Police out in force as man accused of killing two officers appears in court

High-security operation surrounds Cregan – as 15-year-old is arrested over female PC murders

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a hearing that lasted just 120 seconds at Manchester City magistrates' court yesterday, Dale Cregan was remanded in custody accused of four murders including those of two unarmed female police officers.

The 29-year-old was brought to court amid an extraordinary high-security operation by Greater Manchester Police – a force still in mourning for the loss of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in a gun and grenade attack in Hattersley on Tuesday.

The defendant was surrounded by five officers, one of them carrying a Heckler and Koch sub-machine gun, with a further two flanking the dock. Two more stood sentry in the public gallery while a further pair were posted at the back of court number 16.

Cregan stood and scanned the room listlessly, his gaze resting briefly on the public gallery where the mother and wife of two of his alleged victims, father and son Mark and David Short, were sitting with friends and relatives.

A burly figure in a dark blue sweatshirt, the former roofer of no fixed address sported a bushy black beard and wore a black onyx eyeball.

He spoke only to confirm, his name and address, yawning moments before details of the charges were read out.

As well as the murders of the two young officers, it is alleged that on 25 May this year he shot dead Mark Short, 23, at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden, Greater Manchester.

He is also accused of the attempted murder of three other men – Michael Belcher, Ryan Pridding and John Short – who were in the pub at the time.

Cregan faces a total of eight charges. These include the murder of David Short, 46, who was killed at his home in Clayton on 10 August in a gun and grenade attack as well as the attempted murder of Sharon Hark on the same day following another explosion outside a house on Luke Road in Droylsden.

Five other men have already appeared in court in connection with the Shorts' deaths while a further four, including a woman, remain on police bail pending further inquiries.

Last night it was revealed that a 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender in connection with the deaths of the two police officers.

Their deaths have elicited an outpouring of national shock and outrage. Yesterday the Prime Minister David Cameron visited Greater Manchester Police headquarters where he met relatives of the two community constables. "I think the whole country is profoundly shocked by what has happened and it is right we praise the work they did and remember all they have done," he said.

Cregan was arrested when he walked into Hyde police station two miles from the scene of the police murders. Fellow officers from around the country have volunteered to patrol the streets of Manchester on the days of the women's funerals to allow colleagues to attend the services.

Ten of thousands of people have signed an online book of condolence set up by the force.

District judge Jonathan Taaffe remanded Cregan in custody ordering him to return to Manchester Crown Court on Monday for a second hearing. He was later sped away in an armed convoy of six vehicles through the drizzle from an underground car park back to HMP Manchester – better known as Strangeways prison – where he is being held.