Police killer Dale Cregan admits two more Manchester murders - of a father and son

29-year-old changes plea on eve of his barrister's closing speech to the jury

A man who killed two unarmed police officers in a gun and grenade attack has admitted murdering a father and son.

Dale Cregan dramatically changed his plea on the 54th day of the trial at Preston Crown Court. His defence barrister said he would now die in prison.

The 29-year-old murdered PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes after luring them to a house in Mottram, Greater Manchester in September last year.

He had been on the run after shooting dead Mark Short, 23, in a pub and then murdering his father, David Short, 46, at his home using the same gun and type of grenades he was later to deploy against the two women.

Cregan had initially pleaded not guilty to all four murders but admitted killing the two female officers just a few days into the trial in February.

He also admitted the attempted murders of three other men who were in the Cotton Tree public house in Droylsden, when he opened fire into a crowded bar killing Mark Short as he played pool.

Cregan also pleaded guilty to causing an explosion with a hand grenade at a house on the day of David Short’s death although he denies the attempted murder of the woman that lived there.

His barrister, Simon Csoka QC said the development in the case had made the jurors’ decision more straightforward but that his client deserved the same standard of justice as the eight other defendants in the longing-running trial.

Earlier he had asked for six of the remaining seven charges to be put to Cregan. Wearing a grey Adidas top, the quadruple killer stood up in the dock and calmly answered "guilty" to murdering Mark Short and David Short. The jury was then invited to formally return guilty verdicts.

Mr Csoka said: “You may think after what has just happened in a calm and almost clerical way...you may think 'what does it matter now?' 'What difference does it make? 'Why does Dale Cregan care?' "He is going to be sentenced for four murders and three attempted murders. He is not going anywhere. He is going to die in prison.”

But he added: "Your decision cannot be made on the basis of not caring, or hatred - justified hatred. He is entitled to the same standards you apply to other defendants in this case.”

The prosecution has alleged that the killings were sparked when a long-standing feud between two rival Manchester families - the Shorts and the Atkinsons - was reignited early last summer.

Cregan was a close friend of Leon Atkinson who, it is alleged, enlisted him to avenge an assault on his mother by a member of the Short family.

During the trial the jury heard evidence from a prison psychologist and psychiatrist in which Cregan admitted murdering the father and son. He claimed that he had been acting in response to historic threats to rape his sister and son which resulted in Cregan developing obsessive thoughts about harming David Short.

Following the brutal murder in August he said he had had “the best night’s sleep of his life”.

The prosecution said the fact that he was guilty was “the worst kept secret in Strangeways” having admitted the killings to co-defendants at HMP Manchester and his mother.

But Mr Csoka said his client had not meant to kill Sharon Hark, whose house on Luke Road, Droylsden, he attacked with grenades.

"We are dealing with someone who when he sets out to kill, he kills. When he set out to kill Mark Short, he killed him. When he set out to kill David Short, he killed him. When he set out to kill the police officers, he did. "There was never any danger of him failing to carry out those murderous objectives. It is completely different with Luke Road,” he said.

The other defendants deny all the charges against them.

The trial continues.