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Boy who led violent cannabis gang in shootings and arson attack was just 16 years old, court told

Boy who led violent cannabis gang in shootings and arson attack was just 16 years old, court told


A gang leader who ruthlessly ordered three shootings and an arson attack on a family's home was a boy of just 16, a court was told.


Harry O'Brien, now 17, who brought terror to the streets of Dingle, Liverpool, in a feud with two families, has been locked up for almost 10 years. Other members of his gang were also given custodial sentences.


O'Brien's youth means he would not normally be publicly named. But the ECHO report that they convinced a judge it was in the public interest to lift reporting restrictions in his case, so the extent of his crimes could be revealed.


Liverpool Crown Court was told that O'Brien controlled a "graft" line, running a crew of dealers selling cannabis on the streets of Dingle. But his lucrative trade was exposed after a feud with the Franchetti and Rosario families led to three shootings in three weeks in the south of the city.


In one terrifying incident, bullets were fired from an Audi at a BMW, as the two cars raced side-by-side through the city at night. A stray bullet flew through the front door of an "entirely innocent" family's home.


A gunman on an electric bike peppered a family's living room with bullets and fired into another victim's bedroom. Finally, O'Brien had petrol poured through the letterbox of a home and set alight, forcing a mother and her children to run for their lives from the flames.


The court heard all the attacks targeted members and associates of two families, the Franchettis and the Rosarios. They followed a ramming attack on a BMW car in which O'Brien was being driven by his mother.


Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, said he had no doubt they were "the manifestation of a feud" between O'Brien's gang and "others" with whom they had a "real or perceived grievance, the nature of which has not emerged". He said: "Unhappily, the lives of wholly innocent people, including young children, were put at risk by the callous and cowardly actions of all those involved."


O'Brien planned and took part in all three shootings, "orchestrated" the arson, and the cannabis trade was "his enterprise". David Temkin, QC, prosecuting, said: "Harry O'Brien was at the heart of the criminality in this case."


Michael McClean, also 16 at the time, and Aaron Donohoe, then 19, were his "lieutenants", given "managerial responsibility" over his drug trade. Daniel Lawler, 19, joined O'Brien in carrying out two of the shootings, which all involved the same Glock semi-automatic gun - which has not been recovered.


The first shooting took place late on December 29, 2020, after the occupants of a silver BMW X5, driving around Dingle looking for O'Brien and his gang, deliberately rammed into the BMW being driven by O'Brien's mother, Christine McPartland. Her passengers were her son, McClean, Donohoe and an unknown fourth male onboard.

She rang police at 10.30pm to report the crash in Beresford Road, while her son and his gang contacted Lawler, who had previously helped to acquire a stolen Audi on false plates. Mr Temkin said: "What happened next was revenge."

Armed with the loaded gun, O'Brien, McClean, Donohoe and the fourth male set off in the Audi, with banned driver McClean at the wheel. Three shots were fired at the BMW in Dingle Lane, with one piercing the front door of a "shocked" couple and their seven-year-old child's home.


The QC said evidence given by Lawler revealed O'Brien was in "some sort of dispute" with the Franchetti and Rosario family. Over the next three weeks, while staying at the Staybridge Suites Hotel in Keel Wharf, O'Brien arranged to buy a Sur-Ron electric bike.


O'Brien and Lawler set off on the bike - one armed with the pistol - on January 8, 2021. Just after 8.45pm, Donna Rosario rang police to say shots had been fired at her Sundridge Street home.


Mr Temkin said: "She, her partner Ian Franchetti, and their daughter were at home in the living room at the time." Three bullets were found embedded in her living room wall and ceiling.


Just after 1am on January 20, O'Brien and Lawler, on the same bike, targeted the Heffey family in Beloe Street, firing at an upstairs bedroom where Joel Heffey, 24, an associate of Ian Franchetti junior, was asleep.


The gang next targeted the Dingle Lane house of Claire Bowness, at home with her three teenage children. Mr Temkin said: "Ian Franchetti senior is those children's uncle."


The QC said the arson was the "brainchild" of O'Brien, who sought the help of a 14-year-old boy, from Toxteth, who cannot be named for legal reasons. O'Brien also enlisted Sian Kanu, then 19, who recruited Mohammed Mohammed, then 19, to carry out the attack.


The boy filled a petrol canister at a Shell garage on Aigburth Road on February 1. It was taken by Mohammed to Ms Bowness's home on February 5, just after 8am. Mr Temkin said: "The fire spread some way into the property, moving from the hallway, to the staircase and to the upper floor.

"Claire Bowness and the children, with their dog, managed to escape out of the rear of the property. However, they all required medical treatment for smoke inhalation."


On February 12, police raided the home of O'Brien's grandparents, who lived next door to him in Buckland Street, Aigburth. They found £13,590 in cash in a plastic bag in the loft. One note bore their grandson's fingerprint.


O'Brien was also seen with wads of cash at the Adagio Hotel and Elif restaurant in Liverpool city centre on April 26. He was arrested on July 1 at his aunt's home in Aigburth Road, where police found cannabis worth an estimated £5,000 plus cash, mobile phones, two knives and an axe.


Police also raided the home of Nathan Kelly, 28, a customer of O'Brien's gang, in Lee Park Avenue, Belle Vale, on April 21. Officers found a .22 rimfire revolver loaded with eight bullets in a disused fish tank on his balcony.


They also discovered a bag containing 36 Remington .22 cartridges suitable for the gun, and nine other bullets. In communal gardens outside, police recovered a Colt .41 revolver, wrapped in a black bin bag.


O'Brien admitted conspiring to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and conspiring to commit arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered. He also admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis.


Richard Pratt, QC, defending, said O'Brien had "diagnoses in the past of ADHD" and was described as "a risk taker". He added: "It may well be those illnesses, through no fault of his own, have contributed to this conduct."


Judge Flewitt locked O’Brien up for nine years and eight months, with an extended three years on licence. He must serve at least two thirds of that sentence behind bars, before he can apply for parole.


Lawler, 21, of Halewood Road, Woolton, was found guilty at trial of firearms offences and admitted unrelated charges of dangerous driving and handling stolen goods. He was locked up for eight years, with an extended two years on licence. He too must serve at least two thirds of that term.


McClean, 18, of Upper Warwick Street, Toxteth, admitted cannabis and firearm offences, and was locked up for eight and a half years. Donohoe, 20, of Bewey Close, Toxteth, admitted cannabis and firearm offences and was locked up for six years and four months.


Jurors could not reach a verdict against Kanu, 20, of Amity Street, Toxteth, on the arson charge. He admitted participating in the criminal activities of an organised crime group. He was locked up for two years and three months.


The unnamed boy, now 15, admitted the arson plot. He was handed a two-year Youth Rehabilitation Order, with a six-month home curfew between 8pm and 7am daily.


Mohammed, 20, of Kingsley Road, Toxteth, and Kelly, 28, of Lee Park Avenue, will be sentenced at later dates.



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