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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Adam Everett & Paul Britton

Child killer Thomas Cashman's chilling desperate threats to love rival to hide his secret

A man who helped Thomas Cashman in the aftermath of the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel told detectives he was 'terrified' of him - and described how the child killer gave him one final message.

Paul Russell, 41, who was last week jailed for 22 months after admitting assisting an offender, also said Cashman had a "reputation" and that "people were scared of him" while being interviewed in custody. He disposed of the gunman's clothing and drove him back to his van following the fatal shooting of the nine-year-old girl on Kingsheath Avenue in Dovecot on the evening of August 22 last year.

Henry Riding, prosecuting, read extracts from conversations Russell had with police following his detention on August 28, 2022 to Liverpool Crown Court during his sentencing on Wednesday. In his interview, he said of the moment he received a phone call from his girlfriend saying that Cashman was at her house: "When she phoned me, my heart. My world just fell apart. I don't like him anyway."

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Of attending the address and seeing Cashman there, Russell said: "I didn't wanna see him to be fair. Devastated." He said he had known the murderer "for years", but added: "We're not like friends or nothing like that. Why's he trust me? I'm not his mate or nothing." Russell said of events at the house while Cashman was present: "I'm not sure if he said 'can I do a joint?'. I'm not sure. See look, I just wanted him out me house. That was it.

"That was my main objective, I didn't want him in. I didn't wanna drop him off, didn't want to. I was thinking of something in that split second what I could say something not to drop him off, but there was nothing for me to say. But me missus wanted him gone fast."

Cashman, reports the Liverpool Echo, gained entry via the open back door of the property while his partner was asleep, with Russell saying: "If I could turn the back the clock now, I'd have locked the door. He was there for five or 10 minutes while I was there and was gone."

Paul Russell (Liverpool Echo)

He admitted being scared of the self-described "high level" drug dealer, saying: "He's got a reputation obviously, hasn't he? People are scared of him." Russell confessed that he was "really scared", adding: "Look. I'm terrified of him."

He also recalled Cashman driving past the house the day after the shooting and "pulling up and saying 'don't say nothing'", stating: "He was whispering summat to me again. Again, I couldn't really make it out. He's saying 'don't say nothing'. It was proper low."

Cashman's trial at Manchester Crown Square Crown Court was told that he had "garden hopped" to Russell's partner's home in the aftermath of the incident. She cannot be named for legal reasons, but reported that she had phoned her boyfriend after being woken by the killer at her bedside.

Russell too attended the address after this call, at which point Cashman - of Grenadier Drive in West Derby - was said to have told him at the doorstep "I've done Joey". This was an apparent reference to Joseph Nee, the intended target of the attack.

He meanwhile said to Cashman "lad, don’t wanna hear it, don’t tell me nothing". Russell then drove Cashman to Aspes Road, where he had parked his Citroen Berlingo van before heading to the scene of the shooting on foot.

The shooter left the dark clothing he had been wearing on the kitchen floor beside the woman's washing machine. Russell later took these clothes round to the home of Craig Byrne, an associate of the murderer, on Snowberry Road as he walked his dog late that night.

Dad-of-two Cashman was given a navy blue pair of his co-defendant's Under Armour tracksuit bottoms during his pitstop at the woman's home. These were later discovered in a cardboard box at his sister's home on Mab Lane, and when tested were found to contain his DNA and two particles of gunpower residue on the outer surface of the right leg.

Olivia, nine (Liverpool Echo)

He was also handed a black and grey Under Armour t-shirt belonging to Russell, which was subsequently located in the box. A speck of Cashman's blood was found on the garment.

Cashman had allegedly told the woman upon his arrival at the address that he "didn't know where else to go" and "trusted" her. They had previously had a secret sexual relationship, which had first developed two years prior after they exchanged a series of flirty Instagram messages.

But he accused her of trying to "ruin" him and described her as a "woman scorned" after he apparently refused to leave his long-term partner for her. Cashman also claimed that Russell owed him a £25,000 drug debt - which he said had led to him issuing threats to take hold of his graft phone and car - and suggested that she had been motivated to frame him for the £200,000 Crimestoppers reward money.

His account from the witness box was that he had received the incriminating clothing at an earlier date, following a sexual encounter with the woman. This came after she had been one of the first people on the scene of another shooting, in which a man was injured.

The jury heard during a three-and-a-half-week trial that Cashman "lay in wait" for Nee while armed with two loaded guns as his intended target watched a Liverpool FC v Manchester United football match on the television at his friend Timmy Naylor's house on Finch Lane. When he left the address with another man, Paul Abraham, the gunman approached them from behind and opened fire three times with a self-loading pistol.

Nee was shot in the midriff at this point and stumbled to the floor as a result of his injuries. David McLachlan KC, prosecuting, described how Cashman then stood over the helpless man and attempted to discharge the firearm again as he begged: "Please don't, don't lad."

But the gun malfunctioned, and Nee was able to escape. Cashman however continued his "ruthless pursuit" as he fled towards the Korbel family home.

Olivia's mum Cheryl Korbel then tussled with Nee in an attempt to keep her front door shut and to keep him out of the property, but the assailant fired another shot with a second gun - a revolver - at this point. This bullet passed through the door and travelled through the mother's hand before striking Olivia in the chest.

She had been upstairs in bed at the time, but was heard to say "mum, I'm scared" as she ran to the bottom of the stairs to her mum having been startled by the gunfire outside. With Nee by now inside, Cashman then forced his arm around the door and fired one final shot which became lodged in the doorframe.

Olivia was rushed to Alder Hey Children's Hospital after being critically injured, but was pronounced dead shortly before 11.30pm. Nee meanwhile was bundled into a car by his associates and taken to Whiston Hospital, later being transferred to Aintree Hospital.

The attacker was identified to have worn distinctive Monterrain tracksuit bottoms which matched a pair owned by Cashman. He had been observed on CCTV making a number of trips past Finch Lane on the day in question, including an apparent attempt to carry out the shooting at around 4pm that afternoon having spotted Nee's van outside - but this was thwarted after the then 35-year-old left to visit Screwfix.

Cashman however claimed in his evidence that he had no involvement in the shooting and was counting £10,000 in cash and "smoking a spliff" at Mr Byrne's house. He had admitted being a "high level" drug dealer who made up to £5,000 per week selling cannabis, and his various trips around the area throughout the day were apparently concerned with his involvement in the supply of the class B substance.

The defendant also stated he had "no problems" with the Nee family and counted them as friends. He said on the witness box: "I'm not a killer, I'm a dad."

Cashman was found unanimously guilty of murder Olivia, attempting to murder Nee, wounding with intent against Cheryl Korbel and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 42 years last month.

Read more of today's top stories here.


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