Ashley Dale's best friend said she still "can't comprehend" what's happened.

The 28-year-old council worker was shot dead with a sub-machine gun in her own home, on Leinster Road in Old Swan, on August 21 last year. James Witham sprayed bullets in her home which the court heard part of a plot to kill her boyfriend Lee Harrison and "leave no witnesses behind."

After a seven week trial, at Liverpool crown court, James Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26 and Sean Zeisz, 28 were found guilty of her murder and conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison. They were also convicted of conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

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Her best friend, Elle Ford, told Sky News how she can't comprehend what's happened. Elle said: "She was a firecracker. I've known Ashley since I was 18 months old, there's never been a time in my life that she hasn't been there. I don't just say she was my friend, she was my sister, she was my soulmate.

"I was there for the whole of Ashley's life but I can't comprehend that she won't be here for the rest of mine. I've seen a lot of things online, horrible comments online, a lot of victim blaming 'she was one of them' or 'she knew what she was getting herself into.'

"And I just think there are a lot of young girls in this city that are with lads who are in that sort of circle but it doesn't mean that they should die or pay the price for whatever else is going on. The only crime Ashley committed was falling in love with a person.

From left; Ashley Dale's killers James Witham, Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry and Joseph Peers
From left; Ashley Dale's killers James Witham, Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry and Joseph Peers

"I can't put into words how much I miss her. 26, 27 years is a long time to have a friendship with someone and that's not replaceable."

All four defendants were sentenced to life in prison, Sean Zeisz was sentenced to a minimum term of 42 years, Niall Barry 47 years, James Witham 43 years and Joseph Peers 41 years. During the trial, prosecutor Mr Greaney told jurors that gunman Witham and "driver" Peers, were "dispatched" to Leinster Road to assassinate Harrison and "leave no witnesses".

They had allegedly received their orders from Barry and Zeisz who were said to have been "directing operations" from a flat on Pilch Lane in Huyton. All denied the charges but were unanimously found guilty by a jury.

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