Four men have been found guilty of the murder of Ashley Dale, an unprecedented case where the victim herself provided the testimony that would put her killers behind bars. Over the weeks leading up to her untimely death, Dale had grown increasingly afraid due to a dispute between her boyfriend and a gangster, which eventually resulted in her killing. Through voice notes and messages with her friends that police recovered from Dale’s iPhone, the 28-year-old told the story of her growing fears over the escalating row before she was shot dead. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the evidence of the murder victim play such a crucial role in a court case. Ashley was narrating her own story and events that led to her death,” said senior investigating officer, DCI Cath Cummings.
Dale’s murder was a chilling reminder of the violence that organised crime groups can bring to a community. She was a victim of her boyfriend’s involvement with a group selling cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines. Dale, who was working in environmental health for Knowsley council at the time, found herself suffering terrible anxiety after the gangster threatened to confront her boyfriend, prompting her to feel constantly on edge. Her friends described Dale as a peacemaker who was trying to be kind to her friend, but the messages recovered by the police revealed genuine fear.
The shooting of Dale was carried out by James Witham, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the learning of the evidence against him, but was proven to be the one who fired the shots that killed Dale. The getaway car was driven by Joseph Peers, while the plan was orchestrated by Niall Barry, who was described in court as the “malign presence” behind Dale’s murder, and Sean Zeisz. The jury, remembering the police bodycam footage of the well-lit house, did not believe Witham’s statement that he had not seen Dale when he fired the shots that night.
This tragic case highlights the vulnerability of individuals such as Dale who can become caught up in the violent world of organised crime through relationships with those involved. While the jury has now brought justice in this case, it is essential to remember the impact that violence has on communities and individuals alike. No remorse has been shown by the men involved, and Dale’s stepfather believes that all the men in the case had lied to cover their own backs with no thought for the victim or their family
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