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URBAN TERRORISTS; Faces of the Burger Bar Boys who killed Charlene and Letisha in gang war.

Byline: STEPHANIE BUSARI and ROD CHAYTOR

THE police chief who led the Burger Bar Boys shooting inquiry said last night: "We have touched the so-called untouchables."

Det Supt David Mirfield, who believes the war on Birmingham's urban terrorists is being won, spoke out after four men were convicted of murdering innocent party-goers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare.

One of the four drive-by killers was 24-year-old Marcus Ellis - known as E-man and the half-brother of Charlene.

The father they share, Arthur Ellis, began the decade of gang warfare that ended with Charlene's death on January 2, 2003

In April 1993, he stabbed a love rival to death and got seven years in jail.

Ten years on, son Marcus and his Burger Bar sidekicks went in search of the rival Johnson Crew, following a supposed party insult and claims from one of them that the Johnsons had murdered his brother.

The prosecution said the motive involved the "three Rs" - revenge, reprisal and rivalry.

Charlene, 18, twin Sophie, Letisha Shakespeare, 17, and the twins' cousin Cheryl Shaw, 18, were caught up in the feud as they celebrated New Year at a party at the Uniseven hair salon on the Birchfield Road gangland "frontline" in Birmingham.

The intended target was alleged Johnson Crew member Jermaine Carty, 24 - street name Wooligan.

But the girls popped outside for some air and at 4.08am they were cut down by shots that came from a red Mondeo. The weapon was an illegal Mac-10 semi-automatic sub-machine gun.

Another alleged Johnson Crew member Leon Harris escaped unharmed in a second volley moments later from a 9mm 1944 Spanish Llama pistol aimed at a Ford Orion.

Yesterday after a 23-week trial at Leicester and on the third day of deliberation, the jury brought in guilty verdicts.

Marcus Ellis, Nathan Martin, 26 - street name 23 - Michael "Chunk" Gregory, 23, and Rodrigo "Sunny" Simms, 20, were convicted of the murders of college students Charlene and Letisha.

They were found guilty of the attempted murders of Sophie Ellis and Cheryl Shaw.

Simms was the target "spotter" outside the salon He is said to have guided in the other three men in the Mondeo "like an air traffic controller".

Martin, Gregory and Ellis were also convicted of the attempted murder of Leon Harris. Simms was cleared.

Ambush target Carty was cleared of possessing a firearm.

It can now be disclosed that pop diva Jamelia's step-brother, Tafarwa Beckford, 22, was cleared last month of any involvement in the attack.

Mr Justice Goldring will pass sentence on Monday. Prosecutor Timothy Raggatt said Martin had six previous convictions, including escaping custody and attempted robbery.

Gregory had no previous convictions. Marcus Ellis had four, including violent disorder in connection with the killing of Johnson Crew member Christopher Clarke in 2000.

Simms had six previous convictions, including false imprisonment. Shell cases matching weapons evidence at the scene were recovered from the burnt-out Mondeo.

Number plate pictures from motorway cameras showed a car containing Gregory and Martin making their way to Northampton to buy the vehicle.

Information from mobile masts matched the same route and further cell phone evidence linked the killers.

Last night Det Supt Mirfield, talking of the war on the "untouchables", praised witnesses who eventually spoke up. Not a single one came forward in the immediate aftermath.

He said: "Witnesses who gave evidence were the brave ones. They can say to others, 'I stood up and was counted - where were you?'

"They are the true heroes, they are the people from the black community of Birmingham that were there for these girls, for their mums."

He added: "From today four men are where they belong and will be there for a very long time."

Police stressed their inquiry was still "live" and at least three further prosecutions were being considered.

Charlene's mother Beverley Thomas, calling for united action against street gangs, said: "Today for me can be tomorrow for you."

Letisha's mother Marcia Shakespeare said: "She was a wonderful, bright, loving daughter who we dearly miss. Gun crime is a truly terrible thing which has brought misery to my family."

Survivor Cheryl said: "Letisha was doing nothing more than enjoying a night out."

Solicitors for Ellis, Simms and Gregory plan to appeal. Martin's lawyer declined to comment. Errol Robinson, for Ellis and Simms, said: "There has been a grave miscarriage of justice." Defence barristers were concerned over witness anonymity. Arthur Ellis, source of the gang feud, was actually a founding member of the Johnson Crew.

His victim in 1993 was a Burger Bar Boy dating his estranged partner - Marcus's mother.

Marcus, then 12, idolised his mum's boyfriend and started mixing with the Burger Boy. Ten years later the girls were killed.

"E-MAN"

Marcus Ellis, 24, is the half-brother of twins Charlene and Sophie, through their father Arthur Ellis. He was said to go by the street name E-man. Firearms residue on clothing at his house came from weapons consistent with two of the guns used in the shooting. Alibis he gave were false, said the prosecution.

"CHUNK"

Michael Gregory, 23, was known as Chunk because of his size. He was said to be the "organiser" and used a mobile - referred to in court by its last three numbers, 819 - before the shooting. It was allegedly used in the buying of the Mondeo gun-car.

"23"

Nathan Martin, 26, had the street name 23 and was said to be seeking revenge for the 2002 death of his brother Yohanne. He blamed it on the Johnson Crew. He claimed he was at a family party on the night of the attack. Later he said he helped buy the Mondeo.

"SUNNY"

Rodrigo Simms, 20, known as Sunny or SS, was the military-style spotter who guided the gunmen to their target, it was said. The Uniseven "after-party" on the Birchfield Road, Birmingham, where the New Year shooting happened was organised by his cousin Selina.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 19, 2005
Words:982
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