THE DEVASTATED mum of Ashley Dale today blamed her daughter’s boyfriend for her murder saying: “Without him this wouldn’t have happened”.
Ashley, 28, was shot dead on August 21 last year after gunman James Witham burst into her three-bedroom terrace in Old Swan, Liverpool.
Ashley Dale was brutally murdered in her own homeCredit: PA
Her family have been forced to hear harrowing details in courtCredit: PA
They blame Lee Harrison, left with one of her killers Niall BarryCredit: PA
Witham, 41, forced entry while armed with a Skorpion submachine gun, capable of firing 850 rounds in a minute.
Meanwhile, Ashley was on the sofa watching TV in her pyjamas with her dachshund Darla.
He chased her through the house as she screamed for him to “get the f*** out” and shot her in the back, leaving her to die alone in the back yard.
Witham and other gang members had targeted Ashley’s home after falling out with her gang member boyfriend Lee Harrison, who she had dated for around six years.
Harrison – a member of the Hillsiders OCG – was at a club in Liverpool city centre at the time of the attack and escaped unhurt.
He then refused to co-operate with cops and said he had no idea why he or environmental officer Ashley would be targeted, even though he used to be friends with some of her killers.
James Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, were all found guilty of Ashley’s murder today at Liverpool Crown Court.
During the trial, the jury heard Harrison had been visited by police officers on several occasions following Ashley’s death, but had remained “totally unco-operative” throughout.
During one visit, he refused to get out of bed.
He claimed he had “no idea” why he or Ashley would be targeted and “vehemently denied” he was under threat, Liverpool crown court was told.
Since her death he has been a frequent visitor to Dubai.
Speaking after the men were convicted of her daughter’s murder, Julie Dale, 46, told of her anger the behaviour of both her daughter’s killers and their intended target Harrison.
Midwife Julie, who lives with Ashley’s stepfather Rob Jones, 39, in Old Swan, said: “I’m very, very angry towards him. Some days I feel like I’m more angry towards him than I am to the person who’s actually killed Ashley because without Lee Harrison this wouldn’t have happened.”
The mum of two told how she made clear to Ashley that she didn’t approve of her relationship with Harrison, who is known to police.
She said: “I knew that he didn’t have a nine to five job, I wasn’t happy about it. I didn’t know the full extent of what he was doing but I did tell Ashley on a regular basis that I wasn’t happy with her being with someone like Lee Harrison.
“What I mean by that is, she had so many prospects and aspirations. She just wanted to live a normal life, whatever that was, and he was never ever going to be able to do that.
“She constantly strived for him to be that person and he was never ever going to be that.”
Julie added that Harrison’s behaviour in the wake of Ashley’s callous murder had added to her family’s pain, with him offering her family and the police no support in bringing their case against her killers.
“The way he’s acted since this has happened has been absolutely despicable, it really, really has,” she said.
“We’ve had no remorse from him. We’ve had no support from him. We have no admittance that it’s anything to do with him.
“He’s given us any number of reasons of what he’s heard it’s to do with and none of them include him and he still carries on, you know, going about his life, leaving the country, going on holidays, lording it up, shall we say, like nothing’s happened and nothing’s changed for him and it’s absolutely disgusting, it really is.”
Quantity surveyor Rob added angrily that if the police had relied on Harrison to speak to cops about what he knew, Ashley’s killers would still be free.
He said: “He’s akin to the people who’ve done this in that he just won’t face the truth and he’s living his own lies.
“Ashley knew how we felt about Lee but ultimately when she was on her own in our house she never gave us any cause for concern.
“It’s just shocking what’s happened and it comes back to Ashley loving Lee but Lee quite clearly didn’t love Ashley.
“The way it’s been handled afterwards is beyond words, it’s disgusting. We’re all professionally qualified people, we’ve all had jobs, we would go down the other path.
“The problem we keep coming back to is Ashley fell in love with the wrong boy. I’m not saying for one minute Ashley did not love him, I’m saying he doesn’t love her, clearly, by actions.
“If it was left up to the accused and the person who ultimately there was the conspiracy to murder, Lee, this would never have got to trial if it was left to that because they all lie, they all cheat, they all steal, they know no different. “This wasn’t Ashley’s world.”
Julie told how Ashley got her first job in retail aged 16 and initially planned to go into nursing before getting a job as an environmental health officer for Knowsley council.
Prior to her death she applied for a promotion which she got, but was then callously cut down in a hail of bullets.
Speaking about reliving her final moments at trial, Julie said: “It’s been harder than I expected.
“I thought, in the early days, with some of the things that we had to do – planning a funeral and some really horrific things that we had to do in the beginning, I thought nothing can top them, nothing can get any worse, but sitting in court having the defendants there and seeing them and then listening and seeing the horrific details of what happened to her and how she was just basically just left on her own to die.
Ashley’s parents revealed she had recently been given a promotionCredit: PA