A killer who took two loaded guns onto the streets of Liverpool to shoot a man but instead fatally shot nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in her home, has been convicted of her murder.
Thomas Cashman, 34, from West Derby, Liverpool, set out to kill Joseph Nee on 22 August 2022, armed with two guns. He lay in wait for his target who he chased down Kingsheath Avenue, Dovecot.
CCTV evidence presented at the trial recorded three loud bangs and showed how Joseph Nee, struck in the midriff, fell to the ground. He was able to get away from his attacker due to one of the guns malfunctioning. He then ran to a nearby unconnected house for safety. This was the home of Cheryl Korbel and her family.
Cashman did not give up and pursued Nee to the address. He fired again as Ms Korbel tried to block his entry to the house. The bullet hit Ms Korbel in the hand, then hit and killed her daughter Olivia who was standing behind her.
Olivia was rushed to nearby Alder Hey Children’s Hospital by two police officers who arrived on the scene a short time later, but she had been fatally wounded.
After the shooting, Cashman fled to the house of a woman he’d had a relationship with and changed his clothes. This woman became a key witness for the prosecution. The CPS applied for reporting restrictions to protect her identity.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Maria Corr, of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s Complex Casework Unit, said, “This has been a truly tragic case and one of the most complex I have had to deal with in my 32 years with the Crown Prosecution Service.
“At the heart of it is a nine-year-old girl who has lost her life. Olivia Pratt-Korbel was in her own home, with her family, where she should have been safe.
“By contrast, Thomas Cashman is a ruthless criminal who recklessly pursued another man, with no consideration of the consequences. He was intent on violence that night, arming himself with two loaded guns.
“He refused to display any guilt or remorse, denying his involvement throughout and putting Olivia’s family through the torment of a lengthy trial.
Cashman was arrested on 29 September 2022 and was charged with Olivia’s murder. He was also charged with the attempted murder of Joseph Nee, wounding of Cheryl Korbel with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, namely a 9mm calibre self-loading pistol and a 0.3 calibre revolver.
Cashman denied the offences and told a jury during his trial that he had been in the area as a drug dealer, but was not the gunman.
After a three-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, he was found guilty of all charges. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Maria Corr, added, “Working alongside Merseyside Police, who conducted a thorough and meticulous investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service was able to present compelling evidence in court that proved Cashman was the gunman who killed Olivia and ran away.
“Supporting Olivia’s family and the key witnesses in this case has been vital, so that the prosecution could present the strongest case at court. It was important that they felt able to give their best evidence, without fear.
“Firearms have no place in our society and the use of them can devastate families, as this case has so tragically shown. Wherever there is evidence to do so, we will always seek to prosecute dangerous offenders who bring the safety of communities into question.
“Today, our thoughts and sympathies are with Olivia’s family and friends.”
Emily Spurrell, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, said, “I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s family and loved ones have been through in the past seven months.
“There is no justice that can bring Olivia back and the last three weeks of the trial and Cashman’s refusal to admit his crimes must only have compounded their unthinkable suffering.
“Today’s guilty verdict will not bring their unique, chatty, beautiful little girl back and sadly it will not end their heartache, but at least they know he is off the streets and facing a life sentence for his cowardly and despicable actions.
“I would like to pay tribute to the hard-working officers and staff of Merseyside Police for their relentless determination to bring him to justice so swiftly.
“From the moment this horrific incident took place, they have been unwavering in their commitment to ensure he is made to pay for his actions.
“I’d also like to thank the community of Dovecot who have shown courage and empathy and have pulled together at this very dark time for our city.
“There is no place for firearms in our region. Every time one is brandished or used, it brings fear, misery, and anguish.
“This senseless murder devastated our city. Sadly, it showed there is still a contemptible minority, an underbelly of our society, who have no morals and no care for anyone but themselves and their own greed.
“It is vital that we unite to make it clear they will never be welcome in our proud, caring, compassionate region.
“Merseyside Police are recognised across the country for their relentless approach to tackling and disrupting these heartless individuals and the criminal gangs who harbour them. I am committed to supporting that work and ensuring they have the resources they need to bring perpetrators to justice and protect people across Merseyside.
“But we always need the support of our communities. If you have any information about gun crime – where weapons are being housed or who is using them – my heartfelt plea is please, do the right thing and speak out.
“By coming forward with the information you have, you can play a vital role in protecting the lives of innocent people and preventing further tragedies.
“By working together, we can stop those intent on violence and harm and make all our communities stronger and safer.”
Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said, “Olivia’s senseless murder shocked the entire city, and her family and friends are foremost in our thoughts today.
“I hope the verdict will bring some comfort to her family, knowing that justice has been done.
“We are working closely with Merseyside Police and other partners to eradicate violent crime from our communities.”
Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Mark Baker said, “The result today will never bring Olivia back and I know that this will live with her family for the rest of their lives.
“I would like to thank the families of Olivia’s mum, Cheryl Korbel and dad, John Pratt for the dignity that they have demonstrated throughout the trial.
“Reliving the fatal events of that night last August will have surely been unbearable for all of them, particularly for Cheryl, who herself was injured during the shooting, and Olivia’s brother and sister, Ryan and Chloe, who were in the house at the time and witnessed the traumatic aftermath of Cashman’s vile actions.
“The key witness in this case has demonstrated incredible bravery. She has stood up for what is right… justice. Her evidence was powerful and emotional and most importantly she spoke the truth. She should be proud of herself knowing that her testimony has helped to bring the killer of a nine-year-old child to justice and I hope her courage encourages people to do the right thing in future investigations.
“I sincerely hope that today’s verdict will deter others from using guns on our streets. Olivia’s death should not be in vain. In 2007 the murder of Rhys Jones should have been that defining moment for those who were prepared to use guns on our streets. These people are toxic in our community, and we need to stand firmly together to root them out and put them behind bars. We don’t want other families to suffer in the way that Olivia and Rhys’ families have.
“In his police interviews Cashman showed no remorse for his actions. He has deprived a nine-year-old girl of her future, and her family of the pride they would have had in watching her grow up.
“When he found out that he had shot an innocent young girl, he should have had the courage to stand up and come forward. Instead, he chose to lay low, despite being a dad himself.
“He is not worthy of walking the streets of Merseyside, and neither are those who think they can bring fear, or intimidation, to our communities through the use of firearms.
“The investigation has been a relentless pursuit of the truth. I want to take this opportunity to thank the investigation team who have worked relentlessly to find the person responsible and find justice for Olivia and her family. I would also like to thank Senior Crown Prosecutor Maria Corr for her unwavering support since the beginning of the investigation together with prosecuting counsel David McLachlan KC and Henry Riding.
“I also want to provide reassurance that Merseyside Police and our partners will continue to target those involved in drug and gun crime and we will continue to work with our partners to help strengthen our local communities to live without the fear of violence and intimidation on their streets.
“This work will run alongside the Clear, Hold, Build work we are undertaking with our partners in the area to prevent crime and build a stronger community, which doesn’t have to live in fear. If anyone has information of those involved in drug crime, or serious organised crime, I encourage them to come forward either directly to Merseyside Police or anonymously to Crimestoppers. We will act on all information.”
Main image: Thomas Cashman