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Gunman who 'shot' wrong target while posing as pizza boy was 'not lone wolf Scouser'

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 10/03/2021 Luke Traynor

An alleged gunman's claims that he was a "lone wolf" and "one man band Scouser" who shot an innocent man on his own doorstep while posing as a pizza delivery driver were rubbished as "simply incredible" in court.

Three men, two of them from Liverpool, are accused of being part of the gun attack in which a dad was seriously injured by a shot through his front door.

David Barnes answered the door at his home on Poplars Avenue in the Orford area of Warrington at about 8.45pm on April 24, last year.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the intended target was Liam Byrne Jr, Mr Barnes' stepson, who had recently been handed a notice by police that he was in danger of being attacked.

The jury was told the shooting, which left the victim with life-changing injuries, was organised by Jamie Rothwell, who had a grievance with Mr Byrne Jnr.

It was also heard how Rothwell arranged for a further shooting on the same day, this time at the presumed home of Charlie Cullen, the dad of a man called Leon Cullen.

a car parked in front of a house: Police Scientific Support Officers on Poplars Avenue. © Liverpool Echo Police Scientific Support Officers on Poplars Avenue.

But that very similar gun plot, again involving a man knocking on the front door with a pizza box, was aborted after the present occupant, on Sinclair Avenue, Longford, Warrington, told the caller Mr Cullen had moved and no longer lived there.

Rothwell handed out his orders using the encrypted Encrochat messaging service, it was heard, which has since been busted by European cyber experts.

The alleged gangster offered up a fee of £10,000 to attack Mr Byrne, and was tracked by investigators on the supposedly secret communication platform as he spoke of "doing them all."

Accomplices are seen, on the messages, to get to work on Rothwell's request, sourcing possible addresses for his intended victims, prosecutor Jaime Hamilton said.

In the dock are 24-year-old Aaron Bretherton, 26-year-old Lewis Fitzpatrick, of Eldersfield Road, Norris Green, and 23-year-old Anthony Morris, of no fixed abode, described as "the gunman, arranger and transport" respectively.

Bretherton, of Netherfield Road South in Everton, has admitted firing the gun and possessing the weapon, but denies he was part of a wider conspiracy, or any connection with Rothwell and his plotting.

a man sitting in front of a house: Police Scientific Support Officers in the garden of a house on Poplars Avenue. © Liverpool Echo Police Scientific Support Officers in the garden of a house on Poplars Avenue.

But Mr Hamilton, summing up the prosecution case to the jury on Tuesday, said his claims could not be believed, and rubbished his assertions a gang from Birmingham were set to attack Mr Barnes before he intervened and shot him instead.

The barrister said: "The prosecution say an examination of the evidence allows you to exclude the prospect of there being a Brummie gang, ready to pounce and having the glory pulled out from underneath them from a one man band Scouser."

He added: "It's incredible to think there was a team of attackers at that time from Birmingham" and that Bretherton took charge of the situation as "a lone wolf."

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Mr Hamilton told the jury to dismiss that story, once more describing that version of events as "simply incredible."

He said: "The prosecution say Bretherton is a cog in the machine who organised and carried out the shooting at Poplars Avenue.

"Bretherton claims the entire scheme was his alone, he says it was to warn Liam Byrne off from bullying his friend, who he is not prepared to name."

a police car parked on a city street: Police on Poplars Avenue. © Liverpool Echo Police on Poplars Avenue.

In the shooting of Mr Barnes, four shots were fired, one hitting the floor, and one going through the door as it closed and hitting the 55-year-old, leaving him very badly injured.

Mr Hamilton told the jury: "The first lockdown in March of 2020 caused most of us to work from home.

"But not the serious criminal.

"For the serious criminal, there was still business that needed to be taken care of and that, so far as they were concerned, required being out and about.

"And so, it was that in April 2020, a man called Jamie Rothwell plotted with others to shoot individuals with whom he had grievance.

"This trial is, in part, about the plot to shoot one of those men, a man called Liam Byrne Jr.

"Of the men in the dock Aaron Bretherton was the gunman, Lewis Fitzpatrick was the arranger and Anthony Morris was the transport."

Encrochat was a key part in which the shooting of Mr Barnes and the planned attack on Mr Cullen was arranged, it was heard.

Rothwell used the "handle" user name of "Livelong" and was in communication with accomplices calling themselves, on the secret chat service, "Caperocket", "Slightdrake", "Racyocelot" and "B**sniffer."

A Glock 19 9mm handgun was recovered from the extractor of the cooker in Bretherton’s apartment, while ammunition and a magazine were found in the fan in the bathroom.

But the trial has heard this is not the weapon used in the shooting of Mr Barnes.

Fitzpatrick is accused of helping to arrange the shooting being part of a "reconnaissance" mission with Bretherton earlier in the day, before the attack.

Morris is accused of supplying the transport, a works van from the garage where he worked, which carried the three men from Liverpool to Warrington.

Bretherton admits inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of a firearm.

But he denies conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm.

Morris and Fitzpatrick both deny conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The trial continues.

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