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Dale Cregan trial: Manchester crime boss held murdered son in arms after ‘revenge’ attack by feuding family

By Dean Wilkins

An amateur Manchester boxer died in his dad’s arms when a masked gunman opened fire in a fatal ‘revenge’ attack last year, a court heard during Dale Cregan’s murder trial opening today.

The prosecuting case was opened against one-eyed Cregan, 29, and nine other men accused of either murdering or being involved in the shootings of young dad Mark Short, 23, his father David Short, 46, and two Greater Manchester Police officers – as well as the attempted murder of three other men and one woman.

Mr Nicholas Clarke QC, prosecuting, told the jury how a decade-long feud between two Manchester crime families had boiled over and resulted in a series of meticulously planned retributions against rival gangs and police.

Mark Short was shot dead at the Cotton Tree Inn pub, Droylsden, on May 25 – his father David Short, head of the Short family, was using the toilet during the 11 second-long raid on the pub.

While still grieving for his son, the jury heard how Cregan and his ‘recruits’ were hired to complete ‘unfinished business’ and kill David Short.

He was found dead at his home on Folkestone Road, Clayton, on August 10 – he had been chased through his home and garden before being shot several times in the head and neck.

A grenade was place on his chest that exploded leaving his torso ‘destroyed’ as he lay dead in an alleyway.

The court then heard how Cregan went on the run before launching one final revenge, this time against the police.

Mr Clarke told the jury: “[Cregan] called in a spurious burglary at Abbey Gardens in Hattersley, luring two unarmed police officers to investigate.

“He lay in wait with a Glock firearm with an extended magazine that was fully loaded.”

He added that PC Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicole Hughes, 23, attended the home but were met by Cregan who fired 33 shots and used a final hand grenade – killing both officers.

Cregan is then alleged to have handed himself into Hyde police station.

The opening of the prosecution began with the murder of Mark Short, and attempted murders of John Collins, Michael Belcher and Ryan Pridding, at the Cotton Tree Inn on May 25.

It was allegedly a planned attack in reaction to a dispute between rival families and associates of the Atkinson and Shorts.

The matriarch of the Atkinson family, Theresa Atkinson, was involved in a drunken dispute with Raymond Young, an associate of the Short family at the Gardeners Arms on May 13 2012, which carried on to the Cotton Tree.

Ms Atkinson is thought to have thrown a glass at Mr Young, who reacted by ‘back handing’ her – threats against his life were then made as Ms Atkinson repeatedly attempted to phone her sons, eventually getting through to Leon the next day.

The jury was told she responded by shouting: “I’m going to get you done by my sons, I’m gonna get you done by my sons.”

Leon attempted to resolve the event by contacting Mr Young, it is believed a fight between both parties was discussed but Mr Young declined.

Mr Clarke said that Atkinson ‘wanted satisfaction’ and pursued David Short to agree a method of resolving the matter – the pair eventually spoke and David Short believed the matter had been concluded, but Mr Young appreciated that Atkinson was trying to lure them into a false sense of security.

The court heard how after speaking with his brothers, Leon, 35, of Ashton-under-Lyne, then enlisted the help of his ‘old friend’ Cregan, and began plotting a retaliation with other defendants, Luke Livesey, 27, of Hattersley, Matthew James, 33, of Clayton, Ryan Hadfield, 28, of Droylsden, and Damian Gorman, 37, of Glossop.

“They decided to exact revenge for the lack of respect shown to Theresa Atkinson and so the shootings at the Cotton Tree were a direct reprisal,” said Mr Clarke.

On the night of May 25 the Short family joined at the Cotton Tree pub for a drink while the architect of the hit, Atkinson, travelled to North Wales in order to create an alibi for himself – Cregan, Livesey and Gorman were left to carry out the hit.

It is alleged that Hadfield and James acted as spotters, alerting Cregan and his co-accused, who had been drinking at pubs in Stalybridge, when to carry out the shooting.

The jury were then shown CCTV footage captured outside the Cotton Tree as a stolen blue Ford Focus pulled up outside at 11.49pm, a masked gunman rushed in and fired seven shots before fleeing in the same vehicle.

The attack lasts only 11 seconds, and Mark Short was fatally wounded while three others were shot in the back or legs as the Atkinson family carried out their ‘revenge’ attack.

The prosecution claim Cregan was the gunman, while Livesey and Gorman were in the car

All six men deny murdering Mark Short and the attempted murder of three other men.

Accused of the murder of David Short with Cregan are Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, Anthony Wilkinson, 38, from Manchester and Jermaine Ward, 24.

All four are also jointly accused of the attempted murder of Sharon Hark on the same day, as well as a single charge of causing an explosion.

Wilkinson is additionally charged with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and Mohammed Ali, 32, from Chadderton, is accused of assisting an offender.

Cregan is the only man charged with murdering PCs Hughes and Bone.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow and the trial is expected to last between ten and 12 weeks.

The trial

Dale Cregan, 29, of no fixed abode, is being tried on two counts of murder. One is of the murder of Mark Short, 23, at The Cotton Tree Pub on May 26 last year. The second is his father David Short, 46, at his Folkestone Road East home on August 10. 

He also faces four counts of attempted murder and causing an explosion by using a hand-grenade.

Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Damian Gorman, 37, from Glossop,
Ryan Hadfield, 28, from Droylsden, Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, Luke Livesey, 27, from Hattersley,  are also charged with murdering Mark Short, and three counts of attempted murder of John Collins, Ryan Pridding and Michael Belcher, who were also in The Cotton Tree at the time. All deny the charges.

Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, Jermaine Ward, 24, and Anthony Wilkinson, 33, from Beswick, are also charged of murdering David Short. They are also charged with Cregan with one count of attempted murder of Sharon Hark in Droylsden later on the same day. All deny the charges

They are also accused of causing an explosion with a hand-grenade. All deny the charge. 

Mohammed Ali, 23, is charged with assisting an offender. He denies the charge. 

Cregan has already pleaded guilty to the murder of police officers PC Nicola Hughes, 23, from Saddleworth, and PC Fiona Bone, 32, from Sale, in Hattersley on September 18 last year.

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