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Three men convicted of murdering teen

Lewis Dunne
Lewis Dunne

Three men have been found guilty of the murder of a "wholly innocent" 16-year-old boy gunned down on a canal towpath.

Lewis Dunne was "cowardly" shot in the back at close range in a case of mistaken identity as his attackers sought revenge against a rival gang.

The fatal shooting in Liverpool was the culmination of a series of incidents in the city on November 15 last year between two gangs which involved the deliberate ramming of vehicles, chases and violence on the streets of the city.

Humiliated after coming off worse in the clashes, drug dealers Jake Culshaw, 26, and brothers John and Paul Martin, aged 20 and 26, armed themselves with a loaded weapon.

One of their rivals had noticeably curly hair, similar to Lewis, and it is thought the gang mistook him for the teenager when he unwittingly walked into their path alongside the Leeds and Liverpool canal on the evening of November 15 last year.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Lewis was not involved in any of the previous incidents and was simply on his way to a local shop and "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Two of the defendants were ordered from the dock by Mr Justice Turner as they remonstrated with the jury who returned unanimous verdicts on the sixth day of deliberations.

Culshaw said: "You 12 people have just thrown my life away", while John Martin shouted: "You've just taken an innocent man's life away you horrible c****s."

Sentencing will take place from 2.15pm.

At 10.36pm the teenager walked under the Eldonian Bridge on the towpath and, moments later, CCTV footage captured a group of swans reacting suddenly and four dark figures running away after he had been shot.

The Crown said there was no direct evidence as to which of the three defendants - and the unidentified fourth male - had pulled the trigger but each had gathered with "murderous intent".

Jurors heard that Lewis - described as "a quiet lad who kept himself to himself" - lived at home with his family, not far from where he was killed.

He contacted a friend at 10.24pm to ask if he could borrow a bicycle to ride into the city centre about a mile away and buy some cigarettes.

Lewis arranged to meet the friend on the canal towpath to collect the bicycle and told his mother he would be home in about 20 minutes as he set off on his fateful journey.

The teenager suffered "catastrophic injuries" from a shot most likely to have been fired from a 12 gauge calibre shotgun between 13ft and 23ft (4m and 7m) away, the court heard.

A stranger on the towpath and local residents did all they could to help him before ambulance staff arrived.

The victim's mother, Gemma, was also alerted and went to the scene.

Lewis was taken to Royal Liverpool University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11.37pm.

Giving evidence, Culshaw, of no fixed address, said John Martin was the gunman and he believed his associate was only going to fire shots at a house.

Both Martin brothers, of Ince Avenue, Anfield, denied being at the scene, with John Martin initially lying to police that he hardly left his home because he was a full-time carer for his mother.

After the shooting, Culshaw told several people it was he who carried the shooting and referred to the gun used being thrown in the water, as well as his mobile telephone.

The jury was told Culshaw's phone has not been traced but parts of a shotgun - said to be the murder weapon - were recovered by police divers from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in January this year.

In a statement, Senior Crown Prosecutor Sara Drysdale, from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Lewis Dunne was the innocent victim of a senseless and violent ongoing dispute between two street gangs in the north of Liverpool.

"This prosecution was the result of a long and painstaking operation by Merseyside Police and the Crown Prosecution Service and Culshaw and John and Paul Martin have been convicted of his murder. The search to bring to justice the fourth man seen on the CCTV on that dreadful night will continue.

"The Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted this case as joint enterprise. We said that Culshaw and John and Paul Martin acted together with the same aim and that they were all guilty of Lewis's murder.

"Some have said Lewis Dunne was in 'the wrong place at the wrong time' but Lewis had every right to be where he was on that night.

"It was Jake Culshaw and John and Paul Martin that were in the wrong place, lying in wait to exact a vicious revenge on a rival gang. But they shot and killed Lewis Dunne instead, leaving his family devastated. Our thoughts and condolences are with them at this very difficult time."