KILLER Dale Cregan will spend the rest of his life in prison for the ruthless murders of two unarmed policewomen and a father and son.
• Dale Cregan handed whole life sentence for murders of two policewoman and a father and son
• Cregan, 30, “acted with pre-meditated savagery” in the “quite appalling” murders
One-eyed Cregan, 30, acted with “premeditated savagery” in luring PCs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, to their deaths in a gun and grenade attack, a court heard yesterday.
He went on the run days before he killed David Short, 46, last August after he gunned down his son, Mark, 23, in a pub in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, three months earlier.
On 18 September, he lured the constables with a bogus 999 call to a house in Abbey Gardens, Hattersley. His last comment to the call handler as he was told officers were on the way was: “I’ll be waiting.”
He opened the front door as they walked up the front garden path and shot them in the chest with a Glock handgun.
PC Hughes was hit eight times, including three bullets to the head as she lay on the ground. PC Bone was hit up to eight times after she managed to draw and fire her Taser at Cregan, who fired 32 bullets in total in half a minute.
He then left his “calling card” of a military grenade, which he threw on the path where the officers lay, before he calmly handed himself in at a nearby police station.
He then told an officer: “I dropped the gun at the scene and I’ve murdered two police officers. You were hounding my family, so I took it out on yous.”
Sentencing him to whole-life terms for the four murders with no prospect of release, Mr Justice Holroyde said he had no doubt that Cregan could see the policewomen approaching the house and that they were unarmed.
He told him: “You acted with premeditated savagery … you drew those two officers into a calculated trip for the sole
purpose of murdering them in cold blood.”
Preston Crown Court heard it was the first time a grenade had been used on mainland UK with such devastating consequences.
Outside court, Bryn Hughes, father of PC Hughes, said: “She was brutally and callously murdered in the most despicable and cowardly way.
“We can only imagine what thoughts and feelings she experienced in those few seconds it took for this person to pull the trigger and for Nicola to draw her last breath.
“Our lives have been shattered beyond belief and will never be the same again.
“To have a child taken from you in such a cruel and meaningless way is without doubt the worst thing any parent can wish to imagine.”
Paul Bone said of his daughter: “My family is still coming to terms with our loss and not a day goes by without thinking of Fiona.
“I am told that it gets easier in time but for the moment every Tuesday lunchtime is difficult, for that was when our lives changed forever.”
The spiral of violence began on 25 May last year when a balaclava-clad Cregan stepped into The Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden and shot Mark Short, who died in the arms of his father.
Cregan was arrested on suspicion of the murder but was later released on bail. When he concluded that he was due to be rearrested in August, he set out to murder David Short.
On 10 August, Cregan targeted Mr Short outside his home in Clayton as he unloaded his car. He chased him into his house and gunned him down at close range, before he threw a grenade at his dying body.
During his four-month trial, Cregan admitted at various stages the four murders and the attempted murders of three others, along with a count of causing an explosion with a hand grenade.
Nine others faced trial alongside him on various charges linked to the deaths of the Shorts. Four were cleared.
Cregan smiled and shook hands with the other defendants after the verdicts were returned.
Mr Justice Holroyde criticised Cregan and his co-accused for not showing any remorse or compassion for his victims.
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, described Cregan and his gang as a “scourge on society”; Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd called them “animals”; while Ian Hanson, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said Cregan was an “abomination upon our society”.
“I have no problem whatsoever with the thought of him staring through one eye at a locked cell door wondering what kind of life he is missing,” Mr Hanson said.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Dale Cregan is a despicable individual and I am pleased he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“The shootings of Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were a terrible reminder of the risks police officers face every day.”
• Prison sources have said whiplash claims are to be made by killers in the trial over a prison van accident as they were ferried to court.
Murderer Damian Gorman is among those in line for cash if he is successful in personal injury claims and “hurt feelings”.
Profile: Hard man and drug dealer with a ‘bad fetish’ for knives and a collection of guns
Vain, paranoid, a cocaine-snorting, muscle-bound drug dealer armed to the teeth, Dale Cregan on the loose was a nightmare scenario for police trying to find him.
He had been a villain, and a heavy one, for most of his 30 years, but had evaded the law – mostly – and had never been behind bars as an adult.
A well-known local “hard man”, he spent his life on his mobile phone, sometimes taking and making more than 200 calls a day, dealing drugs, in between daily sessions in the gym lifting weights, followed by afternoon sessions drinking in pubs, fuelled by cocaine.
He carried wads of cash, drove a Mercedes 4x4 ML and enjoyed jetting to the West Indies, the Far East and Europe – always flying business class – not bad for a man who gave his official occupation as a plasterer.
All a far cry from the endless terrace streets and corner pubs where he made his name in east Manchester and its outer suburbs in Tameside, stretching as far as the 1960s overspill new town of Hattersley, where he would shoot dead two policewomen.
Dale Christopher Cregan was born at Tameside General Hospital, on 6 June, 1983, to Paul Cregan, a tool setter from Manchester, and Anita Marie Cregan, then living in a two-up, two-down terrace house in Greenside Lane, Droylsden. He has an older brother and a younger sister.
His father left the family, eventually marrying a former policewoman with Greater Manchester Police.
Not long after leaving Littlemoss High School in Droylsden, now closed, Cregan began dealing cannabis.
He would have fist fights with the nephews of David Short and developed a “bad fetish” for knives. He spent 18 months with his sister in Tenerife and on his return, bought guns, going on to have a collection of around ten weapons, including machine guns.
By the age of 22, he had started dealing cocaine, making £20,000 a week, he said.
Cregan enjoyed holidays in Antigua, was “always” over in Thailand, staying at a five star £105-a-night destination, the Peace Resort in Koh Samui, spent time on fishing trips to France and days away in Amsterdam, an international centre and wholesale market for criminals in drugs and firearms.
Along the way he lost his left eye, boasting to friends he was struck with a knuckle-duster during a fight in Thailand. A police source said there was no marking or scar tissue around Cregan’s eye socket, suggesting instead that it was “plucked” out with a knife.
At 24, he became a father with his partner, Georgia Merriman, from Crumpsall, Manchester. The couple and their baby son were living in a three-bed semi in a quiet cul-de-sac in Droylsden, half a mile from David Short’s home.
Cregan had money and David Short – not a popular man, even among gangsters – knew it.
A criminal source, a convicted drug dealer on release on licence for other offences, described Cregan as a “Joey” – the hired muscle willing to do the dirty work.
Or as one detective put it in court: “You can give any muppet a gun.”
After his son was killed, David Short publicly branded the perpetrators “cowards” and privately let it be known to Cregan he would have his revenge by kidnapping, raping and burning his four-year-old son.
He paid with his life in a gruesome murder.
While on the run, Cregan boasted the £50,000 reward for his capture was “rare – like me”, and on his final night of freedom used a laptop to look himself up on the news, drank beer, smoked cigars and tried to get his hands on cocaine.
Knowing his time was almost up, he apparently had at the forefront of his mind thoughts about his appearance in court, ordering his captive to cut his hair and beard, took a bath and put on new clothes.
Even killer’s eye socket was searched in court security
CREGAN was subjected to twice-daily checks behind his false eye as part of the intensive security operation surrounding his trial.
Nothing was left to chance for the ring of steel thrown around Preston Crown Court, which cost more than £5m.
All Category A inmates transported to court need to undergo a strip search and in Cregan’s case that included his left eye socket – a time-consuming extra check which is said to have annoyed the killer. A source at HMP Manchester, better known as Strangeways, said: “Every time he comes in and every time he goes out of the building he must be searched and checked – including behind his eye.
“Because he is a category A prisoner, each time he leaves these walls he is strip-searched and he must take his eye out so we can look behind it for drugs, or some sort of weapon, or anything he shouldn’t have.
“And every time he comes back from court he gets strip-searched again – and it p***** him off.”