Ashley Dale's killers sentenced to total of 173 years in prison

  • Justice Goose sentenced the four men at Liverpool Crown Court

James Witham, Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry and Joseph Peers have been given life sentences with minimum terms of between 41 and 47 years for the murder of 28-year-old Ashley Dale, who was killed with a machine gun in her home.

The 28-year-old was shot dead by Witham at her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, in the early hours of 21 August last year.

Witham, 41, forced open the door of her home firing 10 bullets in her dining room, one hitting Ms Dale in the abdomen as she stood by the back door, and five bullets into the wall of an upstairs bedroom.

The attack that was plotted by the four men intended to target her partner Neil Harrison, a gangland rival who had been involved in a feud with Niall Barry.

Top row: Barry and Zeisz. Bottom Row: Witham and Peers. Credit: Merseyside Police

At Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday, the four men received the following sentences:

  • Gunman James Witham, 41, of Ashbury Road, Huyton, Merseyside, was jailed for a minimum term of 43 years.

  • Niall Barry, 26, of Moscow Drive, Tuebrook, who was described as the "malign presence" in the killing, was sentenced to at least 47 years.

  • Joseph Peers, 29, of Woodlands Road, Roby, Merseyside, a "foot soldier" in the murder of Ashley Dale, was jailed for life at Liverpool Crown Court with a minimum term of 41 years.

  • Sean Zeisz, 28, of Longreach Road, Huyton, was jailed for a minimum of 42 years for his role organising and encouraging the shooting of Ms Dale at her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, in August last year.

The four men were found guilty following a seven-week trial of the murder of Ms Dale, conspiracy to murder her boyfriend Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a a prohibited weapon - a Skorpion sub-machine gun - and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The jury heard a feud between Barry and Mr Harrison, which started years before over the theft of drugs, was "re-ignited" at the Glastonbury festival in June 2022.

During the festival, Barry was heard threatening to stab Mr Harrison and Zeisz was assaulted by a group said to include Jordan Thompson - a friend of Mr Harrison's and member of the Hillside organised crime group with which he was associated.

Voicenotes and messages sent to friends by Ms Dale in the two months before her death were played during the trial describing the fall-out, which intensified when mutual friend Rikki Warnick took his own life in July last year.

Witham admitted manslaughter, claiming he was acting alone and believed the house was empty when he went to Leinster Road in the early hours and fired 10 shots downstairs, one which fatally struck Ms Dale, and five in an upstairs bedroom.

The prosecution alleged Witham was the "fall guy" and was lying to get his co-defendants "out of it".

Mr Harrison, who did not co-operate with police following his girlfriend's death, was out on the night of the murder and has since spent time in Dubai, the court heard.

More to follow.

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