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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Adam Everett & Dan Haygarth & Stephen Topping

Ten minutes that saw Paul Russell's 'world fall apart' following Thomas Cashman killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

A man jailed for helping Thomas Cashman cover up the murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel told detectives he was no friend of the killer. Paul Russell has been locked up for 22 months following his actions in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The 41-year-old disposed of Cashman's clothing and drove him back to his van following the fatal shooting of nine-year-old Olivia, the Liverpool Echo reports. But in his police interview, Russell insisted he "didn't want to drop him off", telling cops: "I don't like him anyway."

Liverpool Crown Court heard extracts from conversations Russell had with police on August 28 last year, six days on from the killing of Olivia on Kingsheath Avenue in Dovecot, Liverpool. In an extract read by Henry Riding, prosecuting, the court heard Russell describing the moment he received a phone call from his girlfriend.

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He said: "When she phoned me, my heart. My world just fell apart. I don't like him anyway."

Cashman 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."

Olivia Pratt-Korbel (Liverpool Echo)

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."

About events at the house while Cashman was there, Russell said: "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."

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.

Thomas Cashman (PA)

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.

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.

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.

Sentencing Russell, Justice Amanda Yip said: "Gun crime is always serious. As this and other cases demonstrate, when firearms are discharged, fatalities and injuries can be caused to anyone - including those with no connection to whatever has motivated the shooting.

"The use of guns also spreads fear in the wider community. Those who assist offenders who use guns must expect to be imprisoned.

Liverpool Crown Court (Liverpool Echo)

"In most cases, sentences will be substantial. That message needs to be understood.

"In your case, there is a balance to be struck. After discovering the dreadful truth that an innocent child had lost her life, you came forward to the police.

"You named Mr Cashman despite genuine fear of consequences for you and your family. You cooperated with the authorities and were willing to give evidence.

"You accepted your own guilt. All of this puts you in a very different situation to others who have chosen to remain silent.

"Your willingness to come forward and to assist demonstrates a recognition of the suffering caused to Olivia’s family and the courage to overcome your fears to do the right thing once you knew a child had died. I am satisfied that your cooperation with the authorities has come at the cost of a serious and real threat to you.

"You now face an uncertain future. Upon your release, you will not be allowed to return to Merseyside and will lose contact with family and friends.

"You will have to live under a new identity. You have suffered and will continue to suffer real interference with your family life."

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