Brave ex partner turned ‘supergrass’ who brought killer to justice: How Thomas Cashman’s former lover told police he took refuge at her home after little Olivia was murdered and demanded change of clothes
- After being given lifelong anonymity the woman agreed to testify in court
- The senior investigating officer in the case hailed her ‘incredible bravery’
Thomas Cashman’s ex-lover who turned ‘supergrass’ was a key breakthrough in bringing him to justice – with detectives today hailing her ‘incredible bravery’ in coming forward.
In the days after Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot, Merseyside Police’s Chief Constable Serena Kennedy urged ‘members of the criminal fraternity’ to ‘examine their consciences’ and identify her killer.
Appealing to Liverpudlians to rise against the city’s reputation for an ‘anti-grass’ culture, she said the killing of a nine-year-old child in her own home ‘crosses every single boundary’.
But while people living in Olivia’s neighbourhood agreed to hand over crucial CCTV and Ring doorbell footage showing the gunman before and after the shooting, the breakthrough was to come from an unexpected source.
A woman with whom Cashman had been cheating on the mother of his two children revealed he had tried to take refuge in her home moments after his bid to kill Joseph Nee went so horribly wrong.
Olivia Pratt-Korbel (pictured) died after being shot in the chest at her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on August 22, last year
Thomas Cashman, pictured here in his police mugshot, was found guilty of her murder and injuring her mother
After being given lifelong anonymity, she agreed to testify in court as to how he had demanded a change of clothes – and how she overheard him saying he had ‘done Joey’ and that it had ‘all gone wrong’.
READ MORE HERE: Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s mother cries tears of relief and holds teddy aloft as sobbing drug dealer is found guilty of the 9-year-old’s murder
Her combative response to being quizzed about intimate details of her fling with Cashman by his barrister, John Cooper KC, proved a pivotal part of the murder trial.
Standing her ground in the face of claims that she was a woman ‘scorned’, she said: ‘When there’s a little girl involved, there’s no grassing.’
The judge, Mrs Justice Yip, repeatedly had to halt proceedings as the exchanges became increasingly ill-tempered.
But ultimately jurors preferred her account to that of Cashman – whose alibi was that he was counting drug money and smoking a ‘spliff’ with a friend who conspicuously failed to give evidence in his defence.
For her bravery, the woman is now understood to be living under witness protection, and may never be able to return to Merseyside.
Following Cashman’s conviction for Olivia’s murder, the senior investigating officer in the case hailed her ‘incredible bravery’.
‘Without witnesses, there’s no justice,’ Detective Superintendent Mark Baker said today.
‘She has stood up for what is right – justice.
‘As she has said, there is no such thing as a grass when it involves a nine-year-old child.
‘Her evidence was powerful, emotional. But most importantly, she spoke the truth. She should be proud of herself.
‘Her testimony has helped bring the killer of a nine-year-old child to justice.’
Cashman, pictured here in a court sketch today, sobbed and held his head in his hands as he was convicted of Olivia’s murder
Cheryl Korbel, Olivia’s mother, holds a teddy bear in memory of her daughter in the air after the jury found Thomas Cashman guilty
The witness said she called her on-off partner, Paul Russell (pictured) after Cashman demanded a change of clothing on the night of Olivia’s death
He said her ‘courage’ ought to serve as an example to others with crucial information about serious crimes to ‘come forward and do the right thing’.
The witness was initially arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender days after her partner, Paul Russell, was held over the same offence.
Initially she didn’t mention Cashman to police, saying later she had been ‘scared’.
But over the course of a series of interviews she revealed how she had been awoken on the night of Olivia’s death by an ‘agitated’ Cashman demanding a change of clothing.
The witness said she called her on-off partner, Paul Russell, who came to the house.
He drove Cashman back to where he’d parked his van earlier, the jury has been told.
However they weren’t told that 41-year-old Russell had pleaded guilty to assisting an offender last October over his role.
The witness – who had previously had an intermittent sexual relationship with Cashman – told detectives he was ‘stuttering’ about how ‘someone’s come for him’.
‘He wanted to do whatever he wanted to do before they got to him.’
At that stage, she was unaware of Olivia’s death – but after learning of the tragedy felt ‘petrified’ as she realised what Cashman had done.
She was arrested almost a week later, and after initially lying to police she finally revealed what had happened.
In cross-examination, Cashman’s barrister, John Cooper KC, accused her of trying to ‘ruin’ his client because she was ‘angry, resentful and vindictive’ that he had begun seeing another woman.
But in heated exchanges she responded by accusing him of asking ‘irrelevant’ questions, insisting she was motivated ‘for that little girl, for the family to get justice’.
‘I have had to do what I have had to do for a little girl here,’ she added.
‘I have had to go through a lot of pain, to think about what Tommy done.’
A van believed to be carrying Cashman is driven away from Manchester Crown Court today after he was found guilty
Asked had agreed to give evidence in court, she answered: ‘Because of this little girl.
‘I can’t believe he’s making her family go through this.
‘I just feel if he was any sort of a man he’d just f****** own it.’
Her role closely mirrors that of ‘Boy X’ in the trial of Sean Mercer for shooting dead 11-year-old Rhys Jones – 15 years to the day before Olivia was shot, also in Liverpool.
Despite multiple witnesses, a culture of fear and intimidation meant no-one was charged for eight months.
The breakthrough came when a key player in the attempted cover-up – a boy who had been instructed to hide the murder weapon – agreed to testify in return for anonymity and immunity from prosecution.
Mercer was eventually ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years behind bars, meaning he cannot be released until 2030 at the earliest.
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