A GANG of robbers was found guilty of murdering a city worker who was killed in revenge for her boyfriend.
Ashley Dale, 28, was “deliberately and ruthlessly” blasted with a Skorpion submachine gun in a cold-blooded murder in August last year.
Ashley Dale was killed in her home in a revenge warCredit: PA
Attacker James Witham (pictured) shot and killed Ashley in her home
Witham fled the scene of the shooting with “foot soldier” Joseph Peers (pictured), 28, leaving the stricken Ashley to die
Niall Barry (26) was found guilty of murder
Sean Zeisz, 28, was convicted of murder for his role in the shooting
Her boyfriend Lee Harrison, pictured right with Sean Zeisz and Niall Barry, was the intended targetCredit: PA
A council worker screamed “get the fuck out” at attacker James Witham as she tried to “run for her life” after he forced open the door to her home in Old Swan, Liverpool.
Ashley managed to stagger into her back garden where she collapsed after the bullet, one of 10 fired by Witham in the property’s dining room, pierced her abdomen causing “catastrophic” damage.
Witham then fired five more bullets into the wall of an upstairs bedroom – a “strong message” to her boyfriend Lee Harrison.
The chilling gist of the warning was that Lee was the “prime target” of the attack and should lie dead next to his partner.
Witham (41), Niall Barry (26), Sean Zeisz (28) and Joseph Peers (28) were convicted of murder today.
They were also convicted of conspiracy to murder Ms Dale Lee Harrison’s partner and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion assault rifle and ammunition.
Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, who was also charged with organizing or inciting murder, was found not guilty of murder.
Kallum Radford, 26, was cleared of assisting an offender after he was accused of helping to prepare the car used in the murder.
Some family members of the accused left the court in tears after the verdicts were pronounced.
Ashley’s mum Julie, 46, wept as the jury delivered its first guilty verdict at around 2.30pm.
During the harrowing seven-week trial, Liverpool Crown Court heard that tensions boiled over after “trouble broke out” at Glastonbury in June 2022.
Barry’s feud with Mr Harrison, who has been uncooperative with police since his girlfriend’s death, began about three years before the shooting.
Mr Harrison was said to have sided with the Hillside organized crime group after they allegedly stole drugs from Barry.
The feud then reignited when Zeisz was attacked at Glastonbury last year.
Ashley and Lee attended the festival, as did Zeisz, Barry – aka “Branch” – Fitzgibbon and Witham.
Also present was another group with whom Lee, who never helped in the case, had “collaboration”.
One of the members of that gang, Jordan “Dusty” Thompson, attacked Zeisz because the killer was “fighting” with everyone.
This “deeply humiliating” attack “re-ignited” the feud between his gang and Harrison and left Ashley fearing the worst.
Just a few weeks before her death, she told a friend, “I keep looking over my shoulder.”
On the night of August 21 last year, Lee went out with friends, leaving Ashley alone at home with their dog.
That same evening, Witham and Peers arrived at her property in a Hyundai.
Her killers initially tried to lure her out by slashing the tires of her Volkswagen T-ROC to set off the alarm.
But Ashley sent a message at the time saying she believed the rain had caused it so she stayed inside where she was safe, or “so she no doubt thought”.
As she continued to text Lee about the alarm, he told her: “Hahahaha you think you’re in a horror movie”.
When she didn’t answer, he asked “are you okay?” followed by, “Alive?”
Ashley replied, “No, I’m dead.”
Just moments later, Witham broke down the front door to “kill”. [Harrison] and deal with anyone who gets in their way.”
She was then pursued by the attacker, who opened fire as she desperately tried to escape.
Tragically, she was found lying on the ground in her back garden “groaning in pain”.
By the time the police arrived, Witham had fled with Peers and the stricken Ashley was out of danger.
Witham, who admitted manslaughter, claims he “never saw or heard Ashley” and said he shot her by accident.
During his testimony, he lamented that the past year was “torture” for him.
The assailant was trapped in a pair of brand new On Cloudflow sneakers he had purchased, which left a distinctive print on the front door he kicked in.
A shell casing was also found under a bed in Ashley’s home with a “one in a billion” match to his DNA.
The tragedy came just seven years after Ashley’s brother Lewis Dunne was killed by drug dealers aged just 16.
He was also not the intended target of the shooting in the cruel echo of her murder.
The horror also took place just 48 hours before nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel was gunned down in her home in the city.
In the days after the shooting, Witham and Peers stayed at a hotel in St Helens before traveling to Scotland.
Barry, meanwhile, was arrested at a golf resort in Formby after hatching plans to flee the country.
After Ashley’s death, her devastated family said: “None of this makes sense and our lives will never be the same.
“A senseless crime that tore a family apart.”
Her devastated mother today blamed her daughter’s boyfriend for her murder.
The four murderers will be sentenced on Wednesday at 11 am.
Speaking after today’s sentencing, Senior Investigating Officer, Chief Inspector Cath Cummings said: “James Witham’s actions that day had a devastating and far-reaching effect.
“Ashley, an innocent woman, lost her life in the most brutal way at the hands of Witham.
“The fact that she was alone in her own home, where she should have felt and been safe, contributed to this, when she died.
“Her family has to live with that knowledge every day.
She added: “The four men who were found guilty showed not an ounce of remorse for their actions which led to Ashley’s death and instead pleaded not guilty forcing her family into a lengthy trial where they had to relive Ashley’s final moments over and over again.
“I’m glad the jury saw through their blatant lies and how they conspired.
“I would like to acknowledge Ashley’s family for the dignity and composure they showed during the trial.
“These four men now face a significant length of time behind bars and while it will never bring Ashley back, I hope that after more than a year of waiting for justice, they can move on to the next chapter of their lives and properly grieve their loss. “
Ashley took this photo with her dog shortly before the murderCredit: PA
The killers tried to lure her out by slashing her tires Credit: PA
A bullet casing matching Witham’s DNBA was found under her bed
Witham kicked down Ashley’s door and opened fire
He and Joseph Peers checked into the Mercure to swim and go to the sauna after the murderCredit: Merseyside Police
Before her death, Ashley said she was looking over her shoulder Credit: Facebook
She died after a bullet pierced her stomachCredit: PA