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Drug-dealing gunman jailed for at least 42 years for murdering nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Olivia Pratt-Korbel's killer was sentenced to life with a minimum of 42 years in prison on Monday as her anguished mother asked how he carried on shooting despite his nine-year-old victim’s screams.

Thomas Cashman may die behind bars after being found guilty of shooting the girl inside her home during a botched gangland assassination.

The 34-year-old gunman refused to appear in the dock at Manchester Crown Court to be sentenced, but Cheryl Korbel brought a teddy made from her daughter’s pyjamas into the witness box as she described how Cashman had “left the biggest hole in our lives”.

Ms Korbel said she could not understand how Cashman kept shooting “after hearing the terrified screams and utter devastation he had caused”.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in Liverpool (PA Media)
Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in Liverpool (PA Media)

Outside court, she expressed relief that “justice has prevailed” and that her family could “draw a line under seven months of agonising torment”, but she said they had begun their own life sentence “of having to spend the rest of our lives without Olivia”, who she described as “my little love, my shadow”.

Cashman was trying to kill Joseph Nee over a drug debt when he opened fire on a street in Liverpool. Nee fled and tried to force his way into Ms Korbel’s home. Cashman continued to fire as she blocked the door and one bullet passed through her wrist and struck her youngest child in the chest.

Cashman’s lawyer said his client would not attend the sentencing because he was aware Crown Prosecution Service officials had sung “We are the Champions” after his guilty verdict and felt his trial was “turning into a circus”.

But Mrs Justice Yip called his non-attendance “disrespectful”. Noting that “the mental scars from that night will persist forever”, she said in her sentencing remarks that Cashman “has not acknowledged his responsibility for Olivia’s death and so has demonstrated no remorse”, adding: “His failure to come into court is further evidence of that.”

Alongside the lengthy murder term, she also handed Cashman life with a minimum of 22 years in prison for the attempted murder of drug dealer Joseph Nee, 10 years for wounding Ms Korbel with intent, and two 18-year sentences for firearms offences, which he will serve concurrently.

Thomas Cashman, 34, was found guilty of murdering nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel and injuring her mother (PA)
Thomas Cashman, 34, was found guilty of murdering nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel and injuring her mother (PA)

Cashman, a father of two, claimed he had been at a friend’s house around the time of the shooting, where he counted £10,000 in cash and smoked a spliff. During his evidence, he told the court: “I’m not a killer, I’m a dad.”

But a woman who previously had a fling with Cashman told the jury he came to her house after the shooting, where he changed his clothes and she heard him say he had “done Joey”.

Mrs Justice Yip praised the woman’s courage and granted her lifelong anonymity, amid reports she had received more death threats than any other police witness in Merseyside’s history.

The judge also commended Olivia’s mother’s strength and bravery, saying that she had “fought to keep the trouble outside” the house and, despite suffering “terrible pain as the bullet passed through her body”, battled through it as she desperately tried to save Olivia.

Her own need for emergency treatment meant that she could not be with Olivia when she died, the judge said.

John Francis Pratt (left), the father of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, leaving Manchester Crown Court on Monday (PA)
John Francis Pratt (left), the father of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, leaving Manchester Crown Court on Monday (PA)

“What happened was chilling and strikes fear not only into the immediate community but also into the minds of other children and their parents,” the judge said.

“The killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel is an offence that shocked not only the city of Liverpool but the nation,” she continued. “Olivia’s name is likely to be remembered for many years. She should not be remembered only for her dreadful last moments.

“Her family have spoken today of Olivia in life and of the hopes and dreams for her future, which were so cruelly snatched away. It is plain that Olivia was a lovely little girl, who cared for others and brightened the lives of her family and friends.”

During the sentencing, Ms Korbel revealed that her daughter had been due to have her hair cut five days after her death and wanted to donate it to the Princess Trust. She described Olivia as “the light of our lives, a sassy, chatty girl who never ran out of energy”.

Cheryl Korbel, mother of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, outside Manchester Crown Court last Thursday (Peter Byrne/PA)
Cheryl Korbel, mother of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, outside Manchester Crown Court last Thursday (Peter Byrne/PA)

“My worst nightmare was being separated from Liv, not being with her when she needed me the most,” she told the court. “I was the first person to hold my baby girl and as her mum I should have been the last.”

“One thing I miss the most is hearing her say ‘mum’. I just miss hearing her voice. It’s just so quiet,” said Ms Korbel. “I would do and give anything in the world to hear her chatting to me.”

Ms Korbel also revealed that her grandmother had been receiving end-of-life care and passed away on Sunday night, before the sentencing.

Louise Pratt said her niece had “died a scared nine-year-old”, adding: “We hope Cashman is haunted by this knowledge for the rest of his life”.

“Our greatest hope is for this conviction to lead to more guns and especially those used in the murder of Olivia to be handed in to the police so that no other families have to go through this tragedy,” she added.

Paul Russell, 41, who admitted assisting an offender by driving Cashman away from an address after the shooting and passing his clothes to another person, is expected to be sentenced separately at a later date.