Darren Becouarn, 33, shot Kevin McGuire, 37, and Nathan Jones, 24, inside Crosby Health and Leisure on St John’s Road.
Becouarn, from Wirral, began training at the gym in the weeks running up to the murder.
On the morning of October 1, 1998 he pulled a handgun from his gym bag and shot the two men dead. He then jumped on the back of a waiting motorbike and escaped.
Becouarn was jailed for life in 2000 after being found guilty of two counts of murder at Liverpool Crown Court.
However the ECHO can now reveal that Becouarn, one of Liverpool’s most infamous killers, was released from prison last year.
Becouarn was charged with murder in January 1999 after he was picked out during an identity parade. He faced a trial later that year.
Both Mr McGuire and Mr Jones had criminal records. Mr McGuire had been jailed for 30 months in 1995 for kidnap and assault. Mr Jones had convictions for a public order offence and assault. Both men were from the Crosby area and were said to have connections in Liverpool’s security industry.
The close friends were training in the gym on the morning of October 1. Mr McGuire’s wife witnessed the murder and told Liverpool Crown Court what happened.
She said: “Kevin fell backwards against a weights rack and I was screaming ‘no’. I put my hands up and shouted ‘leave him alone.’
“The gunman was pointing the gun at me and I called back to Kevin and covered him with my body. I just closed my eyes and thought of the children.
“I then heard a bustling noise and realised the gunman had gone out.
“I put my arms around Kev and I was whispering in his ear. I was saying ‘Don’t die. Don’t leave us. You’ve got to fight.”
One of the owners of the gym said that a stranger, who had been in training in the gym that morning, asked ‘where the toilets were’.
The man was directed towards the changing roooms at the back of the gym.
The owner said the stranger then emerged from the changing rooms with his coat on, carrying a bag. The man sat on a bench near the front door, with his holdall between his legs.
He said he might have heard a brief conversation with Mr McGuire.
He said: “I heard a bang. I immediately stood up and saw Nathan Jones just running past me. I then saw the gunman shoot Kevin McGuire dead.”
He said: “I was watching in disbelief. It all seemed to be happening in slow-motion.
“Kevin fell across the dumbells. His wife jumped on him shouting ‘leave him alone. ‘
“As Kevin fell, blood was coming out of his mouth. The gunman was walking forwards still in the same stance.
“He turned and pointed the weapon at me and I ducked down below the counter.
“After a few seconds I peeked around the counter and saw the gunman fumbling with his holdall. Then he left the gym.”
Becouarn’s barrister claimed Mr McGuire and Mr Jones were heavily involved in the city’s underworld and taxed drug dealers.
Both victims are said to have played for a local rugby union club. Becouarn always denied having anything to do with the two murders and claimed to have been ‘framed.’
He had a previous conviction for firearms offences and had served time in prison. The court heard that he was linked to the motorbike which was used as an escape vehicle. Prosecutors claimed Becouarn was paid to murder the men and that it was a ‘contract killing.’
A jury failed to reach a verdict after the first trial. But Becouarn was found guilty of both murders after a second trial in 2000 and jailed for life.