Three men found guilty of shooting conspiracy in Warrington
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Three men have been convicted of their involvement in a conspiracy which led to an innocent man being shot on his own doorstep in Warrington.
Aaron Bretherton posed as a pizza delivery driver outside the house on Poplars Avenue in Orford on Friday 24 April 2020. He fired three rounds at the 56-year-old victim with one bullet causing life-changing injuries to his leg.
As the 24-year-old gunman fled the scene he paused to turn around and fired a further shot towards the house before escaping in a van with getaway driver Anthony Morris and Lewis Fitzpatrick who was also inside.
The trio are alleged to have been acting on behalf of a 34-year-old man who is suspected of plotting with others to shoot individuals he had grievances with.
Bretherton previously admitted to being the gunman but, along with 25-year-old Fitzpatrick and 23-year-old Morris, denied being part of a conspiracy to shoot the victim’s stepson who was not at the address at the time of the attack.
Today (Friday 12 March) a jury found Bretherton, Fitzpatrick and Morris guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to the 26-year-old stepson following a three-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
In the hours leading up to the attack Bretherton was seen travelling with Fitzpatrick to Warrington in order to carry out a reconnaissance mission.
Then shortly after 7pm Morris travelled from his workplace in Connah’s Quay, North Wales, to pick up Bretherton and Fitzpatrick in Liverpool and transport them to the crime scene.
Bretherton deliberately left his own mobile at home and used a phone belonging to Morris to communicate with Fitzpatrick as the trio made the journey in the van.
When they reached their destination, Fitzpatrick is believed to have handed Bretherton the gun and he was captured on CCTV making his way to the house and carrying out the attack.
The victim attempted to shut the door before Bretherton opened fire, however one bullet hit the floor and another travelled through the door and he was hit below the knee.
A 999 call was made and armed officers attended to the scene.
What then followed was a challenging, fast-paced and painstaking investigation by detectives from Cheshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to apprehend those involved in the shooting.
The white van was identified as being from the garage where Morris, previously of Fifth Avenue in Liverpool was employed and he was stopped and arrested by police in Southport two days later.
Officers searching the van discovered a hide and a mobile phone was seized.
While Morris was in custody being questioned, detectives continued to examine CCTV and carried our forensic and telecommunications enquiries, which led to the arrests of Bretherton and Fitzpatrick in Liverpool on Wednesday 6 May.
Clothing with significant amounts of gunshot residue were recovered from Bretherton’s apartment, in City View, Liverpool, along with a Glock handgun in the extractor fan of the oven, several bullets in a magazine on a heater in the bathroom, a smoke grenade and £5,000 in cash. The handgun is not the same weapon used in the shooting.
An encrypted mobile telephone and £4,000 in cash were seized from Fitzpatrick’s home on Eldersfield Road in Liverpool.
Both men were taken into custody for questioning and subsequently charged.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “This was a co-ordinated attack that involved weeks of sophisticated planning and preparation with each individual fulfilling a specific role to ensure the hit was carried out.
“However this didn’t match their actions on the night of the shooting as they were far from sophisticated in the way that they carried out the attack.
“Bretherton shot an innocent man on his own doorstep causing life changing injuries. The victim has undergone several operations using metal pins and plates which means he will never be able to walk the same again.
“The driver Morris used one of his employer’s vehicles and concealed a mobile phone in a hide, which was crucial to the investigation as it enabled us to identify Bretherton and Fitzpatrick and place them at the scene through telecoms analysis.
“They thought they were untouchable but instead they made mistakes which led to detectives unravelling their plot and taking a viable firearm out of circulation.
“While justice has been served, I hope this is a reminder to those who enter into a world of organised crime that it can also lead to a life of fear and violence.”
Superintendent Simon Meegan, of Warrington Local Policing Unit, said: “The shooting brought fear to the local community and understandably caused a significant amount of concern.
“While the investigation was ongoing we carried out high-visibility patrols in the area and spoke to residents to provide reassurance as much as we could.
“Thankfully, following a fantastic investigation these men were caught and the danger they posed taken away from our streets.”
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “This must have been a terrifying attack and my thoughts are with the man who has been left with life-changing injuries.
“I want to take this opportunity to commend the detectives involved in bringing these individuals to justice and protecting the community from serious and organised crime.
“I also want to acknowledge the work of local officers who sought to provide reassurance to the victim, his family and to residents who were fearful of what happened.”