Dale Cregan trial: Police killer sentenced to whole of life in jail

Chris Buckler looks at what may have driven Dale Cregan to murder

Dale Cregan will spend the rest of his life in jail for four murders, including those of two police officers in Greater Manchester.

Cregan had admitted killing PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, and father and son David and Mark Short.

He also admitted the attempted murders of John Collins, Michael Belcher and Ryan Pridding during the attack on Mark Short at a Droylsden pub in May 2012.

He was cleared of a charge of attempted murder of Sharon Hark.

Passing a whole-life sentence at Preston Crown Court, Mr Justice Holroyde QC said Cregan had had "a cold-blooded and ruthless determination to end the lives of PCs Bone and Hughes".

"You acted with premeditated savagery [and] drew those two officers into a calculated trap to kill them," he said.

Decade-long feud

Four other men were jailed for their parts in the killings of David and Mark Short and one further man was jailed for assisting an offender.

Dale Cregan's trial and that of nine others lasted four months and was conducted amidst high security.

Each day, the defendants were brought and returned to prison by armed convoy.

As the verdicts were read out, Cregan laughed and joked with the other defendants and smiled as he was acquitted of Sharon Hark's attempted murder - the defence offered by his lawyer for that charge had been that if Cregan had set out to kill her, he would have succeeded.

Shortly after the court reconvened for sentencing, the public gallery almost as tightly packed as the dock where the six facing jail were flanked by 18 prison officers.

Cregan once more laughed and joked, stopping only once Mr Justice Holroyde delivered his sentence.

The judge told Cregan he had committed "two quite appalling crimes of murder" in killing PCs Hughes and Bone, whose families were in tears in court.

Cregan offered no reaction to his sentence, which will see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

The murder of Mark Short at the Cotton Tree Inn by Cregan, Luke Livesey and Damian Gorman came after a decade-long feud between families.

Following the death, Cregan, Anthony Wilkinson and Jermaine Ward killed Mark Short's father David in a gun and grenade attack.

With the help of Mohammed Imran Ali, the three then went on the run.

Cregan later lured PCs Hughes and Bone to their deaths before handing himself in to police.

Livesey, 28, and Gorman, 38, were each jailed for 33 years for the murder of Mark Short and the three attempted murders at the Cotton Tree Inn in Droylsden.

Wilkinson, 34, and Ward, 24, were jailed for 35 years and 33 years respectively for killing David Short at his Clayton home in August.

Ali, 32, was jailed for seven years for assisting an offender.

In a statement delivered outside court, Nicola Hughes' family said they would live with what Cregan did "every single hour of every single day for the rest of our lives".

Bryn Hughes: "Our lives will never be the same again."

"He has lost nothing. He had already committed two murders and was destined for a lifetime behind bars.

"He chose on that day to murder our daughter and leave our lives completely devastated - a life barely worth living without her."

Fiona Bone's father Paul said he had been told "it gets easier in time but at this moment, every Tuesday lunchtime is difficult as that is when our lives changed forever".

"Yes we have regrets that Fiona was taken from us but we have no regrets that she was a police officer with Greater Manchester Police and we're extremely proud of her life and achievements," he said.

Michelle Kelly, David Short's partner and mother of Mark Short, said: "We are happy with the sentences given out to the ones convicted. We are not happy with the total outcome of the verdicts."

'Rots in hell'

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Sir Peter Fahy said his officers still felt a "huge sense of loss" at the "brutal murders" of their colleagues.

He added: "I have no feelings for Dale Cregan and what he has done, I'm pleased that he will be locked up for the rest of his life.

"The Home Secretary has given a guarantee on that and I expect other future home secretaries to honour that guarantee."

Ian Hanson: "After he has stopped being a drain on society he can rot in hell"

Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for CPS North West, said all four murders had been "nothing short of executions - planned, premeditated and cold-blooded".

Ian Hanson, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, said: "I have no problem whatsoever with the thought of him staring through one eye at a locked cell door wondering what kind of life he is missing and after he has stopped being a drain on society he can rot in hell.

"Dale Cregan wanted to be a big man, a hero. He has completely failed to become anything like that."

"Contrast that with what Nicola and Fiona leave us. Their legacy is one of decency, humanity, compassion and public service and they will never be forgotten."

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