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‘Kill or be killed’: Anthony Wilkinson claimed victim had threatened him and his family, court hears

By Rob Lowson and Dominic Claeys-Jackson

Co-accused Anthony Wilkinson told his stepmother it was a case of ‘kill or be killed’ just two weeks before David Short’s murder, Preston Crown Court heard yesterday.

Wilkinson claimed he had received threats from Mr Short against him and his family, which stepmother Marion Wilkinson suggested had driven him to the alleged attack.

The accused, 38, from Stalybridge, also allegedly told Ms Wilkinson he would ‘kill her and her children’ if she disclosed his identity to police, and Mr Short would be ‘in the grave with Mark [his son] very soon’.

Mr Short was killed in a gun and grenade attack on his home in Folkestone Road East, Clayton, on August 10 last year, just months after his son was gunned down.

Dale Cregan, 29, Jermaine Ward, 24, and Francis Dixon, 37, from Stalybridge, have pleaded not guilty to his murder, alongside Wilkinson.

The four men have also denied the attempted murder of Sharon Hark on the same day, and a single charge of causing an explosion.

Wilkinson additionally denies the charge of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The court heard that Ms Wilkinson had given her stepson’s details to police via an initial 999 call just hours after the attack last year.

Confirming only her name and contact number, she said she would only give further details to a police officer in person and not over the phone.

Following the eight-minute 999 call, Ms Wilkinson was met by Detective Sergeant David Donlon who, at her request, drove to Droylsden cemetery, arriving at 1.40pm.

Det Sgt Donlon told the court that Ms Wilkinson stated her stepson had previously asked her how often David Short visited his son’s grave in the cemetery, where her late husband was also buried.

Ms Wilkinson is also said to have told police during the 999 call that her stepson had been to the cemetery to see his late father, as well as saying goodbye to his own children, in the days prior to the attack.

Det Sgt Donlon told the court that Ms Wilkinson became ‘slightly hysterical’ and asked to leave the vehicle when she realised he was taking notes of their conversation.

He added that she had been ‘very nervous and anxious’ throughout.

Peter Birkett QC, defending Wilkinson, argued Det Sgt Donlon’s notes were never checked by a colleague or Ms Wilkinson herself, and only contained brief snippets of the overall conversation.

However, Det Sgt Donlon told the court that while at no time did Ms Wilkinson suggest she knew the whereabouts of Wilkinson, or go into any detail regarding the supposed threats made against him, she was anxious that police find her stepson ‘before others got to him’.

He also stated that the quotes given by Ms Wilkinson were the ‘actual words she would have told me in the car’, claiming he was certain that the phrase ‘kill or be killed’ had been attributed to Wilkinson in relation to Mr Short.

Mark Short was killed in a gun attack at the Cotton Tree pub, Droylsden, on May 25.

Cregan, Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Luke Livesey, 27, from Hattersley, Ryan Hadfield, 28, from Droylsden, Damian Gorman, 38, from Glossop and Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, are charged with Mark Short’s murder.

All six co-accused have pleaded not guilty to that charge, as well as the attempted murder of John Collins, Ryan Pridding and Michael Belcher.

Cregan has already pleaded guilty to the murders of PCs Bone, 32 and Hughes, 23, on September 18.

Prosecutors claim Cregan was already on the run from police in connection with the murders when he lured the policewomen to their deaths.

The trial continues, to resume at 11.30am today.

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