Cowardly drug dealer who killed Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9, refuses to face victim’s family as he's jailed for 42 years

3 April 2023, 15:11 | Updated: 3 April 2023, 17:36

Thomas Cashman, Olivia Pratt-Korbel and girl's family outside Manchester Crown Court
Thomas Cashman has been jailed for shooting dead Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9, in a botched gangland hit. Picture: Alamy

By James Hockaday

The drug dealer who shot a nine-year-old girl dead during a botched gangland hit refused to face the judge as he was sentenced to life in prison.

Thomas Cashman, 34, remained in his cell as he was sentenced for shooting Olivia Pratt-Korbel at her home in the Knotty Ash area of Liverpool.

The coward killer said the proceedings had descended into a "circus" and the court heard he refused to attend as he was aware that the CPS were singing We are the Champions following the verdict in his trial.

Cashman's counsel, John Cooper KC, said: "He has been spoken to and been given certain advice but he is concerned that the matter is turning into a circus."

Mrs Justice Yip said she regarded his lack of attendance as "disrespectful" to not only the court but those interested in proceedings, including the family of the deceased.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel
Olivia was standing behind her mum in her family home when she was shot dead. . Picture: Alamy

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In his absence the judge handed him a sentence of life in prison with a minimum of 42 years. She told the court how she considered whether the murder met the threshold of a rare whole-life order, but decided it did not.

Cashman had been chasing rival Joseph Nee through the street when his intended target ran towards an open door on the night of August 22 last year, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard.

The gunman fired through the front door of the Korbel family's home at around 10pm, with a bullet ripping through Cheryl Korbel's wrist before hitting Olivia in the chest and killing her.

After hearing the commotion at the front door, Olivia ran downstairs screaming "Mum I'm scared", moments before she was shot dead. Ms Justice Yip said the gunman must have known there was an innocent family inside the property.

Reading her statement to the court, Olivia's sister Chloe, 18, said: "August 22 2022 was the worst day of my life, the day my Olivia was taken away from us.

Cheryl Korbel, (centre) mother of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, arrives at Manchester Crown Court on April 3, 2023
Cheryl Korbel, (centre) arrives at Manchester Crown Court with friends and family today. Picture: Alamy

"Not only did I lose my baby sister but I lost my best friend. When I was told she passed away I felt as though my heart had stopped beating.

"A piece of me left with her that night and since then I have felt as though I am in a nightmare I can't wake up from."

Cheryl Korbel, 46, took a teddy made from her daughter's pyjamas into the witness box as she spoke in court today.

She said: "I cannot get my head around how Cashman continued to shoot after hearing the terrified screams and utter devastation he had caused.

"He doesn't care. His actions have left the biggest hole in our lives. "That man set out to do a job and he didn't care about anyone else or who got in the way. He certainly couldn't own it either.

Following news that Cashman had refused to come out of his cell to face sentencing, a Ministry of Justice source said: "Olivia Pratt-Korbel and her family weren't able to hide from Thomas Cashman's crime - so he shouldn't be able to hide from justice.

"This is exactly why the Deputy Prime Minister is committed to changing the law so that offenders are forced to face the consequences of their actions."

Last week Cashman was found guilty of murdering the nine-year-old girl and wounding with intent regarding the mother's injuries.

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Olivia Pratt-Korbel was murdered in August last year
Olivia ran downstairs screaming 'Mum I'm scared' moments before she was shot. Picture: Family handout

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Jurors also found him guilty of the attempted murder of Nee, and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Ms Pratt-Korbel, was seen with an "ecstatic" look on her face as she left the court, raising a pink teddy bear into the air and shouting, "yes!".

Dr Rob Hesketh an expert in gang behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University told LBC News reporter Chris Chambers how gun crime goes hand in hand with the lifestyle Cashman was following.

"I think it’s the actual society as a whole we’re living in, a society of conspicuous consumption, people want nice things because that’s part of the identity," he said.

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A court artist sketch of Cashman, 34, in the dock at Manchester Crown Court on Monday April 3, 2023.
A court artist sketch of Cashman, 34, in the dock last week. Picture: Alamy

"We can’t go on the net without seeing advertisements for trainers, cars, houses, tracksuits, nice clothes… I’m not defending them in any respect, but young people want those goals because that’s part of an identity that they yearn for.

"But sadly in some communities the legitimate means to get those goals are not always there - as long as you’ve got a community where the dominant philosophy is criminality, then naturally you will get young people who are drawn into that.

Dr Hesketh added that the key driver of this violence is the drug trade, as it brings in a "heck of a lot of money".

"The temptation is always there. If there are no legitimate opportunities within a community and certain individuals are driving around in nice cars and wearing nice clothes, then that will be an attraction.

"Sadly these things start to spiral out of control because what happens is we get territoriality. Groups will take over certain areas, and there will be rivalry between those groups."