A mother whose ‘wholly innocent’ teenage son was murdered by three drug dealers who mistook him for a rival gang member has spoken about her ‘tidal wave of grief’.
Anya Horwood’s son Lewis Dunne was shot in the back at close range on a canal towpath in a ‘cowardly’ act by the men looking for revenge amid intensifying gang warfare in Liverpool.
The fatal shooting was the culmination of a ‘violent and senseless’ dispute last year which involved the deliberate ramming of vehicles, car chases and violence on the streets of the city.
Humiliated after coming off worse in the clashes, drug dealers Jake Culshaw, 26, and brothers John and Paul Martin, aged 20 and 26, armed themselves with a loaded weapon.
As they laid in wait in darkness near the Leeds and Liverpool canal the group assumed 16-year-old Lewis, who had curly hair like one of the rival gang members, was one of their enemies.
The three men were today jailed for life for Lewis’ murder.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Turner told the defendants they had ‘lied again and again’ during the course of the trial and had shown ‘no remorse whatsoever’.
He said: ‘The only genuine pity you have shown was for yourselves and of that there was no shortage.
‘To you, the death of Lewis was no more than collateral damage for which you have made the most strenuous efforts to avoid responsibility.
‘To Lewis’s close and loving family the impact has been devastating. It will cast a dark shadow over their lives forever.
‘Once Lewis had been shot you all just ran away, leaving him helpless and dying on the towpath.
‘Thereafter you did everything in your power to cover your tracks by disposing of mobile phones and burning your clothes but before long it was business as usual and you carried on your empty and parasitic lives until justice slowly caught up with you.’
Referred to the drugs turf feud that led to the killing, the judge said: ‘The victim in this case was a wholly innocent 16-year-old bystander whose tragic death highlights vividly the dangers of gang culture to all members of the public and not just those who choose to adopt this lifestyle.
‘A strongly deterrent approach to sentence is called for.’
Dunne, 16, who played no part in the dispute, was simply ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ when he unwittingly walked into their path on his way to meet a friend.
Moments after Lewis walked under the Eldonian Bridge, CCTV footage captured a group of swans reacting suddenly and four dark figures running away after he had been shot.
The Crown said there was no direct evidence proving which of the three defendants – and an unidentified fourth male – pulled the trigger but each had gathered with ‘murderous intent’.
Culshaw, of no fixed abode, and Paul Martin, from Anfield, were jailed for a minimum of 30 years. John Martin, must serve a minimum of 28 years before he too can be considered for parole.
The three men initially denied the offences but were found guilty today, almost exactly a year since Lewis Dunne was killed.
Two of them were ordered from the dock by Mr Justice Turner as they remonstrated with the jury who returned unanimous verdicts on the sixth day of deliberations.
Culshaw said: ‘You 12 people have just thrown my life away,’ while John Martin shouted: ‘You’ve just taken an innocent man’s life away you horrible c****s.’
On the day of his death, Sunday November 15, Lewis had arranged to meet a friend on the canal towpath to borrow his bicycle.
A ballistics expert was later to observe that Lewis may have been shot from a distance of between four and seven metres away, Ian Unsworth QC, prosecuting, told the court at a previous hearing.
The prosecutor told the jury that the murder weapon was believed to have been a 12 gauge calibre shotgun and he was injured by multiple pellets.
He had 75 pellet impact holes in the back of his jacket, the court heard. He suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries and was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.
Culshaw was later attacked in a nearby street, the court heard.
The prosecutor told the jury that those believed to have been in the Mini Cooper had come worse off.
He said: ‘They had lost their vehicle, they had been chased and one of their number had been assaulted. Whatever this was all about it seems clear that they were not intent on letting things go. They wanted revenge.’