Council worker Ashley Dale killed with Cold War sub-machine gun over feud 'reignited at Glastonbury festival'

5 October 2023, 13:49 | Updated: 5 October 2023, 16:27

Ashley Dale was killed after a gangland feud reignited
Ashley Dale was killed after a gangland feud reignited. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

A council worker was shot dead in her home in a revenge attack against her boyfriend after a rival gangster was "humiliated" at Glastonbury.

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Ashley Dale, 28, was blasted "deliberately and mercilessly" with a Skorpion sub-machine gun after James Witham burst into her home in Liverpool, a court was told.

The 28-year-old was hit in the abdomen by a bullet fired from the weapon at her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, on August 21 last year.

Ashley Dale
Ashley Dale. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Man denies murder of Ashley Dale, 28, after she was shot dead at home

She managed to stagger to her back garden where she collapsed to the ground after a bullet passed through her abdomen causing "catastrophic" damage.

Opening the trial of five men accused of her murder at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday, Paul Greaney KC said: "There can, suggests the prosecution, be no doubt that Ashley's death was murder. She was shot deliberately and, indeed, mercilessly by a man who entered her home intending to kill."

He told the court Miss Dale had attended Glastonbury festival in June that year with her boyfriend Lee Harrison.

Four of the men accused of her murder - Sean Zeisz, 28, Niall Barry, 26, Ian Fitzgibbon, 28 and James Witham, 41 - were also there.

The jury was told Zeisz was assaulted at the festival and his attackers included a man called Jordan Thompson.

Following the assault, Zeisz's girlfriend Olivia McDowell stayed with Mr Thompson, Miss Dale and Mr Harrison, compounding Zeisz's "loss of face", Mr Greaney said.

The court was told that in the following weeks, Barry sided with Zeisz as he already had a "longstanding antagonism" towards Mr Harrison, who Mr Greaney said appeared to be involved in a "world of criminality".

Mr Greaney said: "Niall Barry used these new events at Glastonbury to reignite that old feud."

He said that on August 20, Fitzgibbon, Zeisz and Barry dispatched "foot soldiers" Witham and the fifth defendant - Joseph Peers, 29 - armed with a Skorpion sub-machine gun to kill Mr Harrison at his home and "to deal with anyone that got in their way, leaving behind no witnesses".

Ashley Dales' family arriving at court
Ashley Dales' family arriving at court. Picture: Alamy

Miss Dale, whose family members wiped away tears at times during the opening, was at the couple's home on Leinster Road with her dog on the night of the attack, while Mr Harrison was out.

The jury was told Witham admitted the manslaughter of Miss Dale, but said he shot her by accident in the early hours of August 21 having gone to "send a message" to Mr Harrison following a dispute about drug dealing in North Wales.

Mr Greaney said: "It was James Witham who forced the front door to Leinster Road, James Witham who entered the house and James Witham who proceeded to open fire on Ashley, shooting and killing her.

"James Witham then walked upstairs and into a bedroom, where he fired five bullets into the wall. He did that, the prosecution suggests, to send a firm message to Lee Harrison. That message was that he, Lee Harrison, had been the principal target of this attack and he too should be dead, along with Ashley."

The court was told Peers allegedly drove the gunman to the address in a Hyundai.

Witham, of Huyton; Fitzgibbon, of St Helens; Zeisz of Huyton; Barry of Tuebrook; and Peers of Roby - all Merseyside - deny Miss Dale's murder.

All five also deny conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion sub-machine gun, and ammunition.

A sixth defendant, Kallum Radford, 25, of no fixed address, denies assisting an offender.

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