The mother of Rhys Jones has urged the parents of her son’s killer to turn in the culprit, as she blamed them for the 11-year-old’s fatal shooting in a pub car park.
In an emotional public appeal, Melanie Jones said: “I would say to them, ‘Do the right thing. Please come forward. I know it will be hard but my son is dead and we need to bring this to an end’.”
Addressing Rhys’s killer directly, the 41-year-old added: “You are not going to be able to live with yourself. It’s going to be on your conscience for the rest of your life. Turn yourself in because [the police] are going to find you anyway.”
Rhys, a football-loving youngster who supported Everton, died in his mother’s arms after being shot through the neck by a teenage gunman riding a BMX bike in Croxteth Park, Liverpool, last Wednesday. Police believe the schoolboy, who was pronounced dead at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital after losing a massive amount of blood, may have been the unintended victim of gang warfare.
Yesterday, the Everton players, led by their captain Phil Neville, visited the murder scene to lay flowers, club shirts and football boots in tribute to Rhys. The squad stood in silence with their heads bowed at a makeshift shrine outside the Fir Tree pub. Neville said later: “We appeal to anyone to come out and give the police what they know to try and capture the person who did this terrible thing.” Rhys’s father Stephen, 44, thanked the team for their support, saying: “I think it is a really, really nice touch for the guys to take that time out to go down to the site.”
With her husband at her side at a press conference, Mrs Jones admitted that Croxteth residents seemed reluctant to come forward and help the police inquiry. “It is the gangs, isn’t it?” she said. “It is the guns. Would anyone be frightened? I would be frightened. But witnesses need to come forward. The people who were there need to come forward. I just want to ask them to be brave and please, please come forward.”
In the days since Rhys’s murder, detectives have arrested 10 teenagers from the Croxteth and Norris Green areas of the city. Six have been freed on police bail and four released without charge. The couple were shocked to learn their son’s killer was believed to be aged between 13 and 15. Mr Jones said: “The thing is that if you take away the gun, you take away the hoodie, you take away the bike, it’s just a little boy – a kid.”
His wife said: “What are [the killer’s] parents doing is what I want to know. They must know it’s their kid. They must know what they’re up to – or don’t they care? I blame the parents most of all. There are no boundaries any more. There’s no respect.”
She added: “If their parents had any thought about our pain and what we have lost, they’d turn in their son.”
Mrs Jones revealed that, after almost two decades living on the Croxteth Park estate without fear or trouble, the family were planning to move away. “I don’t feel safe now up there,” she said. “I am going to leave. I can’t live on there any more. I can’t go up to those shops any more. I’ve got to move somewhere else. We have got another son.” Her husband added: “It’s a question of us not being able to go up to the shops every day past the spot where our son has died.”
The couple said trying to come to terms with Rhys’s murder was an “emotional rollercoaster” and his older brother Owen, 17, was devastated. “He can’t even say what has happened to his brother,” said Mrs Jones. “It is going to take him a long time to get over it – if he ever gets over it. I don’t think he will. I don’t think any of us ever will.”