'I'm always looking over my shoulder': Ashley Dale's chilling final voice notes help get four men convicted of murder

20 November 2023, 15:52 | Updated: 20 November 2023, 17:12

Ashley Dale narrated the fear of her final weeks
Ashley Dale narrated the fear of her final weeks. Picture: Handout

By Kit Heren

Chilling voice notes sent by Ashley Dale were played in her murder trial and helped to convict the four men found guilty of killing her.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Ms Dale, a 28-year-old council worker, was shot dead with a sub-machine gun in her back garden in Liverpool last August, although her drug dealer boyfriend was the intended target.

James Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, were found guilty of her murder at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday.

All four men were also convicted of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon with intent to endanger life.

Her phone was found close to where she had died, and officers recovered several voice notes she had sent to friends in the week before her murder.

Read more: Four men found guilty of murdering Ashley Dale after she was shot dead with a Skorpion sub-machine gun in Liverpool

Read more: Moment police arrest Ashley Dale murder accused on way to Glastonbury and find knife after 'feud with her boyfriend’

Ashley Dale
Ashley Dale. Picture: Alamy

The messages established a connection between her killers and her boyfriend Lee Harrison, and documented her fears for her safety, after Mr Harrison had feuded with Barry at Glastonbury Festival earlier that summer.

But the argument went back years, stemming from the theft of drugs, Ms Dale said in the voice notes.

She told friends that summer that she had a "bad, bad feeling about everything".

Ms Dale also said on August 1, three weeks before the murder: "My nerves are gone, when am out in the car with Lee just feeling like I'm looking over me shoulder all the time."

James Witham
James Witham. Picture: Merseyside Police
Joseph Peers
Joseph Peers. Picture: Merseyside Police

Ms Dale's stepfather Rob Jones said the voice notes had been a "massive part" of the conviction of her murderers.

He said: "If it was left up to the accused and the person who ultimately there was the conspiracy to murder, Lee, this would never have got to trial because they all lie, they all cheat, they all steal, they know no different."

Detective Chief Inspector Cath Cummings said: "For me, as a senior investigating officer, this was the most compelling and emotional part of the case.

"It's the first time I've ever seen the evidence of the murder victim play such a crucial role in a court case.

"Ashley was narrating her own story and events that led to her death.

Niall Barry
Niall Barry. Picture: Merseyside Police
Sean Zeisz
Sean Zeisz. Picture: Merseyside Police

"There was barely a dry eye in the courtroom as her increased fear and anxiety was played out through recovered voice notes from her phone."

She added: "It's Ashley that's actually brought these offenders to justice because overlaying that with the evidence that we've been able to gather she's told us the story herself."

Senior crown prosecutor Olivia Cristinacce-Travis said the recordings were "harrowing" to listen to.

She said: "We all do text messages and WhatsApp, but it was the amount of voice notes that she used, which I suppose shows the realities of being in 2023 and the victim being a young woman.

Bodycam footage shows moment suspected killers of Ashley Dale are arrested

"It was all of those voice notes that essentially documented how she was feeling on each day and what was going on in her life that were so different."

Ms Cristinacce-Travis said police finding the phone led to a "very modern prosecution".

She added: "It is it is quite unprecedented to have a narrator, essentially, telling her own story."