Thomas Cashman: how Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s killer ended up behind bars

Police initially feared they would struggle to bring nine-year-old’s murderer to justice

Olivia Pratt-Korbel
Nine-year-old Olivia was fatally shot at her home in Liverpool last August
(Image credit: Family handout/Merseyside Police)

Drug dealer Thomas Cashman has been jailed for a minimum of 42 years for the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in her home in Merseyside.

The crime “shocked not only the city of Liverpool, but the nation”, said the judge as she handed out the sentence on Monday.

The 34-year-old Cashman, of Grenadier Drive, West Derby, was found guilty last week of the murder while in “ruthless pursuit” of another criminal, Joseph Nee.

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The night of the murder

The court heard how Cashman spent a day “scoping out” his target before chasing Nee into Olivia’s home in the Dovecot area of the city on the evening of 22 August 2022. The schoolgirl had run downstairs after hearing gunshots outside, telling her mother she was “scared”. When her mother opened the front door to see what the noise was, Nee ran towards it.

“The bullet which killed Olivia,” said the Independent, “was fired through the front door, hitting Olivia’s mother Cheryl Korbel in the hand before striking the nine-year-old girl in the chest.”

Olivia, later described by her mother as a “sassy, chatty girl who everyone adored”, was declared dead shortly after being taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

But Cashman was not arrested immediately. “Fear of reprisals meant police and prosecutors were concerned they would struggle to ever bring Olivia’s masked killer to justice,” said the BBC. The “crucial breakthrough” came when one of his ex-partners approached the police two days later. He had come to her on the night of the murder.

Thomas Cashman

Cashman has been jailed for a minimum of 42 years after an 18-day trial at Manchester Crown Court
(Image credit: Merseyside Police)

The star witness

In the trial, the ex-partner became the prosecution’s “star witness”, said the Daily Mirror. “Defiant in the face of Liverpool’s gangs and the feared hitman himself”, she told the jury there was “no such thing as a grass when it involves a nine-year-old girl”.

The woman, who has not been named for her own protection, “gave the jury the killer’s whereabouts the night of Olivia’s murder, along with details of how he attempted to cover it up, blowing to pieces his thin alibi”, said the paper.

She is “believed to have had more death threats than any other police witness in Merseyside’s history”, said The Sunday Times, and “may face years in a witness protection programme, hidden away from family and friends”.

Detective Superintendent Mark Baker of Merseyside Police – described by the paper as “a veteran of Liverpool’s murky world of organised crime” – said he had “never seen such bravery”.

The sentence

In the end, the jury took just over nine hours to find Cashman guilty of murder, attempted murder, wounding with intent and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. Yesterday, at Manchester Crown Court, he was sentenced to 42 years behind bars.

“42 years. 504 months. 15,330 days. 367,920 hours. 22,075,200 minutes,” reflected the Liverpool Echo. “But if you think Thomas Cashman will spend even one of his 1,324,512,000 seconds in jail reflecting or feeling sorry for what he’s done… then you haven’t been paying attention.”

In what the paper called a “final insult to a family whose lives he has torn apart”, Cashman refused to leave his cell to attend the sentencing. “From the moment he shot nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel dead, he has proved himself to be the ultimate coward,” said the Echo.

Cheryl Korbel holds a teddy bear made of Olivia’s pyjamas outside court

Cheryl Korbel holds a teddy bear made of Olivia’s pyjamas outside court
(Image credit: Peter Byrne/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

The judge, Mrs Justice Yip, said Cashman had “not acknowledged his responsibility for Olivia’s death and so has demonstrated no remorse”, further evidenced by his failure to come to court for sentencing.

According to The Sun, there is a £250,000 bounty on Cashman’s head over fears that he will “hand over information on unsolved gangland executions and killings in the region” in exchange for “a cushier time inside”.

“News of the bounty has been sent to criminals in the north and around jails via encrypted app Telegram,” said the paper. Cashman has been “linked to three other unsolved deaths”, added the Sun.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Olivia’s mother welcomed the sentence and said justice had prevailed, but that she and her family had “already started our life sentence having to spend the rest of our lives without Olivia”.

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