Murder detectives hunting the killer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel are looking at local gang “feuds” during their fast-paced investigation.
The “unique, chatty” girl was shot dead as her mum fought against two men at the door of her home in Liverpool, Merseyside, on Monday night.
It came 15 years to the day after 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot dead in nearby Croxteth, and was the third incident involving guns in the city in a matter of days.
The gunman who killed Olivia remains on the run, with police urging the killer to hand himself in.
Senior officers from Merseyside Police confirmed yesterday that a “number of names have been provided” for the killer and work was ongoing to investigate each of those leads, the Liverpool Echo reports.
The force provided updates on the investigations into the killings of Olivia in Dovecot, as well as the separate inquiries into the shootings of 28-year-old Ashley Dale in Old Swan and 22-year-old Sam Rimmer in Dingle.
The most significant new information shared so far was the arrest of a man on suspicion of the murder of Ms Dale, and a woman on suspicion of assisting an offender in the same investigation.
Ms Dale was shot dead in her home on Leinster Road on Sunday morning after a gunman burst through her front door and fired “multiple shots” indiscriminately. Police believed she was not the intended target.
Three men were also arrested in connection with the murder of Sam Rimmer on Wednesday, before being released on bail yesterday.
Mr Rimmer was shot in the chest in Lavrock Bank, Dingle, on the evening of August 16. Merseyside Police said Mr Rimmer was with a group when the gunman opened fire from the back of one of two electric bikes, believed to have been carrying four men in dark clothing.
However, the hunt is ongoing to identify the gunman who shot Olivia dead and wounded her mum, Cheryl Korbel, while firing at 35-year-old convicted criminal Joseph Nee on Kingsheath Avenue on Monday night, as part of what is believed to be a dispute linked to organised crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green and Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Kameen told the media that a second man, who was walking with Nee when the gunman opened fire and also ran for his life, has now been identified.
DCS Kameen was asked whether a specific organised crime group had been identified as connected with the murder of Olivia. He said: “We are absolutely reviewing all of the intelligence around each of our organised crime groups that we believe operate in that area.
“We are looking at feuds ongoing at this time and historically as well. Every avenue of investigative opportunity is being exploited. I can’t go into the details of where those OCGs sit, who was involved, for obvious reasons.”
DCS Kameen was also asked by broadcasters why the identity of the suspects on the radar of detectives have not been released to help the public identify them.
He replied: “Investigations have been going at a pace and a considerable amount of information has been provided. That information has come in many forms, including CCTV, some evidence and also the names of suspects. We have had a number of names provided to us. But this is a complex investigation.
“Before we decide to take some action we have to be absolutely sure that information is accurate, and once we do believe that it is accurate, absolutely then our response will be immediate.”
Detectives are confident the killer will be apprehended quickly when enough evidence is gathered to justify an arrest, and DCS Kameen said “it did not matter” whether the suspect fled the area.
“In terms of will we find him, I am absolutely confident around that. We will do everything we possibly can to make sure that we do find him,” he added.
“We are working extensively with partners as well as our community to make sure every possible lever and opportunity is exploited. In terms of whether he is still in the North West area, it does not really matter to me.
“We will find him wherever he goes, we have proved that time and time again with multiple enquiries. It does not matter where you go to, we will find you.”
Police also revealed the car used to transport Nee to hospital after the attack, leaving Olivia and her mum to their fates, was a black Audi Q3, which has since been seized.
DCS Kameen said the car contained three men, including Nee, when it arrived at Aintree Hospital. Those other men were not the same person who was with Nee when he was chased and shot at.
ACC Green described how the communities of Dingle, Old Swan and Dovecot were providing essential support to the murder enquiries. He said: “Our officers and detectives have been working round the clock in our relentless pursuit to identify the offenders and bring them to justice.
“We have had some phenomenal support from the communities in the affected areas of Dovecot, Old Swan and Dovecot, and beyond, in the form of information coming in but also in the form of support for the ongoing investigations.
“It has also been heartening to hear from members of the community who have spoken about the confidence they have in us working with the information we have been given, to bring those offenders to justice.
“Over the last few days the investigations have been moving at pace as you would imagine.”
ACC Green closed the Q&A media session with a direct message to Olivia’s killer and to anyone assisting him: “We will come for you, we will identify you, and we will bring you to justice.”