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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Eleanor Barlow & Ellie Kemp

Man who assisted gunman Thomas Cashman in hours after Olivia Pratt-Korbel murder is jailed

A man has been jailed for 22 months for helping convicted murderer Thomas Cashman after he fatally shot nine-year-old Olivia Pratt Korbel.

Paul Russell, who pleaded guilty to assisting an offender at a hearing in October last year, was “terrified” of Cashman and was not aware he had killed the schoolgirl when he helped him, Liverpool Crown Court heard on Wednesday (April 26). The 41-year-old met police in the days after Olivia’s death and told them the man responsible was “Tommy Cashman”, the sentencing hearing was told.

His guilty plea could not be reported until after the trial of Cashman, who was found guilty of the schoolgirl’s murder last month. Russell, of Snowberry Road, West Derby, Liverpool, admitted driving Cashman from an address in the aftermath of Olivia’s shooting, which happened at about 10pm on August 22 last year when the gunman chased convicted drug dealer Joseph Nee into the family home in Kingsheath Avenue, firing through the door and also injuring her mother, Cheryl Korbel.

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Russell also disposed of a bag given to him by Cashman by taking it to another address. The defendant, wearing a black suit and white shirt, appeared via videolink from a remote location for the hearing, which was attended by members of Olivia’s family.

Henry Riding, prosecuting, said: “Mr Russell not only admitted what he had done to assist Mr Cashman in the course of police interviews, he also named Mr Cashman in the course of the very first police interview.” He said Russell had offered to give evidence against Cashman as a prosecution witness.

Thomas Cashman, 34, was jailed last moth (Merseyside Police/PA Wire)

Cashman’s trial heard that the killer fled the scene of the shooting as Olivia lay fatally injured and went to the house of a woman he had been in a relationship with. The woman, who has been given lifetime anonymity, told the court Cashman had changed his clothes and she heard him say he had “done Joey”.

Russell, who was also in a relationship with the woman, drove the killer from the address to Aspes Road, where he had earlier left his Citroen Berlingo van, and later took a bag containing his clothes to Snowberry Road, where friends of Cashman lived. In police interviews, Russell said he did not like Cashman and just wanted to get him away from the woman’s house.

He told officers: “I’m terrified of him.” The court heard at the time he was aware Cashman had been involved in a shooting but did not find out about Olivia’s death until the next morning.

He said he saw Cashman the following day and was warned: “Don’t say nothing.” But, the court heard, that day Russell spoke to a trusted member of the community with a view to arranging to speak to police, who he made contact with the following day.

Sentencing Russell, Mrs Justice Yip said: “Those who assist offenders who use guns must expect to be imprisoned. That message needs to be understood.” She said a balance needed to be struck because Russell had gone to the police after “discovering the dreadful truth that an innocent child had lost her life” and had named Cashman despite genuine fear of the consequences.

The judge said she had no doubt many would think the sentence was “very lenient given the nature of the offending”. As the sentence was announced, Olivia’s father, John Francis Pratt, said: “Joke.”

Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot in her own home (Family Handout/PA Wire)

Tom Schofield, defending Russell, said: “He doesn’t for a moment suggest he is blameless in this case and he recognises that it’s right he should be punished.” He said moments after Russell was charged, last October, he was issued with a threat to life notice by police.

He had been remanded to a prison in Leeds but was transferred to another prison, under an assumed name, because of a threat to his safety. Mr Schofield said Russell would be given a new identity and not allowed to return to Merseyside on his release.

He said: “The defendant, for what it’s worth to the court and to others listening, is the epitome of remorse for what he did.”

Cashman was jailed for life with a minimum of 42 years earlier this month.

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