Ashley Dale's killers were heard singing before being brought into the court room during the trial.

James Witham, Joseph Peers, Niall Barry and Sean Zeisz stood trial at Liverpool Crown Court accused of the council worker's murder. The trial lasted seven weeks and the court heard evidence detailing Ashley's killing, after she was shot dead in her own home on Leinster Road in Old Swan in the early hours of August 21 last year.

Speaking to the ECHO, Ashley's mum Julie Dale said throughout the trial she has been "shocked at the defendants behaviour." ECHO reporters recalled a moment in the courtroom, when her killers were heard singing the Human League's Don't You Want Me Baby before being brought into court on one occasion.

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On another occasion, it is understood that one of Ashley's murderers kept a puzzle book with him in the dock in order to keep himself occupied. Julie sat through the entire trial and admitted that it had been "harder than expected."

She said: "I thought, in the early days, with some of the things that we had to do – planning a funeral and some really horrific things that we had to do in the beginning, I thought nothing can top them, nothing can get any worse, but sitting in court having the defendants there and seeing them and then listening and seeing the horrific details of what happened to her and how she was just basically left on her own to die. It’s horrendous."

Witham, of Ashbury Road in Huyton, admitted having barged down the door of Ashley's home and spraying the property with bullets using a Skorpion submachine gun. But the 41-year-old claimed he did not see or hear Ashley inside and was instead attempting to "send a message" to Harrison, with whom he had supposedly been in dispute with over drug dealing in North Wales.

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

He denied having plotted with others to arrange the shooting beforehand, stating that he had decided to discharge the gun at the address, which he said he believed was empty, on the spur of the moment while drunk and high on cocaine. Witham maintained that he had found the weapon buried in Stadt Moers Park, having learned of its existence after speaking to a pair of brothers called "Big Dave and Little Dave" while at the Everton v Nottingham Forest match on the afternoon of August 20.

Peers, 29, of Woodlands Road in Roby, meanwhile told the court he had been at home watching a fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk on the television with his dad at the time of the shooting. Barry, aged 26 and of Moscow Drive in Tuebrook, and 28-year-old Zeisz, of Longreach Road in Huyton, also said they had been watching the boxing in the Pilch Lane flat and had no knowledge of any plan to attack Leinster Road.

Yesterday, November 22, all four men were jailed for a total of 173 years. Gunman Witham was imprisoned for life with a minimum term of 43 years, and getaway driver Peers was told he must serve at least 41 years behind bars before he will become eligible for release. "Organisers" Barry and Zeisz were also handed life sentences with 47 and 42 year tariffs.

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