‘Dale Cregan shot my son’, woman tells court

Dale Cregan has pleaded guilty to murder of two policewomen. Picture: PA/Greater Manchester Police
Dale Cregan has pleaded guilty to murder of two policewomen. Picture: PA/Greater Manchester Police
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A WOMAN has told the trial of Dale Cregan how a gunman burst into a pub and shot dead her son.

Michelle Kelly told the jury that her son Mark Short and partner of 28 years, David Short, were killed weeks after a drunken pub row between feuding families.

Cregan, 29, is also accused of the murders of PC Fiona Bone, 32, and PC Nicola Hughes, 23. It is alleged their deaths were the “bloody conclusion” to his string of murderous attacks. Cregan, on trial with nine other men, denies all charges.

The jury at Preston Crown Court heard how trouble first began at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden, east of Manchester, when Theresa Atkinson, 53, the “matriarch” of her family, clashed with Raymond Young, a member of the Short family, while she was drunk, “loudmouth and swearing”. She was “backhanded” by Mr Young after she tried to bottle him then went “ballistic”, warning: “I’m going to get my boys – you’re all dead.”

Leon Atkinson, 35, is alleged to have recruited his “righthand man” Cregan, to help take revenge for the “disrespect” shown to his mother. Just before midnight on 25 May, with the Short family gathered in the Cotton Tree pub, a balaclava-clad gunman burst in as Ms Kelly sat at the end of the bar. “I heard one bang and I turned, then I seen my son, he had his back to me as the second one went off and then it was just, ‘bang, bang, bang”’ Ms Kelly told the jury. “Mark tried to grab him.”

Nicholas Clarke, QC, prosecuting, asked the witness: “You in fact took steps to intervene yourself? You grabbed a pool cue and ran outside to try to 
find him?”

“Yes,” the witness said.

Ms Kelly said her partner believed their son’s murder was over the row with Ms Atkinson – but denied he had vowed to take revenge. “He put his hand on his heart and said he would let the police do the job and find’s Mark’s killers,” Ms Kelly said.

But on 10 August, Mr Short was killed in a gun and grenade attack on his home in Clayton, east Manchester.

Roderick Carus, QC, defending Leon Atkinson, said Mark Short was not even in the pub when the slapping incident took place. Referring to the dock, Ms Kelly said: “But them lot over there know who my son is. Mark never done anything wrong. He was playing pool and he got shot.”

Mr Carus said David Short and Leon Atkinson had had “differences in the past”, but the pair had shaken hands and a truce had held for three years.

Simon Csoka QC, defending Cregan, asked the witness about an earlier attempt to shoot her partner in September 2011 outside their home.

“Don’t know,” she replied.

“You don’t recall that?” Mr Csoka asked.


“Or hearing shots outside?”

“No,” the witness replied.

Peter Birkett QC, defending Anthony Wilkinson who is accused of involvement in the murder of David Short, suggested the father wanted revenge for the death of his son, and an entry was put on Facebook saying: “We will have revenge.”

“We will get justice,” Ms Kelly responded.

Mr Birkett continued: “David was not of a mind simply to leave it with the police, was he?”

Ms Kelly replied: “My son was brutally murdered. I had to sit there and see my husband sobbing like a baby because his son was murdered. He never knew who done that to Mark.”

Ms Kelly earlier described how she and her partner saw Ms Atkinson in the pub before the row with Mr Young. “She shouted “Hiya!” to Mr Short and put her arms around him. She was a bit giddy, she had had a bit to drink,” Ms Kelly told the jury.

“This lady came over to the pool table and said, ‘Do you want a drink?’ to him. He said, ‘I’m with my missus and my son’.

“She turned around, ‘I’m not f*****g asking them do they want a drink, I’m asking you.’ I turned around, [and said] you are being disrespectful, you’re bang out of order, don’t talk to him the way you have done’.”

Ms Atkinson later apologised but the trouble flared up again.

The trial continues.