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Dale Cregan Trial: Fugitive Turned Attention to Police

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A one-eyed man switched his sights from an "old rival" to the police when he executed a "detailed plan" to lure officers to their deaths in a gun and grenade attack, a court has heard.

Dale Cregan, 29, is accused of murdering Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes after also killing his rivals, father and son David and Mark Short.

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Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were both shot by Cregan, the court heard

Preston Crown Court has heard that Cregan went on the run after organising the killings following a "simmering feud" between two rival Manchester families.

On Friday, Nicholas Clarke QC, opening the case for the prosecution, said: "By 17 September Dale Cregan was again carefully laying a detailed plan to murder. His target this time however was not an old rival, or anybody that he had a particular grievance with, but the police.

"On 18 September the lengthy manhunt which had been ongoing since the unsuccessful attempt to arrest Dale Cregan on 7 August reached its bloody conclusion and resulted in the deaths of those two young police officers."

Pc Hughes's mother, Susan, and father, Bryn, sat in front of the parents of her murdered colleague, Paul and June Bone, and Pc Bone's partner, Clare Curran, in the public gallery, across the packed courtroom from where Cregan sat in the dock.

The court was told that Cregan had gone to the home of his barber, Alan Whitwell, in Abbey Gardens in Mottram, Hyde.

Mr Whitwell was indoors with his partner, Lisa McIntosh, and her seven-year-old daughter when Cregan called late at night.

Mr Clarke said: "He was well aware that Cregan was wanted by the police and he did not want him in the house. He was terrified for his family's safety.

"However Cregan did not give him the option. Cregan had decided that he would impose himself on the family for the evening and he simply invited himself in. He ordered Whitwell to do as he said."

Cregan spent the night at the house and had with him the gun he used to murder David Short and a hand grenade, the jury was told.

"On arrival he placed the hand grenade on the fireplace, in full view of Mr Whitwell, should he need any reminder of Cregan's capabilities," Mr Clarke said.

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Cregan said he killed the officers because police were 'hounding' his family

Cregan sent Whitwell out for beer and cigars.

"Cregan knew this was to be his last night of freedom," said Mr Clarke, adding that the fugitive also tried to get some cocaine.

He also told Whitwell how he had been involved in the murder of David Short, the court heard.

The following morning he is said to have ordered Whitwell to cut his hair and trim his beard before taking a bath and changing into new clothes.

The jurors were told that, at 10.14am on 18 September, Cregan made a 999 call purporting to be "Adam Gartree" and reported that somebody had thrown a "big concrete slab" through his back window.

The 999 call was played to the jury.

The caller claimed he had seen the direction in which the offender had ran off and would be able to point it out to a police officer. He was told an officer would be sent within the hour.

His last comment to the call handler was: "I'll be waiting."

Mr Clarke said: "The caller appeared calm and composed, in control of himself and his emotion.

"The caller was not Adam Gartree but Dale Cregan. He had carefully put in place a plan that he knew would ensure that an unsuspecting police officer or officers would be sent to the door, to attend to a householder who had been the victim of damage to his house.

"Cregan knew that the officers would have no idea what would be waiting for them."

Pcs Bone and Hughes arrived at 30 Abbey Gardens at 10.52am.

"On arrival the two officers stepped out of their van and walked forward the short distance to number 30. Cregan's carefully laid plan had been successful. He had in fact lured two unarmed police officers to his door. He was armed, ready and waiting for them," Mr Clarke said.

"As Nicola and Fiona walked through the small front garden, he opened the front door and immediately fired his Glock.

"Both officers were shot in the chest. The body armour that they were wearing protected them and the bullets did not penetrate," he added.

After the first shots the officers made a "tactical retreat", the court was told.

Pc Hughes ran down the path but Cregan continued pulling the trigger, hitting her in the middle of her back just below her armoured vest, the court heard.

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Relatives of the murdered police officers arriving at Preston Crown Court this week

She was "immediately paralysed", falling forwards on to the path.

"As she was falling or lying flat on her stomach, she was shot three more times," Mr Clarke continued.

"Cregan then turned his attention to Fiona Bone."

She was trapped in front of the lounge window and Cregan fired 24 shots at her but she managed to draw and fire her Taser, but it probably hit paving stones, the jury was told.

She was hit between five and eight times.

As she turned and fell one bullet managed to get through under her arm.

"She was killed by a perforating shot to the upper left side of her chest, which caused fatal injuries to the top of her heart," Mr Clarke said.

Such was the speed of the attack on the two officers that only 31 seconds elapsed between Pc Hughes switching off the police car engine and Pc Bone firing the Taser.

"Cregan was not finished. He turned his attention back to Pc Hughes and fired three more shots into the back and side of her head," Mr Clarke continued.

"She was shot eight times, causing a total of seven gunshot-related injuries. Four of the shots caused potentially fatal wounds.

"One had severed her spinal cord, causing instant paralysis and a potentially fatal wound to her abdominal aorta.

"The three final shots fired into the head severely damaged her brain.

"Cregan had discharged a total of 32 bullets at the two unarmed police officers. He then fled the scene before colleagues of the fatally injured officers could arrive."

Cregan dropped the gun and jumped into a blue BMW, the prosecutor said.

"Before he fled Abbey Gardens he made sure that he left his usual calling card," Mr Clarke said.

"He launched a fragmentation grenade back towards the garden of number 30, where the two police officers were lying on the floor.

"This exploded causing further injuries to Nicola Hughes, who was nearest to the grenade.

"She had already been fatally injured by the gunshot wounds inflicted upon her. The grenade itself did not cause or contribute to her death."

Cregan drove to Hyde Police Station, telephoning his girlfriend Georgia Merriman on the way.

He walked up to the counter clerk and said: "I'm wanted by the police and I've just done two coppers."

Cregan put his arms out to be handcuffed and said he was there to hand himself in.

"He was calm and casual as he was handcuffed and arrested," Mr Clarke said.

As graphic details of the attack and the injuries suffered by the officers were given, members of their families sat in the public gallery began to weep.

The courtroom silence was broken by Mr Clarke as he told the jury how the officers met their deaths, and by sobbing from the relatives.

Cregan 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."

He later added he was "... sorry about those two that have been killed, I wish it was men...".

In custody Cregan later gave a series of "no comment" interviews when questioned by police, the jury heard.

Near the end of his final interview, the detective suggested to him that he was a coward - having killed two unarmed officers, he fled before armed back-up arrived and instead "threw himself on the mercy of the police" - to which Cregan replied: "Cos you couldn't f****** find me could yous so."

Ending the prosecution opening statement, Mr Clarke said Cregan was "central" to all three shooting incidents, and in the attack on the officers and the murder of David Short there was "no doubt" he pulled the trigger himself - and he may well be the balaclava- clad killer in the shooting of Mark Short at the Cotton Tree pub.

Each time the attacks were carefully planned and executed, well armed with guns and grenades and took the victims by surprise.

"In each case he was up against unarmed men and women who could never have foreseen that they would face a man as callous and cowardly as he," Mr Clarke told the jury.

"We suggest that you will surely conclude that all phases of these murderous attacks were carried out by a man who knew exactly what he was doing, with chilling premeditation and clarity of mind."

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