Olivia Pratt-Korbel: Thomas Cashman found guilty of murdering nine-year-old
Thomas Cashman has been found guilty of murdering the Liverpool schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel in a shooting that “shook the nation”.
The 34-year-old cannabis dealer gunned down the nine-year-old inside her own home as he chased a rival during a gangland hit gone wrong.
Cashman, a father of two, claimed he was being “stitched up” during his trial and pleaded with jurors: “I’m not a killer, I’m a dad”.
But despite his repeated denials, the jury at Manchester Crown Court rejected his claims to find him guilty of Olivia’s murder following a four-week long trial.
The jury had been considering their verdicts, which were unanimous, for nearly nine hours.
Members of Cashman's family, including his partner, protested his innocence in an angry confrontation with police officers inside the court building after the verdict. His sister shouted at officers: "You have stitched him up".
Olivia was shot through the chest by Cashman who “ruthlessly and relentlessly” pursued another man, Joseph Nee, a convicted burglar, into her house in Knotty Ash, Liverpool.
Cashman, a violent drug dealer, had been determined to take out Nee, after a feud erupted between rival Merseyside gangs.
Prosecutor David McLachlan, KC, said he had carried out the “pre-planned” attack without “any consideration” for members of the community.
Cashman had spent the day scoping out his target and was lying in wait for Nee on the evening of Aug 22 last year.
When Nee left a property in Finch Lane, Knotty Ash, Cashman, who was wearing a mask approached him and fired three shots from a 9mm pistol.
Standing over his victim, CCTV captured him as he tried to fire a fourth time, but the weapon appeared to malfunction.
Nee managed to get up and flee and when Olivia’s mother, Cheryl, opened her front door to see what the noise was, he burst into her home pursued by the gunman.
As Ms Korbel tried to close the door Cashman fired two more bullets, one of which passed through her hand and hit her daughter in the chest.
The key evidence that helped convict Cashman came from a woman who he had been in an on-off relationship with. She was described by police as a "key and significant witness".
Shortly after the murder Cashman turned up at her home demanding a change of clothes. The woman also came forward to tell police that she overheard him on the phone saying: "I've done Joey", believed to be a reference to Joseph Nee.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now believed to have been moved out of Liverpool under a witness protection scheme.
‘Case shocked a city…but also a nation’
In his closing speech David McLachlan, KC, told the jury the case was “as serious as it gets”.
He said: “This is a case which shocked not simply a city…but also a nation. It made front-page headlines and it is a case which will live with you forever.
“He was in relentless pursuit of Joseph Nee in a pre-planned and ruthless attempt to kill him. He has twisted and turned on every occasion to try to fit his case to the evidence.”
Cashman admitted to being a “high-level cannabis dealer”, but denied murder insisting at the time of the shooting he had been “having a spliff and a chit-chat” while counting thousands of pounds of drug money at a friend's house a few streets away.
Cashman of Grenadier Drive, West Derby, Liverpool was found guilty of the murder of Olivia, the attempted murder of Nee and the wounding with intent of Cheryl.
He was also found guilty of two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
As the verdict was handed down, Cashman's partner Kayleeanne Sweeney, who was sat in the public gallery, put her head in her hands.
Cashman will be sentenced on Monday.
Following the verdict, Cheryl Korbel left court carrying one of her daughter's favourite soft toys. Smiling with relief she raised the toy above her head and mouthed "yes" towards waiting reporters.
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, of Merseyside Police, described Cashman as a "despicable coward".
She said: "The conviction of Thomas Cashman in terms of the murder of Olivia is a positive.
"We are still hunting down those people who enabled that murder to take place - who supplied the gun, where the gun is - and we will carry on until we identify those people responsible."
Senior Crown Prosecutor Maria Corr, of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s Complex Casework Unit, said: "This has been a truly tragic case and one of the most complex I have had to deal with in my 32 years with the Crown Prosecution Service.
"At the heart of it is a nine-year-old girl who has lost her life. Olivia Pratt-Korbel was in her own home, with her family, where she should have been safe.
"By contrast, Thomas Cashman is a ruthless criminal who recklessly pursued another man, with no consideration of the consequences. He was intent on violence that night, arming himself with two loaded guns.
"He refused to display any guilt or remorse, denying his involvement throughout and putting Olivia’s family through the torment of a lengthy trial."