The Unsolved Shooting Of Craig Eaton, Liverpool, UK 2004

Craig Eaton.

There are too many families out there who are denied a key piece of information about a loved ones’ killing. When a person like 22 year old Craig Eaton is shot dead there has to be a motive? Surely there has to be a reason? Here is another case of probable mistaken identity. The unfairness of losing someone to cowards must be terrible. To lose a person you care about because the fool that pulled the trigger couldn’t even get the target right must be unbearable.

The Brief Circumstances

This young man was a child carer at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK. Alder Hey is a sprawling centre of excellence when it comes to paediatric medicine.  Mr Eaton had gone for a drink with a friend on the evening of 24th February 2004. The reason he was out was that day a patient of his had died. The little boy had had a range of ailments. Mr Eaton was shaken by the death and so was marking the boy’s passing with a drink.

Craig Eaton.

He got on a bus on Belmont Rd for the ride home. His destination was not to far off. It was a double decker bus and he sat on the top deck at the front. His clothing was dark as was the night. Just after 11pm he alighted on Sheil Rd in the city’s Kensington area. He turned into a residential side street called Molyneux Road at about 11.15pm.

Residents were settling down for the night and heard two shots. A woman who ran from a nearby house said she saw Mr Eaton on the floor. Another man was already trying to assist and was giving CPR. Mr Eaton was by some accounts already dead from two bullet wounds.

The Investigation

Detectives preserved the scene and the circus began. Witnesses were found that saw Mr Eaton talking to a man just before the gunfire was heard. The man who gave CPR is reported to have seen the shooting and a man running to a car.

Several vehicles and sightings were circulated to the press. Within a short space of time the police said there was nothing in this young man’s life that would make him a target. He was not associated with crime in any way. For those from other places in the world it might be useful to point out that this sort of use of guns rules out robbery as a motive. This was a targeted killing.

Tragically it soon became apparent that they got the wrong target.

This is a modern Google shot after looking at the BBC article of the time. Mr Eaton was shot where the blue car on the right is parked.

 

Notably in 2021 the police were still seeking witnesses. They circulated information on two vehicles that are important from that night. One was a stolen Ford Mondeo. It was dark green and had a plate number that read Y723 RJA. This had been taken from a motor company a couple of miles away the day before. It was recovered on 3rd March. The car was seen driving away from where Mr Eaton fell. It turned right into the side street you can see in the image.

Another outstanding vehicle was a 740 GL Volvo. It was said to be either silver or light blue and had the plate number of G690 NFR. This had been bought recently and had not been re-registered. I note the cops are still appealing for the previous owners to come forward. I’ll explain how our system works below.

Over the years a £10,000 reward has been offered and other appeals have drifted across the pages of the local new.

My Take

Most of the cases I write about I have no direct experience of. I know the area and can even picture many of the prominent gangsters from this time in Liverpool.

The gang war started full on in the mid 1990s. It is the usual mindless drug and territory sort of conflict. I was in court when one side or the other were arrested through that time. Kensington was a bit of a centre of activity. I also remember the people they tasked with shooting rivals were amateur and lousy shots. They made up for that by being blindly callous. The main players  tended to out source this sort of crime. Let me put it this way, their hired hands were mostly sub par. I even recall a shooting in Kensington that was almost a carbon copy. On that occasion they did get the person they wanted and a shotgun was used.

What they did do well was intimidate anyone from coming forward. The fact that one car was stolen and another unregistered is exactly how they used to play this. Often we get sightings of cars that could be anything. The fact the drivers never come forward is significant but not conclusive proof of guilt. In this case the occupants of the cars were probably working together. In the case of the Ford it was certainly involved.

In the UK you can get a vehicle today and buy it for cash. You can then drive around and commit crime for as long as your luck holds. A popular way to do this back then was by going to a car auction. Outside are dozens of cars and owners awaiting their vehicle’s appearance in front of the auctioneer. If you approached them and paid a cash price you would have an unregistered vehicle. Maybe CCTV at these places makes that difficult now. You can still do it via other means even today which was one of the things that puzzled me in the case of Sarah Everard.

Sticking to Mr Eaton’s cruel slaying, not only was the Volvo probably bought in some way like I have described it had probably been bought that way by the previous owner. These days you can only go so long before a camera will read the number plate and alert the cops to the fact it is uninsured etc. In 2004 that technology was just starting. In any case it takes a little while for the system to catch up following a sale.

The cops said they were certain this was a case of mistaken identity. This is likely because informants have told them who the target was, who ordered it and probably who pulled the trigger. Knowing that and proving it are the difficult and often impossible part of this sort of investigation.

An example of that was another Liverpool shooting from back in those days. I met the accused but the case was not made. They fled abroad and last I heard they ended up dead. It is the way we humans are. I’ll leave it there.

Takecare

Tim

Please note: I make reference to the case of Sarah Everard. This is an unrelated case. A cop kills a total stranger. He hired a car to abduct his victim. He used his own details to hire the vehicle.  Given how easily he could have done what Mr Eaton’s killers did I wonder why. Especially curious is the cop had worked in a garage before joining. I wonder if something else was at play. If you have time have a look and second guess me please.

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Gunmen+may+have+shot+the+wrong+victim%3b+Mistaken+identity+theory+in…-a0113668223

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/killer-shot-wrong-man-innocently-19955339

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/3484964.stm

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/10000-reward-in-murder-hunt-3544295

 

 

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