Murder of Rhys Jones
|Born||Rhys Milford Jones
27 September 1995
|Died||22 August 2007
Croxteth Park Estate, Liverpool, England
Cause of death
|Known for||Murder victim|
Melanie Jones (nee Edwards)
The murder of Rhys Milford Jones (22 August 2007) occurred in Liverpool, England, when he was shot in the back. A 16-year-old youth, Sean Mercer, went on trial on 2 October 2008 and was convicted of murder on 16 December 2008.
Jones, who would have turned 12 one month after his death, had just left Broad Square Primary School on the Norris Green housing estate, and was due to start secondary school at Fazakerley High School in September 2007. His headteacher and neighbours said that Jones was a friendly, popular boy, and loved football.
Jones, who played for the Fir Tree Boys football club, was on his way home from football practice,walking alone. As he was crossing the Fir Tree pub car park, on Fir Tree Drive South in the Croxteth Park estate, Liverpool, a hooded youth riding a silver mountain bike approached. He then held out a Smith & Wesson handgun at arm's length firing three shots. It was originally believed that one of the shots hit Jones in the neck, but during the trial the pathologist revealed the bullet had entered his back above his left shoulder blade, and then exited from the front right side of his neck. The shooting occurred in daylight at 7.30 pm BST.
Jones's mother rushed to the scene when she heard what had happened. By the time his mother had reached him, he was unconscious. Paramedics tried for one and a half hours to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead some time later in Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital.
Local radio station Radio City 96.7's programming on the night of the incident, in particular the 10 pm to 2 am Pete Price show that changed its scheduling, was dedicated to an amnesty for witnesses and a talk on gun crime. Radio City also launched their anti-gun-crime campaign, In Rhys's Name Get Guns Off Our Streets, after the incident, later backed by Jones's parents.
Arrests and investigation
Detectives arrested and later released four people aged between 15 and 19 in connection with the crime. Two further arrests (both of teenagers) were made but both suspects were soon released on bail pending further enquiries.
The police appealed to the public for information, stating that they needed help in finding those who had committed the crime. The murder weapon was described as a black handgun with a long barrel. More than 300 officers and gun crime specialists were deployed in the hunt for Jones's killer.
Jones's parents made a fresh appeal for witnesses to come forward on 19 September – four weeks after the murder, which was reconstructed on Crimewatch on 26 September. In the episode, Jones's mother appealed directly to the murderer's mother to turn her son in. It led to 12 people calling into the programme giving police the same name. Despite reports that the killer's name was widely known and had appeared on internet sites and in graffiti, police continued their appeal for witnesses to come forward.
On 15 April 2008, Merseyside police confirmed 11 people (all aged between 17 and 25) had been arrested in connection with the case. Six more men of a similar age were arrested the next day in connection with the murder: one for murder and the other five for assisting an offender. One of these men had already been charged with possessing a firearm. All six of them were remanded in custody by Liverpool Magistrates on 17 April 2008. Another man was charged in connection with the case on 18 April 2008, and remanded the same day.
On 16 December 2008, at the end of a 9-week trial in the Crown Court at Liverpool before Mr Justice Irwin and a jury, Sean Mercer, a member of the "Croxteth crew" gang, was convicted of murder. Mercer, aged 18, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 22 years.
Other gang members James Yates, 20; Nathan Quinn, 18; Gary Kays, 26; and Melvin Coy, 25 as well as Boy 'M', 16 were convicted of assisting an offender and Boy 'K' – Dean Kelly, 17, was convicted of 4 related offences. Gary Kays and Melvin Coy were both sentenced to 7 years. In January, 2009, James Yates was sentenced to 7 years, Dean Kelly to 4 and Nathan Quinn to 2. A 16-year-old was sentenced to a 2-year supervision order. Parents of the gang members, including Janette Mercer, Sean Mercer's mother, and Francis Yates and Marie Yates, the parents of James Yates, were later tried and convicted for perverting the course of justice.
On 28 October 2009, James Yates had his sentence increased to 12 years imprisonment, following a referral to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General Vera Baird QC as being "too lenient".
Residents in Jones' locality have said that there have been problems with anti-social behaviour, and in reaction to this, last year, Merseyside Police made the area around the pub into a "designated area", meaning that officers could disperse groups and move people away from the area.
The police vehemently stressed that the murder was not gang-related. It is still not clear what the motive was, but a case of mistaken identity is being considered. Jones may have been caught in the 'crossfire' between gangs.
Sean Mercer, and the others convicted of involvement in the murder, were known to be members of the "Croxteth Crew" – an active criminal gang in Croxteth. The murder came the day before the first anniversary of the killing of Liam Smith, an alleged member of a rival gang, the "Norris Green Strand Crew", who was shot dead by members of the "Croxteth Crew" as he walked out of Altcourse Prison, Liverpool, on 23 August 2006. The youth gang phenomenon, and youth gangs of Liverpool in particular, drew high media attention after the murder.
Tributes and public reaction
Jones was a dedicated supporter of Everton Football Club, and had a season ticket along with his father and brother. Players of the team laid a floral tribute, football boots and football shirts at the scene of the shooting, and players and fans paid tribute to him in a minute's applause at the home game with Blackburn Rovers, held on Saturday 25 August at Goodison Park.
After a suggestion from Liverpool Echo columnist Tony Barrett in his blog, which was supported by many of its readers, in an unprecedented move arch rivals Liverpool agreed to play the beginning of the Z-Cars theme tune Johnny Todd – the song that traditionally greets the arrival of the Everton team onto the Goodison Park pitch – prior to the Liverpool theme tune of You'll Never Walk Alone ahead of their UEFA Champions League game with Toulouse on 28 August. This was followed by a period of applause, and the Liverpool players and staff, Toulouse players and match day officials wore black armbands during the game.
Over 2,500 mourners attended Jones's funeral, which was held in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on 6 September 2007. His family issued a public invitation for well-wishers to attend the service, where mourners were requested to wear bright clothes or football strips. During the service, Jones's father read a poem he had written for his son. Everton footballer Alan Stubbs read from the Bible. After the service there was a private burial.
- GRO Index of births, Liverpool, October 1995. General Register Office of England and Wales.
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- Details[dead link]
- "Police arrest a third teenager in relation to the murder of Rhys Jones". Daily Mail. 2007-08-24.
- Stokes, Paul; Henry, Emma (2007-08-24). "Rhys Jones murder: 12 people name suspect". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- Rhys parents see murder accused
- Seventh remand made in Rhys case
- "Life term for Rhys Jones killer". BBC News. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Life term for Rhys Jones killer". BBC News. 2008-12-16.
- Carter, Helen (2008-12-16). "Father declares justice for Rhys and thanks city of Liverpool". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- BBC News: Gang member father lied over Rhys
- Longer term for Rhys gun supplier
- "Rhys murderer stabs Mizen killer". BBC News. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
- "The murder plotted from behind bars". BBC News. 27 September 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- Z Cars Ringing Out At Anfield[dead link] tonybarrett.merseyblogs.co.uk – 24 August 2007
- Barrett, Tony & Murtagh, Mary Anfield will echo to sound of Z-Cars icLiverpool.co.uk – 28 August 2007
- Eaton, Paul Anfield to pay fitting tribute to Rhys Liverpoolfc.tv – 28 August 2007
- Liverpool pay tribute to murdered boy[dead link] Reuters – 28 Aug 2007
- Hancock, Natalie United by their grief for Rhys BBC 6 September 2007
- Rhys Jones funeral BBC Radio Merseyside.
|Wikinews has related news: 13 arrested in Rhys Jones murder investigation|
- Videos and galleries relating to Rhys Jones's death: Rhys Jones galleries and videos from the Liverpool Daily Post