Birmingham & Black Country

Mother of Letisha Shakespeare launches charity

Letisha Shakespeare (left) and Charlene Ellis
Image caption Letisha Shakespeare (left) and Charlene Ellis were shot in 2003

The mother of a teenage girl shot dead during a gang feud in Birmingham is setting up her own charity.

Marcia Shakespeare's daughter Letisha, 17, and Charlene Ellis, 18, were killed outside a hair salon in Aston on 2 January 2003.

Ms Shakespeare is now launching her own charity, called The Precious Trust, to combat gang culture.

It aims to prevent teenage girls becoming involved in gangs by helping them get vocational qualifications.

Four men are currently serving life sentences for the murders of Letisha and Charlene outside a new year party, in what a jury was told was a botched gang attack.

Charlene's sister Sophie and their friend Cheryl Shaw were also injured in the shootings which were part of an ongoing feud between rival gangs.

Ms Shakespeare, with the backing of former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, has set up the charity to help young women between 16 and 19-years-old with education and employment.

The long-term aim is to give them them the financial independence and confidence that comes with a career, to move away from areas blighted by gangs or family members involved with them, a spokeswoman said.

Girls identified as being at risk of becoming caught up in gang violence could be enrolled at South Birmingham College to study vocational courses such as hair and beauty, and take part in one-to-one sessions with Ms Shakespeare.

They will also get advice on dealing with personal issues such as anger management, as well as practical and financial help with childcare and housing.

The programme for the courses is still being finalised and the trust is in the process of raising money and sponsorship.

Ms Shakespeare said: "We know that the problem of gangs is yet to be solved in this country and this region - and we also know that more and more young women are being drawn into this terrible lifestyle, sometimes through no choice of their own."

Marcus Ellis, Michael Gregory, Nathan Martin and Rodrigo Simms were convicted of murder and three counts of attempting to murder Sophie Ellis and Cheryl Shaw, at Leicester Crown Court in March 2005 and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

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