THE smirking killer of schoolboy Rhys Jones chatted up a woman he met online using an illicit phone hidden in his cell.
Sean Mercer — seen grinning in a £120 Ralph Lauren jumper in his first photo since being jailed for life — told her he is a model prisoner who deserves early release.
But his legal bid to get his sentence reduced will be hit by him breaking prison rules that can carry their own two-year jail term.
Stocky Mercer, now 29, began exchanging messages with the woman after liking a comment of hers on Instagram last August.
During their eight-month relationship, he wrote that he was in jail because he had “accidentally” hurt someone, and that he dreams of becoming a dad to “1, maybe 2 babies” when he is released.
A source said: “This kind of behaviour goes to the heart of what Mercer is like.
“On the one hand he’s trying to play the system by claiming he’s a reformed character so he can get out of prison earlier.
“On the other, rather than sticking to the rules, he’s openly using a mobile phone to have a relationship with a woman on the outside.
“Every contact is a criminal offence.
“Rather than pushing for early release, the authorities should be adding time to his sentence.”
Everton fan Rhys, 11, was shot dead as he walked home from football training across a pub car park in Liverpool in August 2007.
The killing by Mercer, then 16, was dramatised in ITV1’s Little Boy Blue, which aired again on Sunday.
On the one hand he’s claiming he’s a reformed character, on the other he’s openly using a mobile phone to have a relationship with a woman on the outside.
Mercer’s 2008 trial at Liverpool crown court heard he was a member of the notorious Croxteth Crew.
He armed himself with a revolver after hearing a rival was outside the Fir Tree pub.
He cycled there and fired several shots, fatally wounding Rhys.
Sentencing him, Judge Mr Justice Irwin said: “It appears to me it was your personality, not your immaturity, which was the key in this story.”
Timeline of agony
AUGUST 22, 2007 — Rhys Jones, 11, shot dead in Croxteth, Liverpool.
SEPTEMBER 6, 2007 — his father and brother carried his coffin into the city’s Anglican Cathedral.
APRIL 18, 2008 — Sean Mercer arrested and charged with murder.
DECEMBER 16, 2008 — He is handed a life sentence and ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years.
APRIL 2017 — ITV drama Little Boy Blue documenting the case is first aired, shocking the public.
MAY 2019 — It is reported that Mercer is “making a killing” selling drugs in Frankland jail and heads a prison gang.
OCTOBER 2019 — Mercer starts wooing a girl he met online using a secret mobile phone, despite it being against prison rules and punishable by a two-year jail term.
MAY 2020 — Rhys’s parents slam the killer after he appeals to get his sentence reduced on the basis he is now a “model prisoner”. The case is to be examined by a High Court judge.
2030 — The earliest Mercer can currently apply for parole.
Mercer was ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years — meaning he would not be eligible for parole until at least 2030.
But because he was sentenced as a juvenile, he can apply for a review halfway through.
His case will go before a High Court judge.
If they agree he has made “exceptional progress” and “matured” behind bars Mercer, who has served 11 years so far, could then apply to the Parole Board.
‘NO REGARD FOR THE LAW’
Such a move would be a hammer blow to Rhys’s parents Melanie and Stephen Jones.
Stephen said: “He had a fair trial.
“He should serve his full 22-year tariff.”
Tonight, campaigning Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “The fact that Sean Mercer has conducted an eight-month relationship from his prison cell using a mobile phone clearly shows he has no regard for the law.
“It will also be heartbreaking for Rhys’s parents to hear Mercer has enjoyed a romantic relationship.
“Their son was callously shot dead before he was ever able to experience having a proper girlfriend.”
Mercer’s female friend, who visited him three times in prison, said: “He told me he’d hung round with the wrong people and that he accidentally hurt someone.
“I googled him. One of my friends had watched the programme about him.
“He told me it was all portrayed differently to how he actually is, so I chose not to watch it.
“He used to want to explain himself and I would just say it wasn’t something I wanted to discuss.
“Whenever we did discuss it, he just said that he wasn’t the person that they make him out to be.”
The Sun Says
THE Sun always hoped the sickening murder of Rhys Jones would change Britain.
We demanded then a radical rethink by politicians and judges over the derisory sentences given to young thugs.
We were appalled that teenage killers could carry out terrible crimes but still swan out of jail in their mid-20s with their whole lives ahead of them.
Yet 13 years on there is the danger that could happen with Rhys’s own murderer.
Smirking Sean Mercer is not the model prisoner he aims to sell to the judge due to review his sentence. He has routinely flouted the law from his cell using an illegal mobile to scroll Instagram and chat up a girl — enough on its own for two more years behind bars.
That aside, Mercer was a pitiless, swaggering, gun-toting gangster who murdered a boy of 11. He got life in 2008 with a minimum of 22 years and no
parole until at least 2030.
There is no reason to soften that.
She said the killing “eats him up and he thinks about it every day”.
She added: “When I visited him, he was quite shy and nervous.
“He’s 6ft. He doesn’t get any grief inside prison.
“He said he doesn’t get trouble and people don’t faround with him.
“I didn’t really like him talking like a gangster because it doesn’t impress me.
“The last time I visited him, he was on edge and being weird. I cut off contact but he’s tried to get back in touch.”
She asked prison authorities to remove her pictures from his cell.
He’s just trying to get out as soon as he can. He has not changed.
Rhys’s dad Stephen
Mercer sent letters as well as texts.
One in October refers to mum Janette — who spent three years in jail for perverting justice by backing his lies following the murder.
Mercer wrote: “Things are developing nicely, you’ve even got me mum on side ‘ha ha’. She proper likes you as well.”
He added: “You’d fit straight into our family as well, just your personality is a real asset to go along with your sexiness.
“You literally brighten my day with your mad lil self.”
In March, The Sun revealed Mercer had been moved back to Category A prison HMP Frankland from soft HMP Dovegate after being caught with a phone for a second time.
The newly-emerged photograph was taken inside HMP Frankland, Co Durham, last year.
A source said: “Mercer is already planning for his release and knows he’ll still have plenty of life to live.
“He’s done loads of courses. He has studied personal training, sports science and nutrition.
Love Island’s Anna Vakili, 29, ‘pulls teen girl by hair as sis kicks her in FACE’
“He is hoping he’ll be able to show a load of certificates and good behaviour reports and convince a judge he’s a very different person now.”
Tonight, justice officials said they could not comment on ongoing sentence reviews.
Recordings from secret bugs in gang members’ homes heard in Susanna Reid’s ITV doc The Murder of Rhys Jones: Police Tapes
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL email@example.com