How I did it: reporter Sean Woods reveals how he bagged eye witness report of the Rhys Jones murder - Press Gazette

How I did it: reporter Sean Woods reveals how he bagged eye witness report of the Rhys Jones murder

I don't know what time it was when our desk editor Ben Ransom rang me, but I do remember I'd dozed off watching the England game. It had already been a long day chasing reaction to the collapse of Liverpool's Matthew Street festival, but any hope of an early night went AWOL when he told me that a young lad had been shot in Croxteth Park.

At that time, Merseyside Police hadn't confirmed Rhys had died, but Ben told me there were crowds of people on the streets outside the Fir Tree pub and could I head down there and get some reaction.

A quick splash of cold water on the face and a black coffee later I was outside the Fir Tree, it's only a 10-minute drive from my house. The minute I arrived I knew this was going to be a big story. There were, as Ben had said, crowds of people on the streets, some standing in groups talking animatedly, others just staring at the car park where Rhys had been shot, and of course a massive police presence.

I rang Ben to tell him I'd arrived and he told me the news that Merseyside Police had confirmed the death of an 11-year-old boy from a gunshot wound. Time to get busy…


I was thinking that surely among all these people, especially on a warm summer night outside a pub, someone must have seen what happened.

I spotted a couple of tabloid journalists talking to a group of men, one in particular, who sounded as though he'd witnessed the shooting. A friend of mine from ITN News told me the man was happy to talk to the newspapers as an eye-witness, but he didn't want to be named, or go on camera.

I waited for the newspaper reporters to leave and approached the man after he'd taken a phone call from his wife. He was obviously very shook up and I asked him if I could do an interview with him. At first he refused, even though I said he could remain anonymous and we could disguise his voice.

There's no magic formula to persuading people to talk into a microphone. If they don't want to speak, they won't. I just decided to stay put and 'chew the fat", pretty convinced he wouldn't change his mind. I think the only reason he changed his mind is because I lived locally and we were both fathers. He knew that what he had witnessed was every parents' nightmare if you live in an 'inner-city", but this had happened on a Brookside-style estate where gun crime was almost non-existent.

His description of what he saw was the only eyewitness account – from the scene – given to a broadcast journalist. We both wish it hadn't happened.