Hundreds of voice recordings recovered from a murder victim's phone have allowed her to tell her own story in court and bring her killers to justice, the senior investigator in the case has said.
The phone belonging to Ashley Dale, 28, was found a short distance from where officers found her, fatally wounded, in the back garden of her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, on August 21 last year, when gunman James Witham drove by force. inside and shot her with a Skorpion machine gun.
Texts and voice notes sent between Miss Dale and her friends dating from the day she died until June, when she attended the Glastonbury festival, were analyzed by police for evidence of a row between her boyfriend, Lee Harrison, and of the four men convicted of her murder.
Jurors at the trial at Liverpool Crown Court heard Miss Dale's own voice describing events in the weeks leading up to the shooting, as many of the recordings were played in court.
Detective Chief Inspector Cath Cummings said: “For me, as a senior detective, this was the most exciting and emotional part of the case.
“This is the first time I've seen the evidence of a murder victim play such a critical role in a court case.
“Ashley was telling her own story and events leading up to her death.
“There was barely a dry eye in the courtroom as her heightened fear and anxiety played out through voice notes from her phone.”
He added: “It's Ashley who brought these perpetrators to justice because overlaying that with the evidence we were able to gather, she told us the story herself.”
Miss Dale's stepfather Rob Jones said her phone was “a huge part” of convicting her killers.
He said: “If it was left to the defendant and the person who ultimately conspired to murder, Lee, this should never have gone to trial because everyone lies, everyone cheats, everyone steals, they don't know any different. .”
In the voice notes and text messages, Miss Dale told of a row between Niall Barry, 26, and Mr Harrison that went back years and stemmed from stealing drugs.
He also explained to friends how the feud reignited after a row at Glastonbury with Barry's friend and co-accused Sean Zeisz, 28.
In messages, she told friends she had a “bad, bad feeling about everything.”
Speaking on August 1, almost three weeks before her murder, she said: “My nerves are gone, when I'm out in the car with Lee I feel like I'm looking over my shoulder the whole time.”
Senior Crown prosecutor Olivia Cristinacce-Travis said the recordings were “serious” to listen to.
He said: “We all text and WhatsApp but it was the number of voice memos he used that I guess shows the reality of 2023 and the victim was a young woman.
“It was all these voice notes that basically recorded how she felt every day and what was going on in her life that was so different.”
He said recovering the phone meant a “very modern prosecution”.
He added: “It's completely unprecedented to have a female narrator, essentially, tell her own story.”