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Dale Cregan trial: Shootings started with a pub row - and 'ended with two police murders'

Manchester feud led to shootings of unarmed women officers, court told

A drunken late-night row in a pub culminated in a violent breakdown in relations between two feuding Manchester families and the murder of two unarmed women police officers, a court heard.

The trial of Dale Cregan was told that the shattering of an “uneasy peace” in an east Manchester community set in motion a serious of events resulting in the killing of PCs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, last September.

It is alleged the two officers were lured to their deaths by Mr Cregan in a false burglary report four months after the “matriarch” of one of the families was slapped in the face by a rival.

Mr Cregan, 29, who wears a black false eye, is accused of four murders and four attempted murders including those of PCs Bone and Hughes.

Preston Crown Court heard he threw a grenade  at the bodies of the two officers after discharging a magazine from his Glock firearm in the attack in Mottram. He had earlier gone on the run after taking part in the killings of the father and son David and Mark Short, it was claimed

Nine other men are also on trial accused in connection with a variety of charges including the Shorts’ murder, the attempted murder of three of their acquaintances and another woman, firearms offences and assisting an offender.

The court heard how Mr Cregan had been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Mark Short on 12 June. He refused to answer police questions and was released on bail. An attempt to rearrest him two months later when new evidence emerged, failed.

Mark Short was shot dead as he drank with family and friends at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden in May 2012. He died in the arms of his father David Short, who was also an intended target although he escaped as he was visiting the toilet at the time. Three other men were injured in the attack.

The jury was told that the shooting was triggered as a result of the resurrection of a dispute between two families – the Shorts and the Atkinsons.

Nicholas Clarke QC, prosecuting, said Theresa Atkinson, was the “matriarch of the Atkinson family” and drunkenly lashed out with a bottle at Raymond Young, a member of the Short family, during a pub row. Mr Young retaliated by striking Mrs Atkinson with the back of his hand.

She shouted: “I’m going to get you done by my sons,” the court heard.

It was alleged that the following day Mrs Atkinson’s son Leon contacted his “right-hand man” Dale Cregan and they set about organising the first of the carefully planned murders over the “lack of respect” shown to his mother.

The families of the two murdered officers were in court to hear the prosecution describe how in August, following the murder of Mark Short, a group including Mr Cregan went to David Short’s house where  he was chased into an alleyway and shot nine times with two guns including the Glock that was later used to shoot PCs Bone and Hughes.

A grenade was detonated on his body causing “massive injuries”. CCTV footage allegedly showed that nine minutes later Mr Cregan and another man attacked the nearby home of Sharon Hark with a gun and a grenade.

Mr Cregan, Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Luke Livesey, 27, from Hattersley, Damian Gorman, 38, from Glossop, Ryan Hadfield, 28, from Droylsden, Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, Anthony Wilkinson, 38, from Manchester, Jermaine Ward, 24, and Mohammed Ali, 32, from Chadderton, Greater Manchester, deny all the charges. The case continues.