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Four men sentenced to 46 years for shooting man on Poplars Avenue

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FOUR men involved in a conspiracy that led to an innocent man being shot on his own doorstep in Orford have been jailed.

Aaron Bretherton and Anthony Morris carried out the shooting on Poplars Avenue on Friday 24 April 2020.

Brothers Alan and John Tobin assisted with the attack by providing details of the intended victim to a man who is suspected of plotting to shoot individuals he had grievances with.

The victim’s stepson was the intended target however he was not at the address at the time of the attack.

The Tobin’s communicated with the man in the run up to the shooting via messages on an encrypted device known as Encro Chat.

Under the handle ‘Slightdrake’ John sent messages on the Encro Chat network identifying the address the intended target lived at as well as other details that assisted in the planning of the shooting.

Alan was sent messages that involved discussing causing significant harm to associates of an organised crime group before sending photographs of two of the associates along with their addresses.

The brothers then exchanged messages and suggested driving to Warrington prior to the shooting as well as discussing the aftermath of it.

On the day of the attack, Aaron Bretherton posed as a pizza delivery driver outside the house and 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, turned around and fired a further shot towards the house before escaping in a van with getaway driver Anthony Morris.

Bretherton previously admitted to being the gunman but, along with 23-year-old Morris, denied being part of a conspiracy to shoot the victim’s stepson.

On Friday 12 March a jury found Bretherton 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.

Alan and John Tobin both pleaded guilty to their involvement in the shooting at an earlier hearing.

On Friday 10 September all four men were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court.

In the hours leading up to the attack Bretherton was seen travelling 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 in Liverpool and transport them to the crime scene.

When they reached their destination Bretherton 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, along with response officers, attended 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 officers from Lancashire Police in Southport two days later.

Officers searching the van discovered a hidden compartment which contained a mobile phone that 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 arrest of Bretherton 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 was not the same weapon used in the shooting.

Detective Inspector Ian Murray, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “These men were complicit in a co-ordinated attack that involved weeks of planning and preparation that ultimately led to an innocent man being shot and left with life changing injuries.

“They each had a role to play as part of the conspiracy knowing it would cause serious harm, have the potential for reprisals with rival organised crime groups as well and spread fear within the community.

“It is a snapshot of the serious and organised crime underworld and the danger it poses to those who associate with it or to innocent people who can get caught in the cross fire.

“Over the past few years we have worked incredibly hard to turn the tide of fear in Warrington by targeting individuals who are directly involved in serious and organised crime and making it very clear that the town is a hostile place for criminality.

“The sentences today should also serve as warning to those who think that they can travel to Cheshire to commit crime. We will continue to be relentless in the pursuit of those who cause the most harm to our communities and work with the public, and with our partner agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service, to bring offenders to justice and to make Cheshire a safe place to live and work.”

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About Author

Journalist and sport content specialist, who is also editor of Love Rugby League. Formerly ran the official website of the Carling Cup, as well as operating a digital services business in Warrington.

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