Video: Gangland trial pair sprung from prison van by armed ram raiders
POLICE were still searching last night for two defendants in a long-running violent intimidation trial after they were freed from a secure van on their way to court by an armed gang during the morning rush hour.
The van carrying Kirk Bradley and Anthony Downes was rammed by a black Saab estate minutes after leaving Manchester Prison on its way to Liverpool Crown Court.
A jury was preparing to consider its verdict in the trial, in which the two are accused, along with four others, of plotting a two-year campaign of violence involving guns and grenades against their underworld rivals in Merseyside.
Several men wearing dark clothing and balaclavas and wielding a sledgehammer hit the G4S driver on the head and forced him to open the van and release the two prisoners.
The gang then drove off at high speed, abandoning their getaway car a mile away in Salford. It is believed they then transferred to a white Transit van. The G4S driver's injuries are not thought to be serious.
During the trial, the prosecution claimed that Bradley and Downes, both aged 25, were involved in a feud which allegedly resulted in enemies being shot in the legs and their homes targeted with live ammunition and explosives. One man was so badly injured hat he had to have a leg amputated, the court heard.
In evidence Downes, who was serving a prison sentence for conspiring to rob at the time, described how he overheard a cellmate orchestrating a foiled attack which resulted in a military grenade being dumped outside the home of Liverpool FC manager Kenny Dalglish.
Downes admitted he was in constant mobile phone contact with the outside world while in prison.
The jury also heard how Bradley was secretly recorded after being arrested by Dutch police in 2009 for possession of a loaded handgun.
Recorded phone calls later revealed that he had threatened to throw grenades at the homes of the mothers of people he had fallen out with.
Both Downes, of no fixed address, and Bradley, of Stockbridge Village, Merseyside, deny the charges.(©Independent News Service)