplied)

Asked why he didn’t feel intimidated, he said Liverpool’s gangs were a “minute minority” in an otherwise “brilliant” city.

“They are cowards,” he said. “We will not allow them to win.”

Olivia was killed after the mystery gunman stormed the house where she lived with her mother and two older siblings in Kingsheath Avenue on Monday night.

The killer was chasing a second man – entirely unknown to the family and now named as convicted criminal Joseph Nee – who had burst into the house trying to get away from him.

The whole inicent is thought to have been the latest in a series of tit-for-tat gang attacks that have plagued the area.

Was Mitchell, then, confident the killer would be caught amid concerns about a wall of silence and a ‘no grass’ culture within the city’s criminal fraternity? He was.

Liverpool resident Peter Mitchell says the gangs are cowards
Liverpool resident Peter Mitchell says the gangs are cowards (Colin Drury/The Independent)

He is a city ward councillor in neighbouring Croxteth, where 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot dead on his way home from football training by a teenage gang member 15 years ago. “So, I’ve been down this road before,” he said. “Justice will be done.”

The community centre – in Finch Lane, 200 yards from where Olivia was gunned down – has been open for two years now. But rarely, said Mitchell, had it been as busy as on Wednesday.

“That shows the strength there is here,” said Harry Doyle, Liverpool’s assistant mayor and ward councillor for neighbouring Knotty Ash, as he helped out. “It is people coming together at a time of grief. The fact they are coming forward about who the perpetrator might be is a clear sign of the anger.”

Although some parents have spoken of their desire to move out of the area after a perceived upsurge in violence, others around the centre said they loved the place too much to be frightened by a minority.

Tributes left in Kingsheath Avenue
Tributes left in Kingsheath Avenue (PA)

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said one resident, who asked not to be named. “But you don’t solve this by running. You confront it and make things better.”

It comes as Merseyside Police revealed they had arrested Nee – who himself was shot and is currently in hospital. He is now being questioned about the killing.

Meanwhile, at the police cordon surrounding the family’s home, relatives of Olivia have placed tributes to her overnight.

“RIP baby girl,” one handwritten note said. “I can’t believe what has happened, feels like a nightmare. We will miss you so much our sassy queen. Love aunty Kim and uncle Tim.”

Another calls the youngster – a pupil at Huyton’s St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Junior School – “our brown-eyed sassy pants ... I will never find the words to describe the heartache we have all felt.”

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