A MURDERER who was handed a second life imprisonment over a plot which saw a grenade planted outside a family home has had his conviction overturned.

Billy Jones became one of Warrington’s youngest killers in 2006 when, aged 16, he was the ringleader of a fatal attack on dad-to-be Michael Theaker.

The now 30-year-old was jailed for life for a second time last year after he was convicted of conspiracy to possess explosives, in connection with a grenade being left underneath a car on the driveway of a house in Orford where four children were sleeping upstairs.

Warrington Guardian:

But Jones has now had this latest conviction quashed upon appeal.

A ‘homemade, improvised explosive’ device was placed under the Vauxhall Insignia on Cleveland Road one night in February 2018.

Police were alerted via an anonymous call made from a phone box, and all residents living within 50m were evacuated to the nearby McDonald’s on Winwick Road.

Bomb disposal squads then carried out a controlled explosion on nearby wasteland.

Warrington Guardian:

This followed a series of ‘tit for tat’ incident between rival gangs, with Jones accused of acting on behalf of Leon Cullen – who, at the time, was Warrington’s most wanted man.

The alleged drugs boss was arrested in Dubai in January this year, with extradition proceedings now underway.

Warrington Guardian:

Leon Cullen

After an arson attack on Smithy’s Gym in Bewsey, the windows of Cullen’s house on Honister Avenue in Orford were bricked and his BMW torched.

Jones, of Forster Street in Orford, was found guilty by a jury following a month-long trial at Liverpool Crown Court in the spring of 2019 after his DNA was found on the pin of the grenade.

Warrington Guardian:

While he was handed a life imprisonment with a minimum jail term of six years, three other co-defendants were cleared of the same charge.

And Jones had his conviction overturned during an appeal before Lord Justice Sir Stephen Irwin, Justice Sir David Holgate and Justice Thomas Linden hearing back at the same court on Friday, July 24.

The panel found that it could not be proved that the appellant had come into direct contact with the device.

Warrington Guardian:

It is understood that the Crown Prosecution Service will not be seeking a retrial in the case, and that Jones has been released from prison as a result.

Dismissing the case, Justice Irwin said: “The most important area of evidence for the purpose of this appeal was the DNA evidence.

“The central issue in the appeal concerns the limitations and implications of this evidence, leading to submissions by the appellant that there was no sufficient case to go to the jury and that the conviction is unsafe.

“Essentially, the appellant argues that the DNA evidence was insufficient to distinguish between primary deposit of his DNA on the firing pin of the grenade and a secondary transfer.

Warrington Guardian:

“There is no doubt that there was a conspiracy, and there is no doubt that the DNA of this appellant was on the firing pin of the grenade.

“Since the grenade was a live explosive device, the sampling could not be carried out in such a way as to determine whether the DNA deposit was by way of skin, blood, or other tissue or fluid.

Warrington Guardian:

“Probability is insufficient for conviction of guilt.

“In the absence of at least some further evidence, we are of the view that neither the judge nor the jury had the basis for a safe conviction.”

Jones and brothers Colin and David Algie kicked, punched and stamped on Mr Theaker after picking an argument with him on the number 21 bus 14 years ago.

The 22-year-old died of a brain haemorrhage six days after the assault.

Having previously become the youngest child in the town to be handed an ASBO, Jones was ordered to serve 10-and-a-half years behind bars.

Warrington Guardian:

Billy Jones outside Warrington Magistrates Court aged 13

He had only been released from this spell in prison around four weeks before the Cleveland Road incident.