150 armed officers stand guard outside court as Dale Cregan appears accused of murdering two Manchester policewomen

Huge security presence in place as Dale Cregan, who is also charged with murders of father and son David and Mark Short, arrived at court for the start of his trial

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The Independent Online

Around 150 armed police officers stood guard outside Preston Crown Court today, as the trial of a man accused of killing two policewomen in a gun and grenade attack began.

A huge security presence was in place as Dale Cregan, who is also charged with murders of father and son David and Mark Short, arrived at court for the start of his trial.

The one-eyed 29-year-old was taken into Preston Crown Court just before 11am and sat slightly apart from the nine other defendants, at the front right of the dock.

Cregan's co-accused are variously charged with helping or taking part in one of the four murders, firearms offences or assisting an offender.

Cregan alone is charged with the murder of the two police officers. All 10 will face a jury trial, having previously pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In front of the dock, around 20 barristers, representing the defendants, sat in two rows as preliminary legal issues were discussed ahead of a jury being selected for the trial.

The hearing began after Mr Justice Holroyde entered the courtroom and Cregan replied “Yes” when asked to confirm his name, read out by the clerk of the court, along with the other defendants.

Cregan is charged with the murders of father and son David and Mark Short in the months before killing Pcs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, in a gun and grenade attack. Relatives of the two officers did not attend court today.

The dock was packed with Cregan, the nine other defendants and around 15 security guards as proceedings began in Court 1 amid high security.

Pcs Hughes and Bone were murdered as they responded to a report of a burglary in Hattersley, Greater Manchester, on the morning of September 18 last year.

Four months earlier, former amateur boxer Mark Short was gunned down at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden, Manchester, on the evening of May 25.

His 46-year-old father was found dead on August 10 following a blast at a house in nearby Clayton.

Cregan, Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Luke Livesey, 27, from Hattersley, Damian Gorman, 38, from Glossop, Ryan Hadfield, 28, from Droylsden, and Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, are all accused of the murder of Mark Short and the attempted murders of three others in the pub at the time - John Collins, Ryan Pridding and Michael Belcher.

Accused of the murder of David Short are Cregan, Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, Anthony Wilkinson, 38, from Manchester, and Jermaine Ward, 24. All four are also jointly accused of the attempted murder of Sharon Hark on the same day, and a single charge of causing an explosion.

Wilkinson is additionally charged with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and Mohammed Ali, 32, from Chadderton, Greater Manchester, is accused of assisting an offender.

After a short adjournment the process began of selecting 12 jurors to hear the trial.

Around 40 potential jurors were crammed into court to be addressed by Mr Justice Holroyde.

“It's rather a tight squeeze,” he told them.

“As you can see it's a court with a lot of people in it, so space is at a premium,” he said.

Jurors will be picked by random ballot after first completing a questionnaire, several pages long, to ensure they have no links to those involved in the trial.

The jurors were summoned for jury service for two weeks, but Mr Justice Holroyde told them the trial will be “rather longer” and will exceed 10 weeks.

The judge told jurors the trial involved the killing of the two members of the Short family and the two police officers.

The trial was adjourned for lunch until 2pm.