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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Jonathan Humphries

'Don't say nothing' - How Paul Russell faced up to his crimes and did the right thing in the end

There was no love lost for Paul Russell in the public gallery of Courtroom 51 at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday.

The family of Olivia Pratt-Korbel bristled in anger as barrister Tom Schofield outlined the unenviable and unusual situation his 41-year-old client had found himself in. Russell, of Snowberry Road in West Derby, is paying a heavy price for allowing himself to be pulled into the toxic orbit of murderous gangland thug Thomas Cashman.

Forever linked to one of the most horrific and upsetting crimes in Merseyside history, Russell is spending his days in an undisclosed prison under an assumed name after a number of threats.. He has been handed a threat to life notice by police, known as an Osman Warning, and will likely be unable to return to Merseyside for many years, if ever.

READ MORE: Paul Russell and ex who was key Cashman witness to 'rekindle relationship'

As Henry Riding, junior counsel for the prosecution, confirmed during Russell's sentencing for one count of assisting an offender at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday, the Crown accepted Russell was "terrified" of Cashman. Indeed, Cashman had been spotted on CCTV driving past Russell on Snowberry Road the day after the murder, before stopping and putting the window down. According to Russell, the killer told him: "Don't say nothing".

Yet Russell did say something. One local man, who knew both Cashman and Russell, told the ECHO: "It took a lot for him to do that. It's ripped his whole family apart, but he's done what's right when he found out about Olivia.

"I know he's lost a lot by coming forward, he's not able to see his family or nothing and that's a big thing as he was a family man."

Cashman is now buried under a life sentence with a 42-year minimum term after being found guilty of Olivia's murder at Manchester Crown Court last month. The jury heard he had ambushed convicted drug-dealer Joseph Nee in Kingsheath Avenue, Dovecot, on August 22 last year.

Thomas Cashman (Merseyside Police)

However, despite being shot three times, Nee managed to scramble to his feet and run when Cashman's 9mm Glock handgun malfunctioned. He then barged into the home of Olivia's mum Cheryl Korbel, who had stepped outside to see what was going on.

As the screaming Cheryl tried to keep Nee out of her family home, Cashman pulled out his backup weapon, a 0.3 calibre revolver, and blindly fired a shot which passed through the front door, through Cheryl's wrist and into Olivia's chest, who had been cowering behind her mum.

Cashman fled on foot to the home of Russell's partner, who he had been having a secret affair with. She called Russell and a short time later he made the disastrous decision to help the 34-year-old killer, despite knowing he had shot someone. It is true that Russell had no idea at that point an innocent little girl was the victim, but agreeing to help dispose of a gunman's clothing, an obvious potential source of critical evidence, is an extremely serious criminal offence whatever the circumstances.

In both the trial of Cashman last month and the sentencing of Russell yesterday, the court heard how Russell and his partner learned the life-ruining truth the following day. The trial judge, Mrs Justice Yip, summarised their reaction to seeing the news of Olivia's death. She told Russell: "You learnt of Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s death the following morning and appreciated the gravity of what Mr Cashman had done. You were plainly shocked. Your partner said that you projectile vomited and that you and she had a very emotional conversation."

That conversation proved crucial to seeing justice done. Both Russell and his partner had clearly been willing to associate with criminals capable of despicable violence, and both would have been well aware of the consequences of speaking to the police about a man like Cashman.

But the murder of a nine-year-old girl in her own home was, as Chief Constable Serena Kennedy described shortly after the murder, "beyond the pale". The couple approached a well-known and respected local community worker, who arranged a secret meeting in Speke retail park between Russell and a detective sergeant. At that meeting, Russell described Cashman as the killer.

It is true that Russell conveniently left out his own efforts to help Cashman at that stage. Both Russell and his partner were arrested a short time later, and initially played down their involvement and links to Cashman.

But, before too much longer, the police had the whole picture of what had gone on that night, and Russell agreed to plead guilty despite his disappointment at not being given immunity from prosecution.

The court heard upon his release from prison, Russell will be given a new identity. His parents have even been relocated out of Merseyside. It is true that for Olivia's family, this is but a drop in the ocean compared to their loss.

The case of James Yates, who went to great lengths to hide the weapon which killed 11-year-old Rhys Jones 15 years to the day before Olivia's murder, was referenced in Russell's sentencing hearing yesterday. But there is a world of difference between the two men.

As Justice Yip told him: "It is apparent from the transcripts that you were expressing genuine fear about potential consequences for you and your immediate and wider family. Having explored this with the police, the Prosecution accept that your fears were genuine and well-founded.

"The joint decision you and your partner made to come forward was significant in the investigation of the murder and was a brave one."

Russell deserved his 22 month prison sentence. He helped a man he knew had shot and probably killed someone, although he did not know the victim was a child. Despite his dislike or even hatred of Cashman, the two clearly had a long association and on Cashman's evidence sold drugs together.

But despite his considerable mistakes, he had no involvement in the planning or carrying out of the shooting. In the end, he did the right thing and without the evidence of him and his partner, a difficult investigation may have become impossible.


Olivia's brother walks out of court as Paul Russell defence ask for suspended sentence

Paul Russell to be given new identity after helping child killer Thomas Cashman

Olivia Pratt-Korbel's family in court for Paul Russell sentencing

Man who helped Thomas Cashman to cover up Olivia Pratt-Korbel's murder jailed

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