Man accused of Olivia murder was ‘high-level cannabis dealer’, court told

The man accused of killing Olivia Pratt-Korbel was a “high-level cannabis dealer”, he has told a court.

Thomas Cashman, 34, is accused of murdering the nine-year-old and injuring her mother, Cheryl Korbel, 46, after chasing convicted drug dealer Joseph Nee into their home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on August 22 last year.

Giving evidence at Manchester Crown Court on Tuesday, Cashman, wearing a blue jumper over a white shirt, told the jury he was making between £3,000 and £5,000 a week selling cannabis.

He said: “I would buy cars, bikes, save some, go on holidays and just spend it on stuff that I enjoyed basically.”

He told the court he would sell between 5kg and 10kg of cannabis a week.

Thomas Cashman court case
Olivia Pratt-Korbel (Family Handout/PA)

He said he had left school at the age of 13 or 14 and by the time he was about 16 and working at a fair in Wales he was smoking cannabis every day.

Cashman, who has two children with “childhood sweetheart” Kaylee Sweeney, said he started selling cannabis when he was about 18 on a “small scale”.

He said: “I was basically smoking my profit.”

But by 2021, when he and the family moved to a home in Grenadier Drive, Liverpool, he was selling at a “high level”, he told the court.

He said: “I only ever sold it in my area where I’ve been brought up, so everyone I sold it to was everyone I knew.”

John Cooper KC, defending, said: “You became a cannabis dealer, didn’t you?”

Cashman replied: “Yes, I was a cannabis dealer.”

Olivia Pratt-Korbel death
Cheryl Korbel, mother of Olivia Pratt-Korbel (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Cooper asked: “Were you a high-level cannabis dealer?”

Cashman replied: “Yes.”

He said his “catchment area” was around the Finch Lane area of Dovecot in Liverpool, and he would often get the drugs dropped at his sister’s house in Mab Lane.

From there, he said, he would take them to whoever had asked for them, or to his friend’s house, which he said was used as a “stash house”.

But, he said, there were issues with him using his sister’s house.

He said: “My sister’s boyfriend is an ex-police officer.

“He didn’t like it and he got on my sister over it and they were having arguments between each other about me always being there.”

He said that on the day of the shooting his sister had told him to stop having people round to the house because of the arguments.

The defendant, speaking with a pronounced Liverpool accent, told the jury he knew Nee, who he is alleged to have targeted in the shooting, and never had any problems with him or his brothers.

He claimed the day before Olivia was shot he was at the Nee family home to look at one of the brothers’ new Audi A6 car.

Asked about the suggestion he was “scoping things out” the day before the shooting, he said: “That is untrue, I wasn’t.”

He denied making any “confession” after the shooting to a key prosecution witness, a woman Cashman was having a “fling” with.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims Cashman came to her house after the shooting where he changed his clothing and she overheard him say he had “done Joey.”

Cashman said he dealt drugs to the woman’s boyfriend, who owed him £25,000, and said she threatened to tell his partner they were having a relationship because he refused to go to Marbella to start a new life with her.

Cashman, of Grenadier Drive, Liverpool, denies the murder of Olivia, the attempted murder of Mr Nee, wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Olivia’s mother, and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday morning.