Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy has defended the force’s decision to release Dale Cregan on bail after he was arrested in June on suspicion of the murder of Mark Short.
Cregan, who was one of Britain’s most wanted men, was finally arrested yesterday after handing himself into police and is being questioned about the murder of Mr Short and in connection with the deaths of two unarmed female police officers in yesterday.
PCs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, had been sent to investigate what appeared to be a routine burglary report when they were attacked yesterday in a gun and grenade attack.
Sir Peter said it was believed that the two officers had been lured to their death by Cregan either reporting a burglary at the property in Abbey Gardens himself or by getting someone else to make the call.
“It would appear Cregan has deliberately done this in an act of cold-blooded murder,” he told a press conference at the police headquarters in Newton Heath yesterday, adding that it was “impossible to fathom” at motive for the attack.
But the chief constable said it was “absolutely normal” for police to have released Cregan in June because, at that time, there was insufficient evidence for him to be charged.
He said: “It is absolutely normal in the course of complex crime enquiries that when people are arrested there are occasions where there is insufficient evidence available for them to be charged.
“In those circumstances suspects have to be released on bail as there are strict time limits covering how long suspects can be held in custody without charge. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
Cregan had been questioned and bailed in connection with the murder of Mr Short, 23, who was shot dead in a Manchester pub in May.
Mr Short’s father David Short, 46, who had branded his son’s killer a coward, was murdered in a gun and grenade attack at his home in August.
After he was released on bail in relation to the killing of Mark Short Cregan went on the run and became Manchester’s most wanted man.
Police have spent the last six weeks hunting for Cregan and even offered a reward of £50,000 for information of his whereabouts.
Yesterday’s incident has renewed the calls for police officers to be armed.
But Sir Peter said: “We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries, that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”