Jury in trial of woman shot in home retires to consider verdicts

Ashley Dale, 28, who was shot in her home in Liverpool (Merseyside Police/PA)
Ashley Dale, 28, who was shot in her home in Liverpool (Merseyside Police/PA)

The jury in the trial of five men accused of the murder of a 28-year-old woman shot with a machine gun in her own home has retired to consider its verdicts.

Environmental health worker Ashley Dale was killed when a gunman broke into her home in Old Swan, Liverpool and fired a Skorpion sub-machine gun in the early hours of August 21 last year.

The jury in the trial of the men accused of plotting and carrying out the killing was sent out to consider its verdicts shortly before 11am on Friday at Liverpool Crown Court.

James Witham, 41, who admits the manslaughter of Miss Dale, has claimed he fired the shots as a “warning” to Miss Dale’s partner Lee Harrison and did not know anyone was in the house at the time.

The prosecution allege Witham was driven to the scene by fellow “foot soldier” Joseph Peers, 29.

Peers told the jury he was at home with his parents watching boxing at the time.

Niall Barry, 26, Sean Zeisz, 28, and Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, are accused of organising and encouraging the murder, which is said to have happened after a feud between Barry and Mr Harrison was re-ignited when Zeisz was assaulted at the Glastonbury festival in June 2022.

All five men were together in a flat in Pilch Lane in Huyton, Merseyside, on the evening of August 20 before Witham and Peers left shortly after 10pm, the court has heard.

During the trial, voice recordings made by Miss Dale before her death have been played to the court in which she described her “terrible anxiety” and told friends Barry, who had fallen out with Mr Harrison several years before, was “on some pure rampage”.

Witham, of Huyton; Fitzgibbon, of St Helens; Zeisz, of Huyton; Barry, of Tuebrook; and Peers, of Roby – all Merseyside – deny Miss Dale’s murder.

All five also deny conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion sub-machine gun, and ammunition.

A sixth defendant, Kallum Radford, 26, denies assisting an offender by helping to store the Hyundai used in the killing.