A drug dealer accused of co-orchestrating the murder of council worker Ashley Dale has denied ordering a hit on her boyfriend and being the ‘leader’ of an organised crime gang.
Ms Dale, 28, was shot with a Skorpion machine pistol at home in Old Swan, Liverpool, at about 12.30am on August 21 last year, by gunman James Witham, who admits manslaughter.
Giving evidence at Liverpool Crown Court today, defendant Niall Barry, 26, accepted he had a ‘fall out’ with Ms Dale’s partner Lee Harrison and admitted in the past he had been able to source a Skorpion machine gun.
Barry has said he previously ‘worked’ as a drug dealer with Harrison – allegedly the real target of the hitman – for two years but said he had ‘cut ties’.
The court has heard Witham, 41, was in a flat on Pilch Lane in Huyton with Barry, and three other co-defendants, before the shooting of environmental health worker Ms Dale and returned there afterwards.
Ashley Dale (pictured), 28, was shot in Old Swan, Liverpool, in the early hours of August 21 last year
Merseyside Police photo of Niall Barry, after he was stopped and arrested on June 25 last year
Cross-examining Barry, Paul Greaney KC, prosecuting, suggested there were two possibilities.
He said: ‘The first, that a man left your company to attack the home of a man, who was someone you had fallen out with, with the type of firearm you had had access to, but all of that is entirely coincidental?’
Barry replied: ‘Yes.’
Mr Greaney added: ‘The second possibility is that you commissioned the attack in your role as leader of an organised crime group that dealt in drugs and had access to firearms?’
Barry said: ‘I’m not the leader of no organised crime group and I’ve got no authority to send anyone to anyone’s house and I never would and I didn’t. That’s the truth.’
He told the court he was dealing in drugs with values of tens of thousands of pounds, but denied that Witham had been working for him.
The court heard Barry and Witham had attended Glastonbury festival in 2022 together.
When a knife was found in a bag, which also contained Barry’s passport, by police who searched the pair on their way to the music festival, Witham told officers it belonged to him, the court heard.
Mr Greaney said: ‘That was an example, I suggest, of Mr Witham taking the blame for something that was your responsibility because he is, or was, your lackey.’
Ashley Dale (pictured), a council worker, was shot with a Skorpion machine gun in her home in Old Swan, Liverpool
Barry (pictured) has said he previously ‘worked’ as a drug dealer with Harrison – allegedly the real target of the hitman – for two years but said he had ‘cut ties’
James Witham, who accepts shooting Ashley Dale but denies murder, being arrested at Glastonbury festival on suspicion of possession of a knife
Kallum Radford who is charged with assisting an offender in the Ashley Dale murder trial outside Liverpool Crown Court
Barry was then asked if Witham was his ‘joey’, someone who does things for you. He said: ‘No, not at all. Mr Witham’s a 40-year-old man, he’s not my joey.’
Mr Greaney suggested an account by Barry of Witham returning to the flat on Pilch Lane and saying he had ‘shot up’ Mr Harrison’s house was a ‘pack of lies’.
Barry said: ‘I put it to you Mr Greaney, we was there and that was the truth and the whole truth.’
He confirmed he made plans to be smuggled out of the country after the shooting.
He added: ‘I was going to be in the top bed of a lorry.’
But he denied he wanted to flee because he had been in the plot which resulted in Ms Dale’s death.
He said: ‘I was running because I’d been in the car what had been used in that situation and I knew I’d been on camera for weeks in and out of that flat.’
Mr Greaney suggested Barry’s hatred of Mr Harrison drove what happened on August 21. Barry said: ‘No Mr Greaney, no.’
Mr Greaney said: ‘You encouraged that attack intending Lee Harrison be killed and no-one left behind.’
A police car outside the property in Old Swan, Liverpool, after the shooting in August last year
Barry said: ‘No, your prosecution case is completely wrong. This is a 41-year-old man, he’s done this off his own back.’
He added: ‘I didn’t like him (Mr Harrison) but I didn’t like a lot of people, it doesn’t mean I had issues and was planning to kill him.
‘As a person, I’m not an angel. I didn’t like him but I certainly didn’t want to kill him.’
Earlier in the trial, Barry told the jury Witham left with Joseph Peers – the alleged driver – after ‘Joe said he was going home as well.’
He said he was not aware what either man did next.
Barry, Witham, Sean Zeisz, 28, Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, and Joseph Peers, 29, deny the murder of Miss Dale, conspiracy to murder Mr Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion sub-machine gun, and ammunition.
Kallum Radford, 26, denies assisting an offender in the wake of Ms Dale’s death.
The trial will continue on Monday.