Man lying in hospital with gunshot wounds as ‘life of crime’ uncovered
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A man who led a secret life as a burglar and a drug dealer was rumbled while in hospital with gunshot wounds.
Curtis Byrne’s wrongdoings were exposed when police became suspicious of his behaviour as he recovered from injuries to his legs sustained in the attack.
Messages, videos, screenshots, and notes that were subsequently found on his phone linked him to a whole host of offences, reports The Liverpool Echo.
Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday afternoon, February 15, that officers attended Aintree Hospital on December 5 last year in order to obtain a statement from the patient after he had been the victim of a shooting two days earlier.
Byrne, of Park Road South in Birkenhead, Merseyside, was seriously injured when a gunman opened fire on Orrets Meadow Road on the Woodchurch Estate in Wirral, Merseyside, shortly after 8pm on Saturday, December 3.
It was previously reported that residents took refuge upstairs in their homes after hearing “two shots separated by a scream”.
A man who was hit by these bullets was then seen being “dragged” through gardens by another in search of safety.
Witnesses stated that his assailant fled the scene on a moped before police arrived at the scene. One stated that the incident was “over in seconds”.
Andrew Jebb, prosecuting, said that Byrne was “unable to provide any reason why anyone would want to shoot him” when asked by his visitors from Merseyside Police two days later.
They then asked to look at his mobile phone “to see if anything on it could assist their investigation”.
But the 21-year-old aroused suspicions when he began deleting materials from the device. Byrne, who appeared in court via video link to HMP Altcourse and walked with the use of a crutch, eventually handed the phone over and provided the pin.
When analysed, it revealed that he had been involved in the supply of cocaine and cannabis and a string of burglaries in which high-value cars and motorbikes were stolen.
Detectives found a “large number of fairly short video clips” showing large bags of cannabis and blocks of cannabis resin and “conversations” with customers over the course of several months.
Messages showed contacts “regularly asking” to purchase drugs from him, with Byrne “seeming to have no difficulty in fulfilling these requests”.
Several “tick lists” were also discovered in his notes app, showing monies owed to him totalling several thousands of pounds.
The phone also uncovered the defendant’s involvement in five separate burglaries targeting properties in Nocturum and Irby between July and November 2022.
The first break-in came on July 9, when Byrne was one of two men who burgled a house on Beryl Road at around 3.30am while the family who lived there were asleep upstairs.
CCTV cameras captured them entering via the back door before taking a handbag – which was later recovered outside with nothing stolen from it, despite its contents including cash.
Mr Jebb said that this was an “indication that they were there for another reason”, with the keys to two cars instead being pinched from a hook near the front door.
The intruders then drove off in a BMW 2 Series which had been parked outside, although the second vehicle was not taken.
Messages recovered from Byrne’s phone asked “if the plan was just to take the BMW or both cars”, while a video of the stolen car – which was recovered a few days later – taken 30 minutes after the theft was also located on it, despite his attempts to delete the file.
Then, at roughly 1.30am on July 14, a householder at an address on Westway was alerted by a noise outside but assumed “it was foxes”.
However, he later discovered that burglars had forced entry to his garage after damaging electric security gates then stole a Kawasaki motorbike.
But the complainant “turned detective” and was able to retrace the route taken by the thieves, finding the vehicle in a nearby alleyway.
It has been “considerably damaged” and had to be written off.
A third burglary came at 2.30am on July 27, when two males climbed over a fence and gained entry to a garage on Wendover Close before taking a Triumph motorcycle.
Its owner later received a message on Facebook informing him that the bike had been burnt out at a location which was provided by the sender.
The man then found the destroyed vehicle at this site. Byrne’s phone was found to contain a screenshot of a social media appeal posted by his wife following the theft, alongside a video of the keys being turned in the ignition of the motorbike.
At around 2.30am on August 1, an electric bike was taken from a shed where it had been on charge at a home on Glenwood Drive. CCTV showed two men getting out of a taxi before one was seen leaving the area on the vehicle.
In relation to this break-in, Byrne’s phone contained Google Street View screenshots from the area in question.
Shortly after 4am the same day, he had used the internet to browse adverts selling the same type of e-bike and later exchanged messages on TikTok attempting to sell it for £700 – although he admitted that he did not have the charger or keys.
The final burglary came in the early hours of November 28 when three men wearing balaclavas and gloves broke into a “secure” shed on Thirlmere Avenue.
It took them around 10 minutes to remove various locks from the door, after which the offenders took two electric Sur-Ron bikes and fled through a removed fence panel.
Again, Google Street View screenshots of the vicinity were found on Byrne’s mobile alongside a clip of him using the stolen wheels outside his own home at 2am that day.
He had also called a taxi from his phone shortly after midnight, with this car later seen on roads nearby to the targeted property.
The total value of the BMW and bikes taken, some of which were never returned, was an estimated £36,000.
Byrne was arrested on December 22 after the device was analysed – with a quantity of cannabis, suspected counterfeit currency, a black balaclava and the battery from an electric bike seized from him.
He was described as being “fairly lightly convicted” with offences of possession of a bladed article in a public place, possession of cannabis and obstructing police on his record.
John Weate, defending, told the court that his client had spent time in care after his dad was murdered, adding: “He shows many of the signs of immaturity which straddle the movement from childhood into adulthood.
“While he does have previous convictions, none are of the type we are dealing with today. Of course, this is a defendant who has never before lost his liberty.
“There is an overtone of gang involvement in this, and he accepts that. He is someone who maybe can be turned around in his life.
“He is a young man who has found his life in prison very difficult, that as a consequence of the injuries he has suffered.
“The desire is that he becomes fully fit and is able to have a full and active life.
“This is a defendant who has had a troubled background. It perhaps led him into a situation where, from an early age, he participated in the misuse of cannabis and that led him into using cocaine. There are many positives. This is not a lost cause.
“This is a case of a defendant who has acted very unwisely and has committed serious offences. He knows he has to be punished, but seems to have the desire to lead a normal life.
“He seems capable of being someone who can be turned into a productive member of society.
“I ask for a sentence to be passed which doesn’t crush that spirit and allows him to take it on the chin and deal with the issues in his life in a more positive way.”
Byrne admitted conspiracy to commit burglary and theft and being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis. He was jailed for seven years.
Sentencing, Recorder Jeremy Lasker said: “It is clear that, between May and November last year, you involved yourself in serious and organised criminal offending.
“Much of the evidence upon which the prosecution’s case is based comes from analysis of your mobile phone, taken from you by police officers when they visited you in hospital.
“Despite your protestations to the contrary, the fact that you were in hospital as the victim of a shooting underscores the fact that in the latter half of last year you were involved in serious offending.
“During that period, you were actively involved in illicit drug supply.
“You were part of a team which embarked upon planned expeditions to steal either motor vehicles or motorbikes.
“Inevitably, you were operating under the cover of darkness and you and others were prepared to steal from those premises while your victims were asleep.
“The evidence demonstrates that, on occasions, you went out fully tooled up to commit these offences. I do infer that some of these vehicles were stolen to order.
“You are still relatively young. I also bear in mind that you have no previous convictions for drug supply or burglary, and that this will be your first prison sentence.
“You had something of a troubled childhood, not least because of the loss of your father. You want to try and put this criminal lifestyle behind you.
“That is of course a matter entirely for you. But I am prepared to accept that is genuinely held by you at the present time.”
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