The families of two female police officers who died in a gun and grenade attack described how their lives had been torn apart, as the killer was told he will never be released from prison for their “cold-blooded” and “savage” murder.
Dale Cregan, 30, had lured unarmed PCs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, into a “calculated trap” after spending weeks on the run from police following the murders of a father and son in a gangland feud in Greater Manchester.
The mother of PC Hughes described her daughter as “beautiful, loving, thoughtful, caring, hard-working”, who had been “at her happiest” prior to her death. In a victim impact statement Sue Hughes said: “[Cregan] chose, on that day, to murder our daughter and leave our lives completely devastated, a life barely worth living without her. Now the trial has concluded he will return to his cell to live the rest of his natural life. We, however, will live with what he did every single hour of every single day for the rest of our lives.” Her father Bryn said his daughter “was brutally and callously murdered in the most despicable and cowardly way”.
Mr Justice Holroyde QC, sentencing Cregan, 30, to a whole life tariff at Preston Crown Court at the conclusion of a five month high-security trial which cost £5m, said he had “acted with premeditated savagery”. The one-eyed cocaine dealer repeatedly opened fire on PC Bone, who had been due to get married, and PC Hughes.
“You, Cregan, drew those two officers into a calculated trap for the sole purpose of murdering them in cold blood… You pursued them with a cold-blooded ruthlessness – determined to end their lives,” said the judge.
Cregan admitted the four murders and three attempted murders during the trial. His close friends Luke Livesey, 28, and Damian Gorman, 38, were convicted of the murder of Mark Short, 23, and the attempted murders of three others at a pub in Droylsden alongside Cregan.
Jermaine Ward, 24, was also found guilty of taking part in the murder of David Short, 46, with Cregan. Anthony Wilkinson, 34, had already admitted his role in the gangland assassination. Another man Mohammed Ali, 32, was found guilty of helping Cregan and his gang evade police.
Four others were cleared of all charges including Leon Atkinson, 35, who was alleged to have organised the murder of Mark Short following a pub row. Cregan and others were cleared of a charge of attempted murder involving a grenade attack on a house.
The men shook hands and smiled as the verdicts were delivered while Wilkinson smiled and looked directly at the public gallery where the victims’ families were seated. Wilkinson will serve a minimum term of 35 years, while Livesey, Gorman and Ward each received a minimum of 33 years. Ali was jailed for seven years. The judge said none of the guilty men had demonstrated remorse during the trial.
Michelle Kelly, mother of Mark and partner of David Short, described their killers as “cowards”. She said: “No sentence served by the people who murdered my Dave and Mark will ever be long enough to reflect the pain and suffering caused by their loss.”
Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy defended his force’s actions during the massive manhunt for Cregan, who was on bail for the killing of Mark Short when three of the killings happened.
“After our two officers, Nicola and Fiona, were murdered in cold blood while on duty, I personally reflected for a long time as to whether anything more could have been done to prevent their deaths, but quickly came to realise that in a society where we police by consent, you cannot police such evil,” he said. “These men make themselves out to be ‘Mr Bigs’, but in reality they spend their miserable lives looking over their shoulders to see who is coming after them and their families.”
The two policewomen
PC Nicola Hughes, 23, grew up in Diggle, a village near Oldham, and after leaving Saddleworth School she went to Huddersfield University where she began studying for a criminology degree. She dropped out to join Greater Manchester Police in 2009.
The 5’6’’ chatterbox, a green belt in karate, was described as having the “body of a lion cub and the heart of a lion”. She was once thrown over a fence by colleagues so she could continue chasing a suspect. On another occasion she climbed through a dog flap in hot pursuit.
PC Fiona Bone, 32, joined the police in 2007 after volunteering as a special constable while working for an insurance firm. She lived with her partner, Clare Curran, in Sale and was planning her civil partnership wedding when she was murdered.
She graduated from University of Central Lancashire in Preston in 2002, after reading AV Media and Film Studies. Her father, Paul, said of her: “When she was put into an office, she hated it. She wanted to go where the action was.”
Grenades used for first time to kill civilian
Police have warned that there could still be hand grenades on the streets of Manchester. Ten of the devices like those used by Dale Cregan – the first time they have been deployed in a British criminal murder – were discovered stashed in a storm drain in Oldham during the trial.
Senior officers said they were confident that the remainder of Cregan’s M75 grenades from the former Yugoslavia had been recovered following the find earlier this month, but it was impossible to rule out others being in the hands of the criminal underworld.
It is believed the grenades were used by Serbian forces during the country’s civil war.
Video: 'Fluke' that PC Bone died