Manchester

Dale Cregan murders: Routine 999 call ended in officers' slaying

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Media captionOn arrival at Hyde police station Cregan said: "I've murdered two police officers"

It was a seemingly routine call-out to a housing estate in Greater Manchester - the type police officers attend every day.

There was nothing to suggest it would end up in the execution-style shooting of two unarmed female police officers on the quiet estate.

Identifying himself as Adam Gartree, the caller dialled 999 telling police operators someone had thrown a concrete slab through the back window of his house on Abbey Gardens, Mottram and run off.

But, that caller was in fact Britain's most wanted man Dale Cregan who was already being hunted by police for the murders of father-and-son Mark and David Short.

Grenade on fireplace

Cregan had stayed the previous night at 30 Abbey Gardens, arriving there late at night by taxi. He had only a vague connection with the occupant, who lived there with his partner and her child.

During his trial at Preston Crown Court, Nicholas Clarke QC, prosecuting, said the family knew Cregan and were "terrified" by his presence.

On arrival, he placed a hand grenade on the fireplace in full view of the man whose house he had invaded, "should he need any reminder of Cregan's capabilities", Mr Clarke said.

They made no attempt to inform the police of his whereabouts.

The fugitive then drank beer and smoked cigars, which he sent the householder out to buy.

The following morning, Cregan was perfectly plausible in his call to police at 10:16 BST, according to police logs, as he gave a description of the bogus offender and the direction in which he fled.

Cregan appeared to end the call cordially telling the operator "Thanks very much... I'll be waiting".

Immediately paralysed

However, those final words were the catalyst for what has been described as the "darkest day in the history of the Greater Manchester Police force" by Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy.

The job was passed to two female officers PC Nicola Hughes, from Diggle, Oldham and PC Fiona Bone who lived in Sale.

As the two unsuspecting officers reached the front garden of the house at 10:52, Mr Clarke said Cregan opened the door and fired at them with his pistol with an extended magazine that was fully loaded.

Mr Clarke said PC Hughes tried to run but was hit in the back below her body armour. She was immediately paralysed and fell forwards on to the path. Cregan shot at her three more times.

PC Bone, who was trapped in the garden, tried to shoot Cregan with a stun gun but fell as he fired a total of 24 bullets at her, Mr Clarke told the court.

Mr Clarke said only 31 seconds elapsed between PC Hughes switching off the police car engine and PC Bone firing the Taser - such was the speed of the attack.

Cregan then turned back to PC Hughes, who he shot in the head with his last bullet before throwing a grenade, described as his "calling card" during his trial, towards the officers and discarding the pistol.

Det Supt Simon Barraclough said: "He discharged 32 rounds of ammunition - these were all the bullets he had."

'Done two coppers'

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Media captionDale Cregan lay in wait with a Glock pistol and a hand grenade

Seconds later, he drove off at "enormous speed" in the householder's BMW, before springing yet another surprise.

Rather than making a getaway Cregan, who was the subject of a national manhunt - with a £50,000 reward for information leading to his conviction - then pulled up at Hyde police station and handed himself in.

CCTV footage shows him arriving at the police station and giving himself up.

He put his arms out to be handcuffed and told the counter clerk: "I'm wanted by the police and I've done two coppers."

He then told an officer: "I dropped the gun at the scene and I've murdered two police officers.

"You were hounding my family so I took it out on yous."

He later expressed remorse the officers he murdered were women.

"... sorry about those two that have been killed, I wish it was men," he said.

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