Former Wallasey and West Wirral community inspector Alan McKeon gave an exclusive interview to Granada Reports
A police inspector has revealed how he feared someone would get caught in the crossfire of rival gangs, just days before Elle Edwards was shot dead.
Alan McKeon was the community inspector for Wallasey and West Wirral at the time of the murder and grew up in the area.
Speaking exclusively to ITV Granada Reports, he said it followed an escalation of gang violence.
"I actually said at that time my fear is that there's somebody completely innocent who's was likely to be caught in the crossfire when people are utilising firearms towards each other.
"The unfortunate reality of that is nine days later, that was proven to be correct."
The death of beautician Elle, 26, on Christmas Eve, was the final incident in an escalating series of attacks on the peninsular last year.
Connor Chapman, 23, launched the attack outside the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village shortly before midnight in the culmination of a feud between groups on the Woodchurch estate and the Beechwood, or Ford, estate, on opposing sides of the M53.
The father-of-two, who grew up in Woodchurch, told his trial the trouble was part of something which happened "near enough a year to the day" of Elle's death.
The final moments of Elle Edwards life captured on camera as she arrives at pub before fatal shooting
In December 2021, Chapman spent his fourth Christmas in a row in custody.
The PA news agency reported that while there his mother's house was burgled and Chapman, in a rap video, threatened to get revenge.
Chapman admitted being involved in a burglary in November last year, with a video which was not played before the jury showing him smiling in front of stolen electric bikes in the aftermath.
Five days later, Curtis Byrne, one of the other men involved in the burglary, was shot.
The same gun was used to shoot another man, Kieran Cowley, on 18 December outside the home of Mason Smith - the third burglar.
The day before the shooting which would take Elle's life, another man linked to Woodchurch, Sam Searson, was attacked in the street by Kieran Salkeld and Jake Duffy, who would go on to be seriously injured outside the Lighthouse.
Insp McKeon, a former Woodchurch High pupil, said: “When I look back to my school days there were always tensions between estates. It was always very petty things.
“It would never have been comprehendible that somebody would pick up a firearm and use it in anger towards somebody off another estate.
“Unfortunately things progressed. People got involved in serious, organised criminality."
Merseyside Police has vowed to stamp out such activity.
Dr Keith Ditcham explains his concerns over the type of gun used to kill Elle Edwards
Since the shooting, the force has been working with the local authority and other organisations to tackle organised crime groups in Wirral as part of the EVOLVE project.
Officers have made hundreds of arrests and seized millions of pounds worth of drugs following its launch in January.
Similar initiatives were launched in Liverpool and Knowsley following the fatal shootings of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, council worker Ashley Dale, 28, and Sam Rimmer, 22, last summer.
Mark Camborne, Wirral Council's Assistant Director for Neighbourhood Safety, is the chair of the Operational Delivery Group for EVOLVE Wirral.
He offered reassurance to concerned residents saying, "Trust us and work with us to tackle this together.
"The only way we're going to solve those issues is working together.
"We need to give opportunities where people can tell us things in anonymity and in safety so that we can act on that intelligence."
Despite five fatal shootings on Merseyside last year, police say gun crime has reduced.
There have been 10 shootings so far this year, compared to 25 for the same period in 2022.
Wirral's Community Policing Superintendent Matthew Moscrop says young people need to see crime as a route to jail and misery.
Chapman, who has previous convictions for burglary, possession of a knife, possession of drugs, aggravated vehicle-taking and breaches of an anti-social behaviour order, began selling cocaine when he was released from prison in summer 2022, he told the court.
In October last year he was given a gang injunction, preventing him from spending time on the Woodchurch estate or associating with named individuals.
However, Nigel Power KC, prosecuting, described the order as "about as much use as a chocolate teapot", being treated with "utter contempt" by the defendant.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Kameen admitted it depends on resources as to whether a criminal gets away with breaching an order.
He said: "If we're looking at you at that time that you're trying to get away with breaching an order, you're going to get caught.
"But equally, at the same time, there are so many different ways that they will employ to try and avoid detection around those orders.
"I think the key thing here is, are orders effective? Yes, of course they are.
"Do we apply for them? Yes, absolutely."
As part of the work the force is carrying out to clear criminal gangs from Woodchurch, Noctorum and Beechwood estates, and to target those engaged in serious and organised crime across Wirral, officers have made 718 arrests, 1,213 stop searches and executed 102 warrants and searches between January 2023 and June 2023.
Seizures include cannabis plants with an estimated yield of £1.3million, more than £1million in suspected Class A and B drugs, £25,000 worth of goods from targeted retailers linked to OCGs, more than £41,000 in cash suspected to be derived through criminal activity, two machetes, three samurai swords and a Rolex watch worth around £10,000.
Police say they will continue to work to protect communities and prevent gangs operating in those areas.
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