The criminals involved in the murder of little Olivia Pratt-Korbel will be brought to justice eventually, a former police chief has insisted.
Nine suspects have been arrested since the nine-year-old was shot dead at her home in Liverpool, yet no charges have been brought.
Ex-Met officer Det Chief Insp Peter Kirkham believes the case will be tough to crack owing to a gangland vow of silence – but it will only be a matter of time before her killers are caught.
He said: “It would not surprise me to find that it is towards the end of the year before we see any major developments.
“But I am confident that, sooner or later, we will see those involved brought to justice.”
Mr Kirkham claimed the fact several suspects in the case have been released on bail “suggests to me the police are sure they are on the right lines as bail puts them on tight timescales to decide whether or not to charge the suspects”.
He added: “We are still in the early stages of a complex investigation.
“Charging, let alone conviction, is still a long way away though, and weeks or months of hard work is needed.
“Even if there was insufficient evidence available, meaning they had to be released pending further enquiries, I would be extremely optimistic about finding more and more as enquiries reach deeper into their backgrounds.”
Olivia was killed on August 22 when the suspected gunman burst into her family home in Dovecot while chasing a male into the house.
Det Chief Supt Mark Kameen of Merseyside Police later released CCTV footage of a suspect fleeing the scene.
He said: “This man is toxic to our communities and if you are protecting him he is toxic to you.
“Those involved in serious and organised crime are being significantly disrupted by increased policing activity.
“We are making these areas toxic to those who commit crime.
“I said we would bare our teeth and that is precisely what we are doing.”
Olivia’s mum Cheryl Korbel last week issued an emotional plea calling on her daughter’s killer to hand himself in.
The 46-year-old, who was shot in the wrist during the attack, said: “You’ve done wrong, so you need to own up.”
Despite the gangland links, detectives investigating the death have received significant information.
The name of the main suspect was widely known within hours and shared with police, along with our reporter on the scene.
Members of the community allegedly planned to track him down and deliver their own justice.
One man told our reporter the name of the suspect, after we gained his trust.
But he asked that we never approach his door again for fear of reprisals.
He said: “If police need someone to turn grass, that’s just not going to happen.
“But the community has said what they need to say.
“People are talking because the rules have changed. A nine-year-old has been shot dead in her home.”
But a former probation officer told how he fears Olivia’s family may never get justice.
James Riley set up a group called Get Away ‘N’ Get Safe that steers Liverpool children from crime.
He said: “The worry is, as time goes on, that maybe they won’t find anything forensic. The gun may have been cleaned up or disposed of.
“The clothes the gunman was wearing will have been cleaned or burned. What can you do then?
“Someone will have given the name in. But you can have the same name 200 times and it is not evidence.
“Will the people involved turn on each other? It seems very unlikely. In the criminal underworld the one thing you do not want to be is a grass.
“People have been getting shot in Liverpool for years and when they arrive at the Royal Liverpool Hospital the police are called but they always refuse to co-operate.
“It doesn’t matter what they have done to you, you never tell.”
Olivia’s death is the latest of a number of horrific child killings over the years in Liverpool.
Other innocent victims include James Bulger, two, Rhys Jones, 11, Anthony Walker, 18, and, recently, Ava White, 12.
Cheryl paid tribute to her daughter last week. She said: “She was amazing. She loved life.
“She was my little shadow. She went everywhere with me. She never stopped talking and that’s what I miss the most, I can’t hear her.”