Community resilience one year on from murder of Elle Edwards

A year on from the tragic and shocking death of a young woman in Wirral on Christmas Eve, people in the local area where the murder took place are determined to not let what happened “destroy all that is good” in their community.

26-year-old beautician Elle Edwards was an innocent bystander when she was gunned down at the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village on 24 December 2022 in a botched shooting between rival gangs. In the immediate aftermath of the appalling murder, local churches opened their doors to provide cups of tea for the police and the space for a shocked community to grieve.

Locals said they never expected something so terrible to happen so close to home. Others were so frightened that they would only open their front doors a little, as local councillors visited the community to provide reassurance in the wake of the shooting.

In February, two nearby cafés, Stollies and Community Soul, offered drop-in counselling sessions with the NHS over a week as the community banded together to “provide a safe, caring place for people to work out some of the trauma suffered.”

Elle’s funeral took place on 25 January 2023 at Wallasey’s St Nicholas Church where hundreds gathered to pay their respects.

At the funeral, Reverend Jeff Staples said, “What happened on Christmas Eve affected so many people, and it continues to do so, we were all touched by the darkness of evil. But the light of hope shines even in the deepest darkness, it shines in every kind word, in every embrace, in every good deed.

“There may not have been much said about it, but the light of hope shone on that dark night. The light of hope shone in the goodness of those who were able to act to try and save Elle. Elle was not abandoned in the darkness.

“The light of hope shone in the goodness of those who tended the wounded, who supported the fearful. It shone in those who offered words of comfort, who lit candles, who said prayers.”

Following the end of Elle’s murder trial in July, a mural of Elle was later painted on Virginia Street in New Brighton where flowers were left as tributes to the beautician.

One year on from the murder, Rev Staples said, “I think there was a shared sense of grief, shock and horror and I think there was some fantastic work done locally where people said we are not having this, this is not going to destroy all that is good about our community.

“I think it will have a long-term impact because in the moment and in the aftermath, all of Wallasey Village was suddenly in shock. It does have a long-term impact because you can never be sure of your surroundings or your situation because a young life was taken. You can bury this stuff but you can’t get rid of it.

“At the heart of my thoughts is how does a community recover from what happened? From my perspective the community recovers not by ignoring what happened because it can’t just bury it, but by continuing to do the good that builds communities. In the aftermath of the shooting so many people acted to help and support those immediately affected and folk like ourselves at the Church continue to be there to listen and care.”

Speaking about the shocking events of last Christmas Eve, Wallasey MP Angela Eagle said, “The local outpouring of shock, then grief and empathy for Elle & her family was palpable,” adding: “It was important to reassure local residents following this senseless outbreak of violence.

“I commend local police for their swift and professional work providing that reassurance at the same time as finding and charging the perpetrator. Along with my fellow Wirral MPs I have since been working to tackle gang-related crime and try to ensure that no other family on the Wirral suffers as Elle’s family have.

“Elle’s father, Tim, came down to Parliament earlier this year and had many MPs and staff from across the country stop him to share their condolences and shock at her death, reflecting the national sense of grief & empathy.

“As the anniversary approaches, my thoughts and sympathy continues to be with all who loved Elle but especially those who loved her the most. This Christmas will be incredibly difficult for them all and my heart goes out to them.”

After the shooting, the EVOLVE Wirral project was rolled out across the Woodchurch, Beechwood, and Noctorum estates where police cracked down on serious organised crime.

Police officers have made more than 700 arrests and carried out more than 1,600 stop searches which have removed dangerous weapons, seized more than £38,000 in cash and a significant quantity of suspected Class A and B drugs.

Following this in January next year, events will be held in these areas looking to give out up to £2000 grants to support community projects.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “It won’t end their heartache, but I hope they, and the community, can take some comfort that, thanks to the support of the public and the determination of Merseyside Police, the toxic individual who carried out her senseless, devastating murder will be spending the next 48 years behind bars and numerous other gang members have been jailed.”

She added, “Regular high visibility patrols are providing reassurance to the hard-working people living in these areas, supported by days of action and community events. In January, we are looking forward to holding a participatory budget event focused on sharing money with local community groups to further invest and improve these estates.

“This work is also supported by our Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership which is focused on preventing serious violence by working with young people through a wide range of interventions to stop them getting drawn into gangs.

“Our communities have been critical to this progress. The intelligence and information they have provided has been the lifeblood of all this work and I’m very grateful to them for their continued support.

“While these are hugely important strides forward, they are only the beginning. Through the ‘build’ phase of EVOLVE we are determined to continue working with our partners and our communities to further strengthen local confidence and community spirit, ensuring there is no place for criminals to return and making the Wirral a safer, stronger place to live, work and visit.”

A spokesperson for Greene King which runs the Lighthouse said, “Elle’s death continues to resonate with all of us nearly a year on and our deepest condolences remain with her family and friends for their unimaginable loss. We would like to thank the Wallasey community for the sincere support they’ve shown our team at the Lighthouse over this past year.

“It has been greatly appreciated and the team are now focused on being there for the community over Christmas and honouring Elle’s memory.”

Connor Chapman was found guilty of Elle Edward’s murder in July and sentenced to a minimum of 48 years.

Image: Elle Edwards/Family handout

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