On Monday, ITV will air the first of a four-part drama focusing on the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Croxteth, Liverpool, in 2007.
Factual drama Little Boy Blue is by The Moorside’s executive producer Jeff Pope and tells the story of how Rhys’s murderer and his associates were finally brought to justice.
The making of the drama was supported by Rhys’s parents Melanie and Steve Jones.
What happened to Rhys Jones?
Rhys Jones was just 11-years-old when he was killed by a stray bullet as he walked home in Croxteth, north Liverpool in 2007.
The schoolboy was caught in the crossfire of a gangland shooting after attending football practice.
Rhys was not far from his home when a bullet from a Smith and Wesson .455 revolver entered his back above his left shoulder blade and exited from the right side of his neck. His stricken mother Melanie rushed to his side upon hearing what had happened. He was unconscious and in cardiac arrest when she arrived and paramedics spent one-and-a-half hours trying to resuscitate him. He died in his mother’s arms.
CCTV footage later shown in court revealed Rhys reacting to the sound of a bullet striking a container close to him. As he turned to look at it, he was hit by another bullet, causing him to fall to the ground.
Croxteth Crew gang member Sean Mercer, then aged 16, was shooting at members of the rival Norris Green gang, when one of the bullets hit Rhys as he left the Fir Tree pub car park. After the killing, Mercer fled the scene by bicycle.
Mercer went on trial in October 2008 and was found guilty of murder in December. He was jailed for a minimum of 22 years. Six co-defendants were also charged with assisting an offender.
It was claimed in court that other gang members helped burn Mercer’s clothes, then washed him with petrol to remove gunshot residue. His bike was dumped but found later by a passer-by – though it was not handed into police until six months later.
At the time of his death, Rhys had just completed his final year at Broad Square junior school in Croxteth and was about to begin secondary school.
The Everton football fan’s funeral was held at Liverpool Cathedral and was attended by fans wearing the team strip as well as the reds of Liverpool. Representatives of both Premiership football teams attended the 1,500-strong congregation, while Rhys’s friends, all dressed in football kits, lit candles in his memory.
Former Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, who led the investigation, said: “The response of the fans at the funeral in different shirts was fantastic. That was very emotional. It took a lot of effort to keep myself together. I’m not a praying man but I prayed that day. It was nice to see the response from the people of the city. And from people outside of Liverpool. That support for the family. Let’s not forget the family went to hell and back. What they went through I couldn’t begin to imagine.”
Ahead of the programme, in a statement Rhys’s parents said: “We spoke very openly to the programme makers about what we went through because we wanted to let Sean Mercer and the others involved in Rhys’s murder know that our sentence never ends. Our pain will only fade, it will never go away.”
Little Boy Blue begins on Monday 24 April at 9pm.