LEON Cullen’s gang fired gunshots at a house before attempting to frame a rival over the incident, a court has heard.

Associates of the alleged crime boss – who was Warrington’s most wanted man for nearly two years before being arrested in Dubai in January 2020 – are said to have fired shots at the windows and front door of a house in Bolton on September 9 2019.

Warrington Guardian:

After the attack, the Luger pistol used in the shooting and a quantity of cocaine were planted in the car of Craig Millington – who Cullen was in a dispute with after they had both been involved with the same woman – and an anonymous tip-off was made to police.

Andrew Potter, of Thelwall New Road in Thelwall, and Stuart Shaw, of McKee Avenue in Longford, are currently on trial at Bolton Crown Court over the incident.

The pair, aged 36 and 35 respectively, deny possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and perverting the course of justice.

Several other defendants have admitted roles in the conspiracy.

Jurors were told that CCTV footage captured a Mercedes, which had been stolen from outside a David Lloyd gym in Lichfield near Birmingham, was seen driving along Hilden Street in Bolton on the night in question.

Andrew Johannesson waited in the vehicle as Shawn O’Malley and Lewis Sinclair, dressed in black clothing and with their faces covered, walked ‘casually’ towards the address that was targeted.

The latter stopped before the front gate of the property before firing six shots towards the house.

Warrington Guardian: Hilden Street

Johannesson was fitted with an electronic tag at the time which showed him to be in the vicinity, as was Sinclair's mobile phone.

Afterwards, the trio dumped the car in Leigh and transferred into a BMW before driving back to 38-year-old Johannesson’s home on Gaskell Street in St Helens.

Further evidence linking Sinclair and O’Malley – of Withers Avenue in Orford – to the crime was discovered when Lee Steadman crashed the stolen Mercedes.

Sinclair’s DNA was recovered from saliva left on a stocking inside, while O’Malley’s DNA was discovered on a glove.

Potter is alleged to have been aware that the shooting was to take place and had kept hold of O'Malley's mobile at the time of the shooting in order to try and distance him from the incident.

Warrington Guardian: Hilden Street

He admitted that he had the phone, but claims that this was because the pair had used it for dealing drugs.

Meanwhile, Shaw had passed messages between Cullen and Millington.

On the afternoon of October 4 2019, Millington attended a meeting near to the Poplars pub on Cotswold Road in Orford.

A short time later, CCTV showed a man walking to a phone box close to Shaw’s then home on Ullswater Avenue in Orford and making an anonymous 999 call.

Prosecuting barrister Andrew Smith told the court: “The caller said that that he was a relative of Craig Millington and claimed that he had just been with him and had seen a large package of cocaine and a gun being placed into the boot of Craig Millington’s car.

“The caller went on to suggest that Craig Millington was in dispute with a Leon Cullen, and that he was going to shoot the next person that he saw.

“Unsurprisingly, police acted immediately.”

Millington’s girlfriend alerted him that police were looking for him, and he flagged down a passing police car.

Mr Smith added: “When the police told him the purpose of their search, he immediately said that anything they found must have been planted.”

A package wrapped in black tape was found underneath the driver’s seat, and was found to contain low purity cocaine and the pistol – which was loaded with four rounds of ammunition.

Forensic experts matched it to the weapon used in the shooting, but no links were found to Millington.

Mr Smith said: “This was Cullen using his trusted friends and associates to carry out a deliberate act of retribution, designed to leave Millington in the serious position of being in possession of a lethal firearm and class A controlled drugs when stopped by the police.”

Johannesson and 38-year-old Sinclair, of Partington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and conspiracy to commit burglary.

O’Malley, 33, previously admitted conspiracy to possess a firearm and perverting the course of justice.

His girlfriend – 25-year-old Annie Webster, of Cumberland Street in Latchford – admitted handling criminal property.

Thirty-seven-year-old Steadman, of Manchester, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, driving while disqualified and conspiracy to commit burglary.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

Cullen was detained by police in the United Arab Emirates on January 3 2020 on an international arrest warrant, but remains in custody awaiting extradition to the UK more than a year on.

He is suspected of being the head of a major cocaine ring operating in the town, members of which were jailed for 185 years in 2019 – including Leon’s twin brother Anthony Cullen, who was given 27 years behind bars.

The trial continues.