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Mum's touching tribute to murdered Olivia: Pink 'memory' teddy made from pyjamas she was dressed in at hospital
4 April 2023, 00:01 | Updated: 4 April 2023, 00:02
The pink 'memory' teddy Olivia Pratt-Korbel's mother held as her daughter's killer was jailed for life on Monday was made from the pyjamas the nine-year-old was dressed in at hospital.
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Cheryl Korbel, 46, arrived at court clutching the teddy as she hoped to see justice served to killer Thomas Cashman in person.
But Cashman, who shot the nine-year-old girl dead during a botched gangland hit in Liverpool last year, refused to face the judge as he was sentenced to life in prison.
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 killing her daughter Olivia.
Speaking about the teddy in her victim impact statement, Ms Korbel told the court on Monday: "This is Liv – she was made by a lovely lady called Nessa.
"She was actually made out of Liv’s pyjamas that she lay in when she was in Snowdrops next door to Alder Hey [children’s hospital in Liverpool]. She now shares my bed of a night with me."
Ms Korbel went on to tell the court how her mind "keeps telling me I've forgotten to pick her up from school", adding that Olivia would never get to make her Holy Communion, wear a prom dress or "walk down the aisle with the man of her dreams".
"I cannot get my head around how Cashman continued to shoot after hearing the terrified screams and utter devastation he had caused," she told the court.
"That man set out to do a job and he didn't care about anyone else or who got in the way."
Ms Korbel added: "My worst nightmare was being separated from Liv, not being with her when she needed me the most. I was the first person to hold my baby girl and as her mum I should have been the last."
Olivia's aunt, Louise Pratt, said in a statement on behalf of her father that the schoolgirl had "died a scared nine year old, and we hope [Thomas] Cashman is haunted by this knowledge for the rest of his life".
She said the the family are happy with the outcome, but "will not be celebrating".
Prior to sentencing, Cashman had claimed 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.
In his absence the judge handed him a sentence of life in prison with a minimum of 42 years.
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 the 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.
"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.”