Council worker Ashley Dale was likely running for her ‘only escape’ when she was gunned down in her home by a hitman looking for her partner, a firearms expert told jurors.
Ashley, 28, was hit by a bullet sprayed from a Skorpion submachine gun by James Witham moments after he burst into her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, in the early hours of August 21 last year.
Witham, 41, and four other defendants – Niall Barry, 26, Sean Zeisz, 28, Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, and Joseph Peers, 29 – deny her murder.
Jurors have heard how Witham and Peers were sent by the other three to kill Ashley’s partner Lee Harrison as part of a feud reignited by Barry after a fight involving Zeisz at Glastonbury.
On Thursday, firearms expert Andre de Villiers Horne showed the jury at Liverpool Crown Court a decommissioned Skorpion machine pistol of the type used in the shooting.
The court heard the weapon was capable of firing 850 to 900 rounds a minute, or 14 to 15 rounds a second.
Mr Horne said Ashley was likely to have been shot as she stood next to a bar stool in the kitchen, which was found to have a bullet inside.
He told the jury he believed she was facing the back door, which she later went through before being found by officers lying injured in the back yard of the house on Leinster Road.
Mr Horne said: ‘My explanation is that she was moving towards the rear door because that was her only route of escape.
‘You have somebody standing in the hallway that had just broken down your front door, so you’re not going to move towards them.
‘It is my view that Ashley’s movements were from wherever she was, most likely in the living room where the television was on, when the door was smashed down.
‘She had then moved towards her only escape, the rear door, and the shooter followed the same route and fired shots in the direction that Ashley was attempting to escape.’
Paul Greaney KC, prosecuting, said: ‘Your view is the gunman is following the route that she’s taking and discharging the machine pistol as he does so?’
Mr Horne replied: ‘In my view that is the most likely explanation, yes.’
The expert said 10 fired cartridge cases were found in the downstairs of the terraced property and five bullet holes were found in the wall of an upstairs bedroom.
He said the shots that were fired downstairs were in the same direction, although he believed the gunman had moved between shots.
He said: ‘I would favour the proposition that perhaps they were fired at a target, as opposed to just randomly.’
Being cross-examined by Richard Pratt KC, defending Witham, Mr Horne said he was not able to exclude the possibility the gunman may have been firing at the building rather than an individual.
Forensic scientist Heather McKinlay told the court DNA found on a bullet casing under a bed upstairs had DNA that was one billion times more likely to have originated from Witham than from an unknown person.
Witham, of Huyton; Fitzgibbon, of St Helens; Zeisz of Huyton; Barry, of Tuebrook; and Peers, of Roby – all Merseyside – deny conspiracy to murder Mr Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion sub-machine gun, and ammunition, as well as the murder of Miss Dale.
Kallum Radford, 26, of no fixed address, denies assisting an offender.
The trial will continue on Friday.
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