Police seized “extremely expensive” encrypted phones from two men accused of murdering John Kinsella and Paul Massey.
Kinsella, 53, was gunned down while walking his dogs with his pregnant girlfriend Wendy Owen near their Rainhill home.
The “notorious” armed robber was shot four times by a cyclist on a country track, near junction 7 of the M62, on May 5 this year.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Miss Owen was also shot at by the killer, who struck shortly before 7am, but managed to flee.
Manchester’s ‘Mr Big’ Paul Massey, 55, was killed outside his Salford home by a submachine gun-wielding assassin on July 26, 2015.
Prosecutors allege Mark Fellows and Steven Boyle carried out both murders – Fellows acting as the shooter and Boyle as his “spotter”.
A jury today heard from Detective Constable Neil Larsen, of the Major Crime Unit at Merseyside Police.
He said Fellows had a contracted number ending 1700, which was registered to his home, in Sandy Lane West, Warrington.
When arrested onboard a plane returning from Amsterdam to Manchester Airport on May 30, he was carrying an Apple iPhone.
Data from his network provider Vodafone showed he used the 1700 number to contact his girlfriend on the evening of April 28.
Prosecutors say the pair failed in an attempt to murder Kinsella the next day, because they “arrived too late to carry out the killing”.
DC Larsen said during the period Fellows travelled to and from Rainhill on April 29, there was no call or text activity on that number.
Paul Greaney, QC, prosecuting, confirmed with the witness this included when Fellows was captured on CCTV footage at 7.51am.
He said an image showed him cycling through a lay-by in Warrington Road, Rainhill, while seemingly holding a handheld device.
DC Larsen confirmed there was no activity recorded for the 1700 number on May 5, until Fellows rang his girlfriend at 8.22am.
No record of contract phone being used at time of murder
The time it was out of use included 7.30am, when Fellows was shown cycling home one-handed, using a device in his left hand.
The detective said cell site evidence showed Fellows used the 1700 number when shopping at the Trafford Centre that afternoon.
However, there was no record of him later using the phone when prosecutors allege he ditched his GT Avalanche Sport mountain bike.
Police also seized an Aquaris X smartphone when they arrested Fellows, on the same day they found one at Boyle’s Rochdale home.
Mr Greaney previously told the jury the Aquaris X was an encrypted phone, using Encrochat modification.
He said: “You might be wondering why you have not seen such handsets in Carphone Warehouse or some other such store.
“That is because they are extremely expensive and cost £1,300 to £1,500 for six months’ use and moreover because they are sold on websites visited by those engaged in, or interested in, crime.
£1,300 to £1,500 for six months’ use
“Why are such devices of interest to criminals? It is because they are able to boot in two modes. When only the power button is pressed to turn the handset on, the phone boots into a standard Android home screen. But that’s a dummy screen.
“When the handset is switched on by pressing the power button together with the volume button, the phone boots to a secret, encrypted partition, which facilitates secret communication.
“Without a password, the content of the handset cannot be decrypted and, indeed, it has proved impossible to decrypt the devices.”
DC Larsen said it was the first time he had come across such phones, which both had non-subscribed SIMs, with a Dutch company, KPN.
The officer said Fellows’ Aquaris phone, with a foreign number starting 319 and ending 0540, was first activated on May 11, at 7.46pm.
However, he discovered Fellows used another non-subscribed number, ending 4609, which he linked by its IMEI code to another Aquaris device.
New phones were activated days after murder
Police did not recover that handset, but found it was last used at 8.09pm on May 11, within half an hour of him first using his new Aquaris.
The detective said he did not know when the previous Aquaris was first activated, but it was prior to May 5 – the day of Kinsella’s murder.
DC Larsen said Boyle’s Aquaris, with a number ending 4519, was first used on May 9.
He said four other numbers were potentially associated with Boyle. One was a SIM card found in a bin near to his home in Sandiway, Heywood.
DC Larsen said this number, ending 0880 and a Vodafone pay as you go number, was discovered alongside other items linked to Boyle.
The detective said he had three other contract numbers, one registered to his home and two to a previous home address.
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There were no questions from defence counsel about the phones.
Boyle, 35, and Fellows, 37, deny two counts of murder and the attempted murder of Miss Owen.