The news that Merseyside and the rest of the country have been waiting for since the atrocious death of Olivia Pratt-Korbel arrived at a hastily arranged press conference this evening.
Merseyside Police announced that Thomas Cashman, 34, has been charged with the murder of the nine-year-old after she was shot dead in Kingsheath Avenue, Dovecot, on August 22. Olivia was in her home when Joseph Nee, 35, ran through her front door in a desperate attempt to escape a gunman carrying two firearms who had opened fire outside.
The killer followed Nee through the door and fired a shot from a .38 calibre revolver which hit Olivia's mum Cheryl Korbel in the arm and then struck the schoolgirl in the chest. Nee was also wounded with the other weapon, a 9mm Glock handgun.
Speaking to the media at Merseyside Police HQ, Senior Crown Prosecutor Maria Corr, from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Cashman, of Grenadier Drive, West Derby, also stands accused of the attempted murders of Cheryl Korbel and Joseph Nee, as well as two charges of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Another man, 40-year-old Paul Russell of Snowberry Road, West Derby, has also been charged with assisting an offender. Both men are due to appear at Liverpool Magistrates' Court on Monday morning.
However Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Kameen, head of investigations at the force, was keen to stress that a huge amount of work remains ongoing to bring charges against other potential offenders involved in the tragedy last month.
He told the media: "If I could remind everybody that this is still very much a live investigation. And therefore, our work involved in it continues in earnest.
"At the beginning of the investigation, we were firm in our commitment to finding all of those involved in this case. This includes the people who tried to shield and protect individuals, and those who supplied the weapons and indeed, those who are hiding the weapons used in this attack.
"I therefore still need people to come forward and speak to us. We have had an overwhelming response and levels of support from the public since the tragic murder of Olivia, I want to ask for that continued support so we can keep the promise we made to Olivia's family and the local community to ensure that those involve face justice."
Despite tip-offs leading to thorough searches of West Derby Golf Course and Yew Tree Cemetery, the murder weapons have yet to be found.
Also speaking at the conference tonight, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green paid tribute to the work of his officers. He said: "It's been six weeks since the tragic murder of nine-year-old Olivia, and today we have arrived a significant stage in the investigations.
"The investigation team, with support from officers and staff from across the UK, have worked relentlessly since the murder on August 22. It has been a complex enquiry, which has been supported throughout by Olivia's mum and dad, and the wider Merseyside community.
"I would like to take the opportunity to recognise the dedication and professionalism of everyone who has been involved, and in particular the senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Mark Baker, and the Crown Prosecution Services, in bringing the investigation to this point."
DCS Kameen added: "Finally, our thoughts today are with Olivia’s Mum and Dad, Cheryl and John Francis, and their families, who throughout the last few weeks have shown incredible strength, courage, and dignity."