Olivia family say life sentence has begun as killer handed at least 42 years

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The family of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel have said their life sentence has already started as her killer was jailed for a minimum of 42 years.

Thomas Cashman, 34, refused to appear in the dock to be sentenced to life imprisonment at Manchester Crown Court on Monday after a jury found him guilty last week of murdering the schoolgirl in her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on August 22 last year.

Speaking outside court, Olivia’s mother Cheryl Korbel, 46, said: “Justice has prevailed and I cannot begin to express our relief.”

Reading a statement on behalf of the family of Olivia’s father John Francis Pratt, her aunt Louise Pratt said: “Olivia Pratt-Korbel died a scared nine-year-old, and we hope Cashman is haunted by this knowledge for the rest of his life.”

During the sentencing, Ms Korbel took a teddy made from her daughter’s pyjamas into the witness box as she told the court: “I cannot get my head around how Cashman continued to shoot after hearing the terrifying screams.

“The utter devastation he has caused. He doesn’t care, how could he?”

Sentencing Cashman, Mrs Justice Yip said: “The defendant has not acknowledged his responsibility for Olivia’s death and so has demonstrated no remorse.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Cheryl Korbel giving her witness statement at Manchester Crown Court
Cheryl Korbel giving her witness statement at Manchester Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

She said Cashman “relentlessly pursued” his target, Joseph Nee, into Olivia’s home, where the schoolgirl had left her bed after hearing the commotion.

The judge said: “She came downstairs to seek the comfort of her mother. Her last words were, ‘Mum, I’m scared’.

“In a terrible twist of fate she had stepped directly into the line of fire.”

John Cooper KC, defending, told the court Cashman did not want to attend because he felt the matter was “turning into a circus”.

In mitigation, Mr Cooper said there was no intention to kill Olivia and said Cashman felt “there has been a lot of hysterical reporting of this case as far as he is concerned”.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel
Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in her home (Family handout/PA)

The jury was told he lay in wait for Nee in Kingsheath Avenue, armed with two guns, and then chased him, firing three shots in the street, when Nee left a house shortly before 10pm.

Nee ran towards the open door of Olivia’s home after her mother had gone out to see what the noise was, the court heard.

The bullet that killed Olivia was fired through the front door, hitting the wrist of Ms Korbel – who was trying to hold the door shut – before striking Olivia in the chest.

A woman who had a relationship with Cashman told the jury he came to her house after the shooting, where he changed his clothes and she heard him say he had “done Joey”.

Mrs Justice Yip praised the bravery of the witness, who has been granted lifetime anonymity, and said: “The defendant invented a defence designed to humiliate and undermine her.

Thomas Cashman
Thomas Cashman (Merseyside Police/PA)

“I am sorry that she had to endure that but endure it she did, and her courage is to be applauded.”

During his evidence, Cashman admitted being a “high-level” cannabis dealer.

But the father of two told the court: “I’m not a killer, I’m a dad.”

The judge accepted that being taken away from his children was a loss for Cashman and for them, but added: “It is a loss that he is wholly responsible for.”

The jury took more than nine hours to find Cashman guilty of Olivia’s murder, the attempted murder of Nee, the wounding with intent of Ms Korbel and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

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