Revealed: When teenage tearaway turned prolific criminal gangster shot innocent Elle Edwards dead outside pub on December 24 it was his first Christmas out of prison in five years
- Elle Edwards, 26, was hit twice in the head by a balaclava-clad Connor Chapman
- It was the latest chapter in killer Chapman’s life of crime that began aged 14
The Christmas Eve tragedy was the culmination of escalating violence between neighbouring estates and a former teenage tearaway who had graduated into a life of crime.
In fact just over a week earlier, a senior police officer had warned that the readiness of Birkenhead’s feuding gangs to resort to shooting risked a ‘potential for somebody to be caught in that crossfire’.
Among the wannabe gangsters was Connor Chapman, a former tearaway who – as a judge bemoaned when confronted by his lengthening criminal record when he was 18 – had been ‘given every possible chance’.
By his own admission, in a meme he posted on his Facebook profile, Chapman was ‘that trouble-maker you don’t like’.
Tragically a catalogue of court orders and a string of short spells in custody would only see him plunging deeper into a life of crime.
Connor Chapman’s graduation to murderer was the latest chapter in his life of crime, that started when he was just a young boy. Pictured is Chapman as a teen
His social media as a tearaway teen is littered with barely-literate complaints about having to wear a tag. In this image, Connor performs a rude gesture to the camera posing with a fish
Ms Edwards was gunned down by Chapman on Christmas Eve while she was partying with friends at the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey Village, Wirral, last year
Indeed by a terrible irony, when he shot and killed Elle Edwards it was the first Christmas holiday in five years in which Chapman hadn’t been behind bars.
The early signs were there when aged just 13, Chapman had shared a detailed pencil sketch of a handgun on his Facebook page.
In a chilling foretaste of the tragic night almost nine years later, it was captioned ‘Chapo’s 9mm’.
Growing up in Birkenhead’s tough Woodchurch estate, Chapman was already a regular troublemaker from his early teens.
By the time he was 14, he had been in court for shoplifting, while at 15 he was racking up convictions for offences including burglary, assault and possessing an offensive weapon.
His social media from that period is littered with barely-literate complaints about having to wear a tag.
On his 15th birthday, Chapman posted: ‘Proper devod [devastated] am on tag wood ov rather ad a messy one will [with] the lads.’
Two months later he wrote: ‘Four days left on dis tagggg!!!!’
A friend responded: ‘You just behave yourself when it’s gone young man.’
Connor Chapman (pictured) was the wannabe gangster who has now been found guilty of murdering beautician Elle Edwards. He is pictured in a custody image after killing Ms Edwards
In a chilling foretaste of the tragic night almost nine years later, it was captioned ‘Chapo’s 9mm’. Chapman drew the sketch when he was just 13
On his 15th birthday, Chapman posted of his devastation about being on a tag before later boasting about only having a few days left on it.
But quite the opposite happened – despite being served with an antisocial behaviour order, Chapman was accused of breaching the terms 12 times as his crimes escalated.
READ MORE: Innocent Elle Edwards’ final moments: Beautician laughs and hugs friends as she celebrates Christmas Eve before she was shot dead in pub beer garden
His sneering attitude to authority is clear from a Facebook post he wrote after PC Dave Phillips was run over and killed while trying to stop a car thief in nearby Wallasey in October 2015.
Chapman’s response to the tragedy was an unprintable slur on the brave father-of-two.
By now living with his grandparents Glynis and David – he claimed his relationship with the rest of his family, including removal man father Bill Chapman and mother Lisa Chapman, was by now ‘non-existent’ – he left Woodchurch High School before sitting any GCSEs.
Aged 17, he had amassed more serious convictions for drug possession – including cocaine – and vehicle theft.
Tellingly, a judge confronted with his lengthening criminal record the following year commented that Chapman had been ‘given every possible chance’.
Locking him up for eight months in 2018 after he admitted a string of driving offences after being chased by police at double the speed limit in a stolen Audi, Recorder Mary Loram, QC, slammed his ‘disregard for other people’.
By the time he was 14, he had been in court for shoplifting, while at 15 he was racking up convictions for offences including burglary, assault and possessing an offensive weapon. Chapman is pictured, aged 14
The tearaway teen, pictured aged 14, would share posts of himself climbing onto rooftops boasting about the ‘proper sick views’
Chapman was jailed for eight months in 2018 after he admitted a string of driving offences after being chased by police in a stolen Audi. Chapman’s custody image from 2018 is pictured
Pictured: the moment balaclava-clad Connor Chapman, 22, blasted a crowd outside The Lighthouse pub, Wallasey, Wirral, killing Elle Edwards
On that occasion, Chapman was caught hiding in undergrowth, whereupon he told officers ‘I’m waiting for my mate’ – a quip the judge branded ‘frankly quite pathetic’.
A criminal behaviour order followed, but true to form, Chapman again ignored it.
So in 2020 he was sentenced to ten months in a young offenders institution for possessing a bladed article, handling stolen goods and driving while disqualified.
Released after just five months, he went into hiding instead of co-operating with youth probation, and after being arrested was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence in custody.
His first known link to firearms came in December 2021 when Chapman was charged with attempted murder.
Along with another resident of his estate he later stood trial over the shooting of a man in the shoulder and leg by a motorcycle passenger in 2019, however he was acquitted.
It meant he spent Christmas behind bars – indeed, fatefully as it was to transpire, 2022 would be the first Christmas in a staggering five years that he spent as a free man.
By this point Chapman had amassed 19 previous convictions for 43 offences.
Chapman shared a pictured of himself in 2012 as a boy, aged 12. By the time he was 14, he had been in court for shoplifting – kicking starting his early career in crime
He later stood trial over the shooting of a man in the shoulder and leg by a motorcycle passenger in 2019, however he was acquitted. And in 2020 sentenced to 10 months in a young offenders institute for possessing a bladed article (left: Chapman’s custody picture from 2019 and, right him in 2020)
Asked about his appalling history during his trial, Chapman admitted that ‘from 2019, I was in custody more than I was out of custody’.
After being acquitted over the 2019 shooting, Chapman made a brief attempt at holding down a legitimate job – unsurprisingly, ‘it didn’t work out’, he told his trial.
‘I’ve lived with my nan my whole life, I’ve not had bills to pay, the normal things an adult has to deal with,’ he explained.
So Chapman ‘went back to doing what I knew best – selling drugs’.
In one telling exchange during his trial, asked about the stolen Mercedes he was driving on the night he shot Elle, Chapman said: ‘Most people weren’t using that car to do crimes in.
‘It was most used by people selling drugs in.’
His barrister, Mark Rhind KC, pointed out to him: ‘Well, selling drugs is a crime.’
His graduation from teenage tearaway to career criminal came at a time when rivalry between his Woodchurch estate and the adjacent Beechwood estate was escalating into lethal violence.
Just a ten-minute ride across the Mersey on one of the iconic ferries, the Wirral peninsula’s genteel coastal towns are popular places to live for people working in bustling Liverpool.
Elle Edwards, 26, was shot dead while enjoying drinks with friends at a pub on Merseyside. She is seen laughing with friends moments before
Miss Edwards, 26, was shot dead outside a pub on Christmas Eve in Wallasey Village, Wirral
Tragically, Miss Edwards died after chose to step outside for a cigarette just before midnight
But away from its beaches and world-famous golf courses, decades of decline in port activity and shipbuilding in the town of Birkenhead means it now hosts some of England’s most-deprived estates.
Most notorious among them was the Ford estate – built in the 1960s as an ‘ultra modern’ home to 8,000 people in high-rise blocks and houses.
Within a few years had become renowned for drugs and antisocial behaviour, resulting in regeneration efforts which saw it rebranded as Beechwood.
However, by last year the battle for the town’s illegal drug market – and competition for lucrative ‘county lines’ rings stretching into nearby North Wales – was fuelling lethal violence.
Competition between a gang known as ‘The Ford’ – based on the Beechwood estate – and the Woodchurch organised crime group, named after the adjacent estate where Chapman grew up, had begun to boil over.
Similar in their demographics, the two estates are separated by the M53 which runs through the Wirral.
In one of the most audacious attacks, a man was hit multiple times in a drive-by shooting near a parade of shops witnessed by horrified schoolchildren on an early evening in March 2022.
He survived, but the dispute was becoming a top priority for Merseyside Police, already reeling from four fatal shootings – among them nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, struck in the chest as she cowered behind her mother at their home in Liverpool last August.
Last December, Wirral community policing Inspector Alan McKeon, himself a native of the Woodchurch estate, presciently told the Liverpool Echo about his fears of a similar tragedy in Birkenhead.
Highlighting intensive efforts to ‘disrupt’ the escalating ‘factional disputes’ he warned there was ‘always the potential for somebody to be caught in that crossfire’.
Flowers and tribute messages were left outside the Lighthouse following the shooting on Christmas Eve
Tim Edwards, father of Elle Edwards, speaks to the media outside Liverpool Crown Court
Connor Chapman, 23, opened fire with a Skorpion sub-machine gun outside the Lighthouse
The seeds of that tragic outcome had already been sown in the form of a burglary on a third nearby estate, Noctorum, on November 28.
The previous month, Chapman had been banned from both Woodchurch estate – other than going to and from his home – and Beechwood under an interim injunction ‘to prevent gang-related violence’.
The order, which barred him from associating with named individuals, was renewed in November.
In the break-in, Chapman – accompanied by fellow Woodchurch men Curtis Byrne and Mason Smith, who have pleaded guilty to their roles – all made off with electric bikes.
Five days later, on December 3, Byrne was shot by an unidentified assailant using a Glock self-loading pistol.
It was also used to shoot Kieran Cowley – also identified as a member of the Woodchurch set – on December 18.
A stolen car linked to the attack had previously been seen being driven by Jake Duffy, said in court to be from the Beechwood estate and soon to be one of the targets of the Christmas Eve shooting.
Police flooded the streets with officers, but spoke of their frustration at the wall of silence they encountered, with even the victims themselves refusing to give information due to a culture of not ‘grassing’.
Then on December 23, shocking Ring doorbell footage captured Duffy and fellow Beechwood man Kieran Salkeld – also said to have been the target of the pub shooting – administering a violent beating to Sam Searson, who was linked to the Woodchurch estate.
Footage played to the jury in Chapman’s trial showed them raining down a flurry of punches of kicks in the front yard of a house.
As a woman screamed at them to stop, one of the attackers responded: ‘Mind your own business, he’s a little ken [house] robber.’
The Mercedes A Class car used in the Christmas Eve shooting of Elle Edwards after it was found burnt out in Frodsham, Cheshire, on New Year’s Day
A file photo of a Skorpion sub-machine gun, similar to that used in the Christmas Eve shooting
Police stand guard outside of the pub where Elle Evans was shot and killed by Chapman
Another notorious criminal in the area, 28-year-old Salkeld had 24 previous convictions for 30 offences, ranging from drug dealing and criminal damage to affray and battery.
As long ago as 2015 he was caught with around £26,000 of cannabis after a police chase.
He had also been the subject of a gang injunction order imposed in 2019, the first of its kind issued in Wirral.
In 2020 – at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – Salkeld was spared jail over another dangerous police chase and a nightclub brawl after his lawyer said his NHS worker partner would have to give up her job to care for their daughter.
But just days later he was jailed for 24 weeks for breaching the injunction by mixing with ‘criminal associates’.
Salkeld was locked up for another 22 weeks the following year for breaching it again by having access to an undeclared mobile phone.
Duffy, 22, had been convicted of violent disorder following fighting close to Anfield football ground in 2020, resulting in a seven-year football banning order.
After being discharged from hospital following the pub shooting, the pair admitted unlawful and malicious wounding without intent over the attack on Searson, receiving prison sentences of 27 months and two years respectively in February.
Just over 24 hours after Searson was beaten up, the clock was ticking down towards Christmas Day, with families up and down the country gathering together to celebrate.
At the popular Lighthouse pub, a world away from the feuding estates in normally peaceful Wallasey village, beautician Elle Edwards and her sister Lucy were among hundreds enjoying a Christmas Eve drink.
The 26-year-old and her Dubai-based event organiser sister had done the same thing on December 24 the previous year – ultimately overdoing it and leaving them struggling the next day.
In a desperate and far-fetched bid to join in with calls to end the violence, four days after shooting Elle, Chapman took to Facebook to bemoan how ‘s***’s getn out of hand’
Elle Evans was killed while out celebrating Christmas Eve with friends at The Lighthouse Pub
Elle’s father, Tim Edwards, holds his head in his hands following the guilty verdict at Liverpool Crown Court this week
They wanted to make going out a ‘Christmas tradition’, Lucy would later tell police.
During the evening they left the venue after Salkeld threw a drink over a girl who cannot be named for legal reasons.
However, they returned for a spell before Lucy asked Elle to take her home – telling her sister ‘not to be late so as not to ruin Christmas.’
‘She said she would be about an hour,’ she added.
Tragically, Elle had the misfortunate to chat with Salkeld – who she is understood to have known ‘in passing’ – and shortly before midnight went outside to have a cigarette with him.
Moments later, happy sounds of the festive turned into screams as a volley of shots rang out across the pub’s outdoor seating area.
At his trial, Chapman maintained he ‘disliked’ Searson, and that far from wanting revenge on Salkeld and Duffy, he found the earlier attack on him ‘quite amusing’.
In a desperate and far-fetched bid to join in with calls to end the violence, four days after shooting Elle, Chapman took to Facebook to bemoan how ‘s***’s getn out of hand’.
Saying her killing ‘could of been enyones tragedy’, he portrayed the cause as ‘some real petty s*** goin on’ and called on those involved ‘to stand up and b a man’.
In the mis-spelt December 28 post, Chapman claimed ‘no one’s a gangsta and no one’s bad it’s just f****** stupid n pouintless and a waste of life when ye sat in jail lookn 20 to life’.
Today Chapman is facing a far longer time behind bars than ’20 to life’ after the jury rejected his account that he was at home watching YouTube videos about how to wrap presents while Elle’s life was draining away.
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