UK

Christmas Eve pub shooting gunman loses appeal against prison sentence

Connor Chapman, 23, was found guilty following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court of the murder of Elle Edwards.

Connor Chapman was jailed for killing Elle Edwards in Wallasey
Connor Chapman Connor Chapman was jailed for killing Elle Edwards in Wallasey (Merseyside Police/PA)

The gunman who fatally shot a 26-year-old beautician outside a pub on Christmas Eve 2022 has lost a challenge against his 48-year minimum term life sentence at the Court of Appeal.

Connor Chapman, 23, was convicted of the murder of Elle Edwards, who was hit twice in the back of the head when he fired 12 shots from a Skorpion submachine gun outside the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village, Wirral, Merseyside.

A trial at Liverpool Crown Court last year was told five other people were injured in the shooting, with Chapman intending to murder two men – Jake Duffy and Kieran Salkeld.

The incident was said to be the culmination of a gang feud in Wirral, where there had been nine shootings in 2022.

At a hearing in London on Thursday, senior judges rejected Chapman’s appeal against the length of his prison sentence.

The Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr, who considered the case alongside Mrs Justice May and Mr Justice Foxton, said they concluded the sentence was “severe, but not manifestly excessive”.

Elle Edwards was shot outside the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village, Wirral, on Christmas Eve 2022
Connor Chapman court case Elle Edwards was shot outside the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village, Wirral, on Christmas Eve 2022

Baroness Carr said that in a bid for revenge, Chapman was “utterly indifferent to who else might be or would be killed or injured in the process”, adding it was clear on the night “many bystanders were present celebrating the holiday season” in the pub.

The judge said Chapman “killed a person with murderous intent” amid “intending to kill two more”, adding: “This was a case in which in his obsessive determination to take those two lives, (he) was willing to kill more and could so easily have done so.”

Mark Rhind KC, representing Chapman, told the court his sentence was “manifestly excessive”.

The barrister said the challenge was not seeking to “minimise the culpability of Mr Chapman or the seriousness of what he’s done”.

He said it was conceded it was an “extremely serious case” with “numerous aggravating features”, adding that, whatever the outcome of the appeal bid, Chapman would spend “decades in prison, perhaps his entire life in prison”.

Mr Rhind said: “As bad as this offending is, the court will in the future have to deal with more serious cases and a minimum term in this case of 48 years leaves no room those even more serious cases that do not require a whole life term.”

He also argued Chapman’s young age at the time of the offences provided a “small degree of mitigation” and said his was “not a case which involved a substantial degree of premeditation or planning”.

Elle Edwards was 26 when she was murdered
Connor Chapman court case Elle Edwards was 26 when she was murdered (Family Handout/PA)

But Nigel Power KC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said the Court of Appeal “should be slow to interfere with the assessment of the trial judge who heard all of the evidence in this case”.

Rejecting Mr Rhind’s arguments, he said: “What we have is a man living a criminal lifestyle involved or associated with revenge attacks who immediately upon hearing of the location of people he was determined… to take out of the game, was able to act.”

The court heard that since Chapman’s arrest, there had been no firearm discharges in the Wirral, while discharges in Merseyside generally had fallen from 49 in 2022 to 23 in 2023 – the lowest figure for 20 years.

“Merseyside Police identify the circumstances and the sentencing in this case as having had a significant deterrent effect,” Mr Power said.

At his sentencing last summer, Mr Justice Goose said what Chapman did “was as wicked as it was shocking”, adding the offender was a “highly dangerous man”.

Prosecutors told Liverpool Crown Court that Chapman had recorded a rap video while in custody in 2022 after an aggravated burglary at his mother’s home.

Police at the scene of the shooting at the Lighthouse Inn in Wallasey Village
Shooting scene Police at the scene of the shooting at the Lighthouse Inn in Wallasey Village (Peter Byrne/PA)

In the video, he made comments including: “If I make it out of here I’m due to become famous because if you touch one of mine, I’ll leave your soul on the pavement.”

He also said: “I know I’ve been a scumbag but I’m proud of that.”

Chapman’s brother Lewis had been shot with a Skorpion, although a different weapon to the one which killed Ms Edwards, in August 2022 but refused to co-operate with the police investigation.

Ms Edwards’s mother Gaynor previously said in a court statement she had “never been the same” since her daughter’s murder, adding: “I can’t accept that she has gone. I still think she’ll come home.”

Her grandmother Susan said: “If I were to die tomorrow, the coroner would write on my death certificate ’cause of death: she died of a broken heart’.”

Chapman was handed two concurrent life sentences, with a minimum term of 22 years, for the attempted murder of his intended targets Duffy and Salkeld.

He was also sentenced for two counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of a Skorpion submachine gun with intent to endanger life and ammunition with intent to endanger life as well as handling stolen goods.

His co-defendant Thomas Waring was sentenced to nine years for possession of a prohibited weapon, assisting an offender and failing to comply with a disclosure notice.