Four men have been sentenced to a total of 173 years in prison for the murder of Ashley Dale at her home in Old Swan in August 2022.
On Monday, following a seven-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court, a jury found James Witham, Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry and Joseph Peers guilty of the murder of 28-year-old Ashley, who was fatally shot in her home in Leinster Road on 21 August 2022.
James Witham, 41, of Huyton, had previously admitted being the gunman who fired the fatal shot.
The four men were also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Ashley’s boyfriend Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
• Sean Zeisz, 28, of Huyton, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 42 years for the murder of Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon with intent to endanger life
• Niall Barry, 26, of Tuebrook, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 47 years for the murder of Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon with intent to endanger life
• Joseph Peers, 29, of Roby, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 41 years for the murder of Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon with intent to endanger life
• James Witham, 41, of Huyton, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 43 years for the murder of Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon with intent to endanger life
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Cath Cummings said, “Today Joseph Peers, James Witham, Nial Barry and Sean Zeisz have been jailed for life for the brutal and senseless murder of Ashley Dale, in her own home on Sunday 21st August last year.
“That night, Ashley was in the safest place she thought she would be her home.
“We have heard how a long-standing feud was re-ignited by events in Glastonbury in the summer of 2022 which was turbo charged by the death of Rikki Warnick.
“A group came together to seek revenge for longstanding drugs disputes.
“The prosecution do not have to prove a motive, but in this case the motive was identified and went on to unlock the truth of this case.
“As James Witham stormed into Ashley’s home that night, wearing a balaclava, firing from a Scorpion sub-machine gun he took away Ashley, an ambitious, bubbly, charismatic, young woman. The community rocked, her family and friends left devastated.
“A meticulous investigation has resulted in securing some answers for the family, but it will never take their pain away, their lives have been shattered beyond belief.
“Let today be a clear message that Merseyside Police and communities of Merseyside will not tolerate the actions of those who are intent on destroying lives. Together we will be relentless in identifying those who carry or use firearms ensuring those individuals or groups are removed from our streets.
“I would like to thank the Crown Prosecution Service and in particular Paul Greaney KC, Alex Langhorne and Holly Menary for the successful prosecution of the case.
“I would also like to thank all the officers and staff from across all strands of Merseyside Police who were involved in the case, including the Detectives who supported the Major Crime Unit from across the country.
“But more importantly I would like to thank the family for the immense courage and composure displayed throughout the trial as they have relived the horrific events of 21 August.
“Whilst they will never get over losing their Ashley following today’s result I and the rest of the Team hope they will find some comfort in the knowledge that those responsible will spend the rest of their life behind bars.”
When passing sentencing, Justice Goose said, “I commend the officer for the work that’s been done during this trial and support of the family. I know you have been supported by many other officers.
“I have been struck by the dignity you have shown as a family and the way you expressed yourselves in the Victim Personal Statements was truly remarkable.”
Image: Ashley Dale/Family handout