How fear rules the streets near Liverpool shooting and gun crime is a way of life

Olivia Pratt-Korbel's death has traumatised the community, but many residents are not surprised by the shooting - Robyn Vinter
Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s death has traumatised the community, but many residents are not surprised by the shooting – Robyn Vinter

The slides and swings of the playground at Ackers Hall Avenue, in the Knotty Ash suburb of Liverpool, are silent.

In fact, the whole park is virtually deserted, despite the warm August afternoon – just a couple of middle-aged men and their dogs.

It is only a street away from Kingsheath Avenue, where on Monday evening nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel was gunned down in her own home in front of her mother, so perhaps it is not surprising.

But, actually, the park has been quiet for longer than that.

Locals are disgusted and traumatised by Olivia’s death, but not entirely surprised.

On Aug 8, another night-time shooting took place.

Neighbours saw and heard a gunman firing into the park, despite the presence of teenagers socialising nearby.

One, 56-year-old Maureen, outside whose house the gunman fired the first shots, said she had not let her daughter out of the house unaccompanied since.

“She sits in the front window playing her PlayStation and could easily have been hit by a stray bullet,” she said. “It’s not safe for children around here – you’re not even safe in your own home. You hardly see any kids in the playground anymore.”

A culture of fear now stalks the handful of streets that make up the Knotty Ash and Dovecot neighbourhoods.

After the Aug 8 shooting, the police turned up. They cordoned off the immediate area and knocked on people’s doors.

But then, in Maureen’s words “they just left”.

According to another local who spoke to The Telegraph, they did not even clear up properly, leaving bullet casings on the ground which oblivious children then ran around with, using them as whistles.

And therein lies the problem with the avalanche of pleas for people to come forward and speak to the police.

For too many here, they do not trust the police because they simply do not see them often enough.

“You make a complaint and occasionally they’ll send some PCSOs,” said Maureen, “but they don’t investigate things.”

This week, of course, the atmosphere is very different.

Pairs of police motorcyclists wearing dark glasses patrol the streets surrounding Kingsheath Avenue; 4x4s with mounted searchlights roam the area; outside Thrifty’s convenience store, a bearded and friendly-looking bobby – not entirely unlike Father Christmas – stands with a fist full of appeal leaflets, hoping to engage passers by.

The locals, for their part, seem unimpressed.

One, a middle-aged female volunteer at the nearby community food and activities charity The Drive said: “You might report something but you just don’t know if they’ll turn up, whereas the perpetrator or his friends could be living in the next street and come for you.”

Knotty Ash does not feel inherently threatening. The people seem charming, generous, the best of Liverpool.

But it is hard to convey just how far out from the city centre, how forgotten the neighbourhood feels.

It means that when violence strikes, it strikes wantonly – as Olivia’s devastated family found out – because it does so in what many here feel is a law and order vacuum.

It makes Merseyside Police’s task this week particularly hard.

The great and good are falling over themselves to offer people a way to pass information to the police without engaging directly, such is the cultural fear of being labelled a “grass”.

The Drive has offered one such initiative, a sealed box that locals with information can leave notes in to be passed onto the police.

But when The Telegraph spoke to volunteers at the charity on Wednesday, one said: “I wouldn’t hold my breath.

“It’s an eye for an eye around here. If it was me, and I knew who’d done it, I wouldn’t turn them in. I’d give them a slow and painful death.”

On Wednesday the Rt Rev Tom Williams, the Bishop of Liverpool, went on Sky News to say the culture in the city had changed since the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, 15 years to the day before Olivia’s shooting.

But that does not seem to be the feeling in Knotty Ash and Dovecot, where locals live with the threat of gangs and serious violence, gun violence at that, as a way of life.

A few hundred yards down the road from the house where Olivia died is a poster depicting Pierluigi Collina, the iconically scary but entirely non-criminal referee, with the caption: “Crime families out of Liverpool.”

By co-opting the imagery of football, it seems at least to be talking in a language the residents understand.

Published by anthonyhayble

I AM A PROFESSIONAL BLOGGER WHO BLOGS ON EVENTS, NEWS AND CELEBRITY ACTIVITIES. YOU WILL GET THE LATEST BLOGGING UPDATES WITH UP TO DATE NEWS AND EVENTS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU. COMMENTS AND LIKES ARE ALSO WELCOMED. I AM STILL IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING AND UPDATING MY BLOGS AND IT WOULD BE UP AND RUNNING SHORTLY. THIS IS STILL A NEW SITE AND WILL GREATLY IMPROVE WITH TIME

%d bloggers like this: