‘Darkest day in GMP history’: Timeline of four murders that shook Manchester as two officers lured to fatal ambush

By Dean Wilkins

The senseless, incomprehensible killing of two officers was branded ‘the darkest day in the history of the Greater Manchester Police’ by Sir Peter Fahy yesterday.

Nicola Hughes, 23, and partner Fiona Bone, 32, were dispatched to a ‘routine incident’ after a home burglary call was received by police – a call that turned out to be a fatal trap.

The two officers, who strived to serve and protect their communities, arrived at the hideout of the force’s most-wanted criminal Dale Cregean. Only a matter of hours later both were pronounced dead.

Cregan handed himself to police and he remains in custody.

And while the police force’s flag flies at half-mast at their headquarters, GMP will face questions about how an operation that cost £150,000 a day ended so brutally, and so tragically.

How did the force’s most-wanted criminal manage to live and escape their grasp for 39 days?

How deep is the ‘criminal conspiracy’ in Greater Manchester that managed to operate so successfully under GMP’s nose?

Why were two unarmed officers sent to a home within the radius of the brutal gun and grenade murders – an area where men arrested in connection with both murders had connections?

The reward of £50,000 for information that led to the arrest of Dale Cregan, 29, and Anthony Wilkinson, 33, was the highest amount ever issued by GMP and was used to entice vital information out of the people who held it.

Unfortunately, that information was never disclosed by those who knew it.

Below is a timeline of events across Greater Manchester beginning with the targeted attack on Mark Short in the Cotton Tree pub, and ending with the worst day in British police history for 46 years.


May 25

11.50pm: Mark Short, 23, gunned down on May 25 at Cotton Tree pub, Market Street, Droylsden, Manchester.


June 12

Three men, aged 27, 29, 37, arrested on suspicion of murdering father-of-one Mark Short. The suspects are bailed two days later until August.


Three other men, aged 18, 21 and 34, arrested on suspicion of murder and assisting an offender bailed until July 30.


June 19

CCTV footage of the getaway car used in Mark Short’s murder released by police.

Images show the vehicle stop outside the Cotton Tree Pub – the gunman was in the pub for 15 seconds before fleeing.


August 9

Man, 27, from the Hattersley area, and a 38-year-old from Glossop charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with Mark Short shooting.


August 10

10.30am: David Short, 46, killed in targeted shooting and grenade attack at home on Folkestone Road East, Clayton.

10.40am: Second grenade explosion at a home in Luke Road, Droylsden. No-one injured in blast.


August 13

Greater Manchester Police release shocking CCTV footage of gun and grenade killing of David Short, as two men casually walk up to house with guns. One unpins a grenade and launches it into house before both run off.

Detectives release two names wanted in connection with murder – Anthony Wilkinson, 33, and Dale Cregan, 29. Cregan is also wanted in connection with the murder of Mark Short.


August 15

Clues surrounding two grenade attacks in Manchester released as police urge members of the public to come forward with information.


August 16

Fourth man, from Ashton-under-Lyne, charged with murder of Mark Short and three counts of attempted murder.


August 17

GMP offer £25,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest of Mark Cregan and Anthony Wilkinson.


August 27

Reward doubled to £50,000 – the biggest-ever issued by GMP – as officers urge people in north Manchester communities to ‘do the right thing’ and disclose vital information.


August 29

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan poses next to £50,000 reward urging people to come forward with details of where Dale Cregan and Anthony Wilkinson may be hiding.

People in Clayton, Droylsden and surrounding areas ‘are becoming frustrated with the intense and continuing policing activity’, claims ACC Shewan.


September 2

Wanted man Anthony Wilkinson is caught on the junction of Herne Street and Newton Close, Openshaw, shortly before midday by armed officers on patrol – 23 days after David Short murder.


September 3

Greater Manchester Police urge Dale Cregan to hand himself in and avoid ‘stand-off’ and offer him ‘full control’ over the situation in order to come to a ‘safe resolution’.


September 5

Officers charg Anthony Wilkinson with murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.


September 10

Greater Manchester’s most-wanted criminals list issued by force – Dale Cregan is GMP’s ‘top priority’.


September 14

Two men, aged 32 and 37, arrested by armed officers at homes in Tameside and Oldham and quizzed on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, as officers continue David Short investigation.


September 18

11am: Two officers called to bogus burglary by Dale Cregan at house in Abbey Gardens, Mottram, Hyde

11.05am: Officers Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, gunned down in broad daylight and grenade is thrown – Miss Bone is killed on scene.

11.30am: Dale Cregan’s silver BMW is chased by armed police before he drives into Hyde police station to hand himself in.

1.00pm: Second unarmed officer Miss Hughes dies in hospital from gunshot wounds.


September 19: GMP chief Sir Peter Fahy defends ‘absolutely normal’ decision to release Dale Cregan on bail in June following Mark Short murder probe – detectives had ‘insufficient evidence’ against him.


September 19: Family of 23-year-old WPC Nicola Hughes pay tribute to their ‘very caring and loving daughter’.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook. 


Related Articles