An “assassin” who was shot twice in “revenge” after he fired at a rival thug later tried to claim he wasn’t even at the shootout.
Masked and hooded James Freeman chased Alan Roberts into a packed pub when armed with a loaded semi-automatic pistol.
Quick-thinking Roberts hid behind a door and, when Freeman entered, grabbed at the gun, as the two career criminals wrestled for the weapon.
READ MORE: Pub shootout on CCTV as thugs shoot each other with the same gun
Shocking CCTV footage from the Old Bank Pub showed a muzzle flash as the gun went off and two bullet fragments struck Roberts in the groin.
But it also captured two locals helping Roberts to punch and kick Freeman, who prosecutors said “got a good kicking” in a “considerable assault”.
Roberts took the gun, tried to shoot Freeman but had to eject a misfired cartridge, then shot him twice in the chest as he lay defenceless on the floor.
Both men were jailed yesterday over the astonishing events of May 17 last year – the day pubs reopened after lockdown restrictions were lifted.
No explanation was given at Liverpool Crown Court for why Freeman targeted 30-year-old Roberts – the older brother of killer gun thug Michael Roberts.
The 24-year-old blamed his actions on PTSD – from being stabbed as a teenager – and taking a cocktail of prescription medicine on the day of the shooting.
But a judge rejected the claims he made to a psychiatrist, when he said: “I can’t make any sense of it. I had no intention of harming anyone. They jumped on me.”
James Freeman, 24, of Pennard Avenue, Huyton
High Court judge Mr Justice Martin Spencer also rubbished the “bogus alibi” that Freeman originally put forward as his defence.
Despite Roberts suggesting – contrary to medical evidence – that he now has a “full bullet” in his groin and he has seen it on an X-ray, the court heard Freeman came off significantly worse in the clash.
Roberts fled the scene with Freeman’s gun and on his electric bike, leaving the disarmed crook to stumble away from the pub in Page Moss – still being kicked at by a local.
During a trial, David McLachlan, QC, prosecuting, explained Freeman made it to a house in Barkbeth Road, Huyton, where a friend called him an ambulance.
Police arrived and took bodycam footage that showed Freeman with two bullet holes in his chest, blood pouring from his mouth, and a swollen and cut left eye, said to be from being punched and kicked.
The gunman was taken to Aintree hospital, where a CT scan revealed two bullets embedded in his chest that surgeons decided were too dangerous to remove – leaving him with one lodged in his lung and another resting permanently close to his heart. He later gave a no comment interview.
Both men were charged with attempted murder, but in the build-up to the trial, Freeman indicated he was willing to plead guilty to wounding with intent and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, which prosecutors accepted.
A police bodycam photo shown in court of pub gunman James Freeman after he was disarmed by rival thug Alan Roberts and shot twice in the chest with his own weapon
Roberts, from Page Moss but now of Heyes Street, Everton, ran a trial, claiming as he had since his police interview that he acted in self-defence.
He was acquitted of attempted murder after a five-day trial, in which jurors watched footage of him and his partner Chloe Price walking over from McDonald’s to the Princess Drive pub at 8.17pm, where they were standing on a patio area when Freeman struck.
Jurors rejected Roberts’ claim that after taking hold of the pistol, he shot Freeman because he thought he might be reaching for a second weapon in his pocket.
They unanimously found him guilty of the two charges his rival had admitted.
Alan Roberts, 30, from Page Moss but now of Heyes Street, Everton
Freeman, of Pennard Avenue, Huyton, has five previous convictions for seven offences, including possessing a loaded gun when he was just 17.
His DNA was found on a 8mm Bruni semi-automatic pistol, which had nine live rounds inside, with a tenth inside the gun’s chamber, in Huyton in 2015.
He later skipped bail and fled via Eurostar train from London to Calais, then travelled to Spain, before flying back from Malaga to Liverpool in 2016.
Freeman – who claimed he had “panicked” – was locked up for three years and five months for those offences in April that year.
At 21, he was caught by police with a lock knife in Hillside Road, Huyton, in August 2019 and he has also been convicted of possessing cannabis.
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Andrew Radcliffe, QC, defending, said Freeman had written a letter expressing his remorse and knew he would spend “a significant part of his youth in prison”.
He said Freeman was highly “intoxicated” at the time of the shooting because he was self-medicating with prescription drugs benzodiazepine and tramadol.
Mr Radcliffe said his client told a psychiatrist “had he been sober, had he been thinking straight, all this would never have happened”.
He said Freeman didn’t suggest “for a moment” that he hadn’t had the intention to commit the offences, despite a comment he made to the psychiatrist Dr Matt Appleyard, and what he meant to say was he wouldn’t otherwise have put himself in that position.
The entrance foyer at the Old Bank Pub in Huyton after James Freeman and Alan Roberts shot each other
Mr Radcliffe said: “The picture of his adolescence Dr Appleyard paints is an unhappy one in this regard. It was one that fractured as he reached his teens.”
He said Freeman’s mental health deteriorated after he was stabbed at the age of 15 and a few days before the shooting, he was “struggling badly with his mental health, manifesting itself in panic attacks”.
The court heard Freeman went to hospital, where he received his first diagnosis of PTSD, but carried out the shooting before a follow-up appointment with his GP.
He said the PTSD diagnosis had since been confirmed twice, first by medics in HMP Altcourse and then by Dr Appleyard, who found his intoxication “impacted on his behaviour at the time”.
Justice Spencer said he was struggling to understand how Freeman’s mental health problems caused him to do what he did or reduced his culpability for the crime.
He said Freeman told the doctor: “I can’t make any sense of it. I had no intention of harming anyone. They jumped on me.”
Mr Radcliffe said that was not what his client meant, but Justice Spencer replied: “Yes, but that’s what he said.”
The judge said: “You don’t if you’re suffering from PTSD happen to find yourself in possession of a gun and ammunition.”
Mr Radcliffe said you might if self-medicating and disagreed that Freeman effectively “misled” the doctor by suggesting he hadn’t had the intention admitted in his guilty pleas.
James Freeman approaching the Old Bank Pub in Huyton on an electric bike before he shot Alan Roberts
After further legal discussion, the QC said his client had been “disinhibited” by the effect of the drugs and “not thinking straight”, which the judge said he was willing to accept.
Justice Spencer said he had reached a preliminary view that Freeman was “dangerous” – as defined in law – which would mean an extended prison sentence.
He said: “These offences are extremely worrying. Going into a crowded public place with a loaded firearm and discharging it.
“It’s difficult to imagine anything more dangerous than that.”
The judge said he was willing to accept Freeman’s PTSD, depression, and self-medicating with prescription drugs had affected his thought processes.
However, he said: “He had sufficient retained thought processes to get hold of a gun, to get hold of ammunition, to follow Mr Roberts into a pub and discharge it, with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.”
Passing sentence and referring to a series of “moving” character references, he told Freeman he came from a “loving and supportive family”, but after his parents split when he was 13, “things clearly started to go wrong for you”.
He said: “You told Dr Appleyard you have little memory of the index offences, that you couldn’t make any sense of it and had no intention of harming anyone.
James Freeman, pictured at the age of 18
“But this is in my view wholly inconsistent with what can be seen clearly from the CCTV in the pub and indeed your pleas of guilty.”
The judge said the doctor asked why he had the gun, to which Freeman replied: “I don’t know, it’s just the drugs, I went to get it that day, I knew where it was but it wasn’t mine. It was spur of the moment, I would never have done it if I had been sober.”
Justice Spencer said taking drugs didn’t explain his actions, particularly with his history of gun crime, and while he took his PTSD into account, the impact on the sentence would be “minimal”.
He said: “You went into a crowded pub with a loaded firearm, which you produced and discharged.
“I have no doubt you are to be considered and assessed as dangerous.”
The moment James Freeman (left) confronted Alan Roberts (right) with a gun at the Old Bank Pub in Page Moss
The judge jailed Freeman for 14 and a half years, with an extended four years on licence.
This means he must serve at least around nine and a half years behind bars before he can apply for his release, and will only be let out before the end of his sentence if the Parole Board decides he is no longer a risk to the public.
The judge said Roberts – sentenced separately so the two men were not in the dock together – initially acted in self-defence, but then took the law into his own hands.
He told him: “You shot James Freeman as an act of retaliation and revenge in order to get back at him.”
Roberts has 12 previous convictions for 33 offences, including attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm.
Justice Spencer jailed him for 12 years, of which Roberts will have to serve two thirds – eight years – in prison.
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Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector John Fitzgerald said: “It is only by sheer luck that nobody was killed that night.
“The fact that Freeman chose to enter a busy pub with a loaded gun, with no regard for the safety of anyone in there that night, beggars belief.
“Following an altercation with Roberts he ended up being hit in the chest twice and was lucky his wounds didn’t prove to be fatal.
“These men had no thought for the consequences of the actions or whether innocent people could get caught up in the crossfire.
“I am pleased that they are now both behind bars where they will spend a considerable period of time.
“We are committed as a force to pursuing those who choose to arm themselves with lethal weapons such as firearms. I would ask the public that if they know who is using or storing weapons to contact us and help us to get both the weapons and the offenders off the streets.”
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