A teenage queen whose burgeoning drug empire sparked terror on the streets of Liverpool has been sentenced to more than nine years behind bars.
Harry O’Brien, 17, was just 16 when he took charge of a group of drug dealers behind three shootings and a firebombing in the suburb of Dingle.
Journalists from the Liverpool Echo were granted automatic anonymity due to his young age and won a lawsuit to name O’Brien when he was sentenced to nine years and three months in prison on April 28.
O’Brien used ruthless tactics to gain control of his territory, which would be shocking to a veteran crime boss, let alone a teenager.
In one attack, bullets were fired from an Audi at a BMW as the two cars raced side by side through the city at night. A stray bullet flew through the front door of the home of a “completely innocent” family and landed on the stairs in the hallway.
Another time, a gunman on an electric bicycle pelted a family’s living room with bullets and fired into another victim’s bedroom.
Finally, O’Brien had gasoline poured through the letterbox of a house and set it on fire while a mother and her children ran for their lives.
17-year-old Harry O’Brien led a crime group that brought terror to the streets of Liverpool with three shootings and an incendiary bomb. Police say the streets are safer now that he has been jailed for nine years and eight months
At Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Neil Flewitt QC said he had no doubts that they were “the manifestation of a feud” between O’Brien’s gang and “others” with “with whom they had a real or alleged complaint, of which the nature has not emerged’.
Judge Flewitt said: “Unfortunately, the lives of completely innocent people, including young children, have been endangered by the heartless and cowardly actions of all involved.”
The court was told that O’Brien planned and participated in all three shootings, “orchestrated the arson” and that the cannabis plot was “his business”.
David Temkin, QC, continued, said Harry O’Brien was “at the heart of the crime” while his “lieutenants” Michael McClean, then 16, and Aaron Donohoe, then 19, were given “managerial responsibility” over his drug dealing.
Daniel Lawler, 19, joined O’Brien as a ‘trusted’ accomplice and carried out two of the shootings, all involving the same semi-automatic Glock pistol – never recovered by police.
At age 16, cannabis dealer O’Brien became the boss of a teenage squad behind three terrifying shootings and an incendiary bomb
The first shooting happened at the end of December 29, 2020, after the unknown occupants of a silver BMW X5 driving around Dingle Lane were deliberately ‘rammed’ into another BMW driven by O’Brien’s mother, with O’Brien, McClean, Donohoe and an unknown fourth man in the car as passengers.
O’Brien’s mother called the police at 10:30 p.m. to report the accident as her son and his gang fled.
Mr. Temkin said, “What happened next was revenge.”
Armed with a loaded pistol, O’Brien, McClean, Donohoe and the fourth man in the Audi set out, with the banned driver McClean at the wheel.
Three shots were fired at the BMW on Dingle Lane, one of which pierced the front door of a ‘shocked’ couple and the home of their seven-year-old child.
Mr. Temkin said, ‘They went to bed. They heard screeching tires and found a bullet on the stairs in the hallway.’
The QC said evidence provided by Lawler at trial showed that O’Brien had “some sort of dispute” with “the Franchetti and Rosario family.”
Aaron Donohoe (left), 20, was a lieutenant to teenage drug lord Harry O’Brien (right), 17
Over the next three weeks, O’Brien arranged for a Sur-Ron electric bike. O’Brien and Lawler set out on their bicycles on January 8 last year – one armed with the pistol. Just after 8:45 PM, Donna Rosario called the police to say that her house had been shot.
Mr Temkin said: ‘She, her partner Ian Franchetti and their daughter were at home in the living room at the time.’
Three bullets were found in the wall and ceiling of her living room.
A third shooting occurred on January 20 just after 1 am. O’Brien and Lawler, on the same bike, targeted the Heffey family and fired at an upstairs bedroom where 24-year-old Joel Heffey, an employee of the Franchetti group, was sleeping.
Finally, the gang targeted the house of Claire Bowness, home with her three teenage children, who was a member of the Rosario family.
Mr Temkin said this arson was the “brainchild” of O’Brien, who sought the help of a 14-year-old boy from Toxteth, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
O’Brien also enlisted Sian Kanu, then 19, who recruited Mohammed Mohammed, then 19, to carry out the attack. On the morning of February 5, Mohammed filled a jerry can with gasoline and poured it through the letterbox at Mrs Bowness’ home to start a fire.
Mr Temkin said: ‘The fire spread somewhere in the property, from the hallway to the stairs and to the upper floor.
Claire Bowness and the Rosario children managed to escape from the rear of the property with their dog. However, they all required medical treatment for smoke inhalation.’
On February 12, police raided the home of O’Brien’s grandparents, who lived next door in the suburb of Aigburth. They found £13,590 in cash in a plastic bag in the attic. One note had their grandson’s fingerprint on it.
O’Brien was also seen with wads of cash in Liverpool city center on April 26.
He was arrested on 1 July at his aunt’s house, where police found around £5,000 worth of cannabis plus cash, mobile phones, two knives and an axe.
Police also raided the home of Nathan Kelly, 28, a customer of O’Brien’s gang on April 21, where two revolvers were found along with other ammunition.
After a spate of arrests, those allegedly involved in the shooting and arson were charged with conspiracy to possess a firearm and commit arson, both with intent to endanger life.
Prior to trial, O’Brien confessed to minor felonies of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and conspiracy to commit arson without recklessness or endangering life, which the Crown accepted.
He had already admitted to a conspiracy to supply cannabis. Richard Pratt QC, softening, said O’Brien had “had diagnoses of ADHD in the past” and was described as “a risk-taker.”
Mr Pratt added: ‘It is quite possible that those illnesses, through no fault of his own, contributed to this behaviour.’
Judge Flewitt imprisoned O’Brien for nine years and eight months, with an extended three-year license. He must serve at least two-thirds of that sentence behind bars before he can apply for parole.
Lawler, 21, of Woolton, was found guilty of the firearms conspiracy and known unrelated charges of dangerous driving and handling stolen goods. He was imprisoned for eight years, with an extended residence permit of two years. He must also serve at least two-thirds of that term.
McClean, 18, of Toxteth, admitted to the cannabis and firearms plots. At trial, he confessed to two cases of possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition. He was imprisoned for eight and a half years.
Donohoe, 20, of Toxteth, admitted to the cannabis and firearms plots as he was only involved in the first shooting. He was imprisoned for six years and four months.
Jurors were unable to pass judgment on Kanu, 20, of Toxteth, over the arson plot. He later admitted to participating in the criminal activities of an organized crime group. He was imprisoned for two years and three months.
Also at trial, the unnamed boy, now 15, admitted to the arson. He was given a two-year youth rehabilitation order, with a six-month restraining order, daily between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Mohammed, 20, of Toxteth, and Kelly, 28, of Belle Vale, will be sentenced at later dates.
Source: New feed