Armed police on high alert as 150 officers secure Preston Crown Court for start of Dale Cregan murder trial

By Dean Wilkins

Around 150 police officers, many armed with automatic weapons, patrolled Preston Crown Court as Dale Cregan and nine other defendants stood trial today.

Muscular 29-year-old Cregan, of no fixed abode, appeared in court along with the other accused of being involved in a series of murders and attempted murders across Greater Manchester last year.

One-eyed Cregan, charged with murdering Mark and David Short and PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, confirmed his name to Mr Justice Holroyde – he appeared relaxed and smirked at his co-accused who all sat in the dock of Court 1.

The high-security courtroom was packed with lawyers, armed officers, the defendants, jury, court clerks and the entire surrounding precinct of the court was patrolled with guards.

Each defendant is being kept at a secret location and was brought in by armed security guards to make their first appearance at the trial – which is expected to last a minimum of 12 weeks.

VICTIMS: David and Mark Short, PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone (from top left)

Cregan previously pleaded not guilty to all four murder charges, as well as four charges of attempted murder, at Liverpool Crown Court on November 5 – his fate will be decided by a jury at Preston Crown Court in the most high-profile case since the turn of the century.

Mark was shot dead at the Cotton Tree Inn pub, Droylsden, on May 25 – three other men were also injured in the attack – and his father David was found dead at his home on August 10.

PCs Hughes and Bone were responding to a report of an attempted burglary at a home in Hattersley, Tameside, when they were shot dead on September 18.

Luke Livesey, 27, from Hattersley, Damian Gorman, 37, from Glossop, Ryan Hadfield, 28, from Droylsden, Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, and Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, are charged with murdering Mark Short and three counts of attempted murder.

Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, is charged with murdering David Short, attempted murder and one count of causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Anthony Wilkinson, 33, from Beswick, is charged with murdering David Short, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, attempted murder and causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Jermaine Anton Ward, 24, is charged with murdering David Short, one count of attempted murder and an allegation of causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Mohammed Ali, 23, from Chadderton, is charged with assisting an offender.

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