Four men jailed for life for murder of Ashley Dale in Liverpool

22 November 2023, 12:38 | Updated: 22 November 2023, 12:57

Witham has been jailed for life for murdering Ashley Dale
Witham has been jailed for life for murdering Ashley Dale. Picture: Merseyside Police

By Will Taylor

Four men have been given life sentences for the murder of 28-year-old Ashley Dale in Liverpool.

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The council worker was shot at her home in Old Swan when James Witham burst in through the door and opened fire with a Skorpion submachine gun in the dining room.

He sprayed 10 bullets, with one hitting Dale in the stomach.

Her boyfriend, Lee Harrison, a drug dealer, was the intended target during the attack on August 21 last year.

Witham, 41, of Huyton, was jailed for life at Liverpool Crown Court with a minimum of 43 years, on Wednesday, alongside Joseph Peers, Niall Barry and Sean Zeisz.

Peers, 29, of Roby, Merseyside, was given a minimum of 41 years. He was described as a "foot soldier" in Dale's murder.

Barry, 26, of Tuebrook, was given a minimum of 47 years while, Zeisz, 28, of Huyton, was handed at least 42 years. He organised the shooting.

Read more: Ashley Dale's mother says she is 'more angry' with her daughter's 'despicable' boyfriend than her killers

Dale was killed at her home in Liverpool
Dale was killed at her home in Liverpool. Picture: Merseyside Police

Dale, an environmental health worker for Knowsley Council, was found with the gunshot wound in the garden of her home.

Harrison was not at home at the time.

Witham fired eight shots at Dale and two at the ground, believed to be aimed at her dog, jurors heard.

The court heard how she was hit in the abdomen by a bullet which passed through her liver and the right chamber of her heart.

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

Witham then went up to a bedroom and shot five times at the wall to send a message to Harrison.

Dale used the phone to try to call Harrison in her last moments of life. It was found an arm's length from where she was discovered in her back garden.

But he did not help the police with their investigation.

The row between rival drug dealers is said to have erupted after an argument between Barry and Harrison at Glastonbury festival earlier that summer.

Top: Barry and Zeisz. Bottom: Witham and Peers
Top: Barry and Zeisz. Bottom: Witham and Peers. Picture: Merseyside Police

Witham admitted to the manslaughter of Dale but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court also found him guilty of her murder, along Joseph Peers, who was accused of driving to the scene.

The two also slashed the tyres on Dale's car in a bid to lure out the people inside the house, the court heard.

Barry and Zeisz were convicted of murder after organising and encouraging the killing.

Dale's mother, Julie, had said in her victim impact statement: "The screams of my baby girls when I told them [of Dale's death] is something no mother should ever hear.

"We all spent the next week sleeping in the same bed, the girls screaming for their big sister… therapy, having to change schools, never being able to go to their big sisters, or to become aunties.

"I had to identify her in a mortuary... unable to touch her… she was a piece of evidence. Choosing a coffin for my 28-year-old daughter like I was choosing furniture... and what should have been a private event was broadcast on TV.

"Two weeks earlier we toasted her promotion over Sunday lunch. She was so proud of her achievements and seeing her graduate was my proudest moment. Her crime... falling in love with the wrong person who continued to lie about why this happened."

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