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Liverpool’s ‘Gangs Man’ urges people to be ‘brave enough’ and come forward to help catch Olivia’s killer

2 years ago

Liverpool’s ‘Gangs Man’ urges people to be ‘brave enough’ and come forward to help catch Olivia’s killer

Liverpool ‘Gangs Man’ James Riley has urged anyone with information about the shooting of schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel to get in touch with police.

The former probation officer says anyone who knows anything must speak up now.

James says: “People will certainly know – but the problem we have, is are people brave enough to speak up?

“People are feared of reprisals, of being labelled a snitch, but at the end of the day we have got to look at ourselves and say there’s a nine-year-old girl who’s dead, who should have been in the safety of her own home. That could have been my address or your address – that could have been anyone in this city.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Flowers have been left near to the scene and tributes paid to Olivia Pratt-Korbel (Peter Byrne/PA)

“This code of conduct that exists, that you can’t speak to the police, that you can’t grass, protects the criminal fraternity.  It doesn’t protect normal people.  It only protects those involved in this lifestyle.

“And they don’t deserve protection.  They don’t deserve anonymity. I talk to young people and I ask a simple question, which is ‘do you want Liverpool to be safer?’ and every young person says yes.

“So I follow that up with ‘how do we make it safer? And no one wants to say you’ve got to speak up – but that’s what you have to do. And this culture that exists, it’s not just a Liverpool issue, it’s a national issue.”

Olivia was killed by a masked attacker who chased a man into her house in Dovecot on Monday night.

She was shot in the chest as she stood behind her mother, Cheryl Korbel, who was shot in the wrist as she tried to close the front door of her home. 

In a Tweet TheGangsMan James wrote: ‘A 9-yr-old girl will not turn up in her new school uniform next week on her first day back at school and share stories about her summer. There will be an empty chair in her classroom. If you know anything and can help @MerseyPolice speak up. RIP young lady. #dotherightthing’

James set up The GANGS (Get Away ‘N’ Get Safe) Prevention Programme in 2016, after 18 years as a probation officer within the criminal justice system. For the last five years, he was a specialist probation officer, working solely with those involved in urban street gangs and organised crime in the Merseyside area.

The programme, which has received a High Sheriff Award and Commendation from Merseyside Police, is an intensive five session programme delivered to schools and pupil referral units, alternative education providers and youth and community centres across England, which aims to educate young people on the dangers of the gang lifestyle – for the individual, their families and the wider community.

The hope is that it can empower young people to take control of their lives and reject the gang lifestyle – reducing the risk of gang related behaviour and incidences like the one which saw young schoolgirl Olivia killed.

He stresses: “There will be people, or a person, who probably knows where that murder weapon is, there might be a person who’s made some poor choices and hid the murder weapon, as in the Rhys Jones case. There might be a mum, or a grandparent, sitting at home thinking their grandson came home really late and was distressed, and it was the night of the murder and he’s also involved in low-level drug dealing.

“You can’t commit that type of crime and nobody knows, it’s impossible. Someone has got to find it in their heart to speak up.  This is not bad on bad, this is a completely different situation. You can’t get any more innocent than a nine-year-old girl expecting to go back to school, like I said, and share stories about her summer holidays, make silly dances up in the playground, and get told off for talking in class.

“I have got a nine-year-old daughter. That could have been my daughter. It could have been my house.”

James is adamant it’s time to step back and look at our city and what’s going on and whether it’s acceptable – to which he says there’s an obvious answer.

And anyone who can put a piece of the jigsaw together for Merseyside Police ‘has just got to do it’.

James says with two major incidents in 48 hours the situation is ‘frightening’ and ‘horrific’.

He is adamant incidences like this are often ‘a matter of retaliation’, which can become a cycle: “These guys don’t back down, and it snowballs.”

Trying to stop young people getting involved in gangs, and to stop this culture, is the only way forward, says James.

“My aim is to stop these young people even dipping their toe in the water and trying to sample this lifestyle, at the earliest and safest opportunity, and that’s year 6 and above, so it’s ages 10 and 11, it’s children the year above Olivia, but I work with children right through school.

“Realistically I want to stop one young person going down the wrong path in life, making the decision to pick up a firearm and cause serious harm.

“One is enough because the knock-on effect of preventing that one is huge.”

Anyone with information, footage or images is asked to contact us via the following link Public Portal, @MerPolCC or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 with reference 22000621566.


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