Thomas Cashman gets 42 years for ‘chilling’ murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel
Plus: A foiled plot to disrupt the Grand National
Dear readers — in the past hour, a judge in Manchester has handed down a 42-year prison sentence for Thomas Cashman, whose killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel stands out as one of the most horrifying crimes in Liverpool’s recent history. We’ve covered the sentencing below, while also asking what the case reveals about a broader criminal underworld in the city.
In a typically bumper edition, we’ve also got:
An undercover investigation which has foiled an animal rights group attempting to disrupt the Grand National at Aintree.
An excellent long-read about the Bunga Orkid, the ghost ship which sailed into Liverpool in 1974.
Wirral’s best-loved beer festival returns for its 15th year
There was lots of praise for Melissa Blease’s beautiful obituary to Paul O’Grady this weekend, which paid tribute to a queen of the drag world and a king of the kennels. “A quality of writing commensurate with its subject,” one commenter wrote. “O’Grady’s best eulogy,” said another. If you didn’t catch that one, you can read it here.
Last week paying members received two great pieces. Tuesday saw a tasty two-course menu of an edition: a dispatch from the church that has turned itself into St Michaels’ go-to music venue and a piece in which we self-aggrandisingly toasted the success of our campaign to save Croxteth Park’s treasured botanical plants. To out-of-the-loop members on our free list, the council intervened to save the plants (and the gardeners looking after them) at the last hour after our Monday briefing last week. Thanks for all the lovely comments about that:
“Congratulations on this excellent campaign. You are making a significant contribution to local journalism.”
“Well worth my monthly subs to save the Croxteth plants (and gardeners)!!”
“Well done The Post, just shows what a little pressure on those in charge of the council can do.”
Then on Thursday we unpacked the decade-long saga of Springfield Park, where campaigners believe they’ve been sold out by a deal struck in 2016. Tensions are close to boiling point…
“Keith Jones, a local resident and deputy chair of the Friends of Springfield Park group, was 67 when he first became involved in all of this. Now, he’s 80. ‘Honestly,’ he tells me. ‘I feel like I haven’t got the fight left in me.’ Why? ‘The lies. The lies and the deceitfulness.’”
Editor’s note: Coming up on The Post in the next few weeks we've got some fantastic investigative pieces, including one — two months in the making — that looks at the shocking effect of air pollution across Liverpool and Sefton, where some wards rank among the most polluted in the country. To read that one, and all of our journalism, sign up now for the outrageously reasonable price of 23p a day.
This week’s weather
Tuesday ☀️ Sunny and a gentle breeze with highs of 14°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 14°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 12°C
Friday 🌥️ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with highs of 15°C
Weekend 🌥️ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with cloud on Sunday and highs of 14°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: 42 years for Cashman. But he’s only the tip of the iceberg
Top line: Today, Thomas Cashman was sentenced to 42 years in prison for the killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel. There were gasps in the gallery as the sentence was read out, Olivia’s mum Cheryl cried and some police officers also looked tearful, according to the BBC. Judge Mrs Justice Yip called the murder “chilling”, and added: “if he'd only paused for a moment he'd have thought this was a family home.”
Context: The impact of the case has meant increased scrutiny on the prevalence of organised crime in our region. According to both the BBC’s Panorama documentary and the Sunday Times, Cashman is linked to far more serious organised crime circles than he let on in court. Other possible crimes committed by Cashman are now being investigated by detectives. He is believed to be linked to at least two other murders. As the Sunday Times put it:
“Police intelligence suggests Cashman worked part-time as a hitman and enforcer for a Merseyside drug gang with international connections, run by two brothers. He is suspected of killing Nicky Ayers, shot in 2010, and Karl Bradley, who was found dead in a back garden in 2013, just a few minutes’ walk from Olivia’s home.”
A further revelation was that the prosecution’s star witness — to whose house Cashman had fled in the wake of the murder — received the most death threats of any individual in Merseyside Police history. During the trial, she told the jury she doesn’t know what “my life will hold in the next few years”, but it is likely she will go into a voluntary witness protection scheme.
The case has reopened a painful conversation about the prevalence of gang violence in the region. Despite a lull in violence prior to last summer’s spate of killings, a number of alarming statistics have been used to demonstrate the extent of the problem:
In 2020, National Firearms Threat Centre found that more than 70% of weapons in the UK came through the port in Merseyside.
Gangs in the city are said to be using battlefield submachine guns capable of firing 850 rounds a minute. Serena Kennedy, the Merseyside police chief constable, said her force had becoming increasingly aware of Czech-manufactured Skorpion machine pistols on the streets of the city.
Violence against the person offences have risen from 4,538 in 2012 to 28,110 in the most recent figures, although it should be noted that police figures tend to be measured and collected in different ways as time goes on, and aren’t therefore always comparable.
In response to the violent flurry, Merseyside Police received £350,000 from the Home Office and undertook an extensive fightback in August and October. They made 420 arrests, executed 78 warrants and seized 90 vehicles, forcing some criminals to flee abroad to avoid the heat. It was rumoured to have affected the price of cocaine and cannabis on the street, with decreased supply.
The Post is aware that police in Dovecot — close to the Korbel home — told residents last week to expect further action and arrests in the wake of the trial. We also reported last year that sources with knowledge of the criminal underworld believed that the flurry of murders could be linked to a power vacuum that opened up following the mass arrests of Merseyside criminals after the Encrochat phone network was hacked. A new strategy is now being piloted by the force called Clear, Hold, Build, which stresses the prevention of gangs stepping into the vacuum left by successful law enforcement.
Clear — Acting on intelligence from the public and their own covert operations, officers remove criminals from a location through arrests and prosecutions
Hold — Police prevent new gangs filling the vacuum
Build — The local council, businesses and voluntary organisations pull together to create a safer and more prosperous community
Bottom line: Thomas Cashman tried to present himself in court as a run-of-the-mill local cannabis dealer, but the new reporting suggests his criminal CV is much darker. As his links to serious organised crime emerge in the wake of the trial (including the £250,000 bounty reported to be on his head to stop him from talking), it’s reasonable to expect other names of interest to police will come to light. Cashman’s lengthy sentence might represent justice and take a violent killer off the streets, but he is only one fraction of a far-reaching problem.
Your Post briefing
100 Animal Rebellion activists plotted to sabotage the Grand National at Aintree in protest against animal cruelty. A Mail on Sunday investigation found that the group — which included a former financial journalist and a nurse — planned to use ladders and bolt cutters to storm security fences before the race, then glue themselves together as a human barricade and sit across the track. The Mail said they had passed a dossier of evidence to Merseyside Police, including two secret reconnaissance missions of the racecourse to identify security weaknesses, a network of safehouses and the use of encrypted apps. Animal Rebellion is an offshoot of the well-known climate activism group Extinction Rebellion which campaigns against animal suffering and mistreatment. Last year its members protested outside an abattoir in Powys that slaughters 20,000 lambs a week.
Crowd congestion at the M&S Bank Arena, which will host Eurovision next month, has been deemed “unacceptable” in an internal report. ACC Liverpool, which runs the arena, acknowledged there had been extremely long queues and difficulties for fans attempting to enter a Jamie Webster gig in November. At the time one man told the BBC: “At least 15-20 people walked away and were just not dealing with it, and more people were coming out, getting a bit worked up, panicked about it, and just said, ‘It's just not worth it for our own safety.’” ACC said they had immediately revisited their layouts to ensure better “crowd flow” after the incident.
Cities like Liverpool and Bristol are “leading the way” in terms of diversity “in civic, public and corporate leadership”. The Guardian have been analysing the dearth of BAME people in prominent positions in Manchester (only 4.8% are black, despite a 14.8% black population) as part of their Cotton Capital editorial project, exploring the wealth of the Guardian’s founder and his backers and their links to slavery. “I think, particularly with Liverpool and Bristol, there’s been a two-way engagement from the leaders,” said Simon Wooley, who founded Operation Black Vote. “In Manchester, for many decades there was little or no engagement.”
Home of the week
A traditional shrimper’s cottage dated to the mid 19th century in the historic village of Churchtown is on the market for £375,000. It has exposed beams, a large garden and is within walking distance of a number of restaurants, bars and the picturesque Botanical Gardens. Non-shrimper’s will also be considered, though they will be expected to bid well over the asking price…
🎶 Tickets are selling fast for the best event in Bootle, 2023’s Bootle Music Festival, featuring The Zutons, The Farm, Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band, several fully stocked bars and street food from local vendors. There’s no guarantee of on-the-gate availability — so book here.
🍺 And another festival worth checking out, The Ship and Mitre’s Easter Beer Festival at Wirral’s Hulme Hall. There’ll be over 200 beers including 80 real ales and 80 craft beers. Get tickets here.
🎭 Adjoa Andoh’s Shakespearean shake-up, a performance of Richard III that seeks to question “what we think we know of him” is at the Playhouse from Thursday. “Exciting, fresh-thinking theatre, performed from the gut and piercing straight to the heart,” according to a four-star review in The Times. Prices range from £11 to £50.
📚 Why does Liverpool have so few Tories? Join the only Tory in town (almost) Dr David Jeffery for the launch of his lauded new book “Whatever Happened To Tory Liverpool?” at the University of Liverpool. It promises “a stunning array of graphs and a slightly less stunning array of refreshments.”
Our favourite reads
“In late January of 1974, the Bunga Orkid, a 10,730-ton Malaysian cargo ship, sailed into Liverpool along the fog-shrouded River Mersey,” begins this great piece on Matt Barton’s Penny Lane Dreadful. “When it reached Alexander Dock, the crew of the Bunga Orkid were jittery; something had spooked the tough Malay seamen”. Apparently, a female ghost had been seen “roaming the corridors” of their ship at night, later rumoured to be the spirit of a Japanese cleaner. In the end a priest had to be called in to perform an exorcism in order to put the men at ease enough to return to the ship and sail into the night.
The full Sunday Times long read about the trial of Thomas Cashman and the prosecution’s star witness is one of the best pieces on the topic. After fleeing the scene on the night of the killing Cashman showed up at the witness's bedside, with her later telling the court he had “destroyed [her] life” by asking for help. Among many revelations in the piece, it tells us that Cashman was preparing to flee the country after being released on conditional bail following his first arrest, but was under extensive surveillance from the National Crime Agency.
“It’s becoming like the Hunger Games for journalists,” says one regional newspaper reporter in this Guardian piece on the sorry decline of local media. Reach PLC — the massive company who own the Echo among a multitude of other titles — have announced two rounds of layoffs this year already, putting 620 jobs at risk. The piece explores the difficulty of funding local journalism in a world where the regional newspaper advertising market has shrunk from £2.5bn to £241m in less than 20 years. It’s not all “doom and gloom” though, apparently, thanks to the likes of — drumroll — us (and our sister titles in Manchester and Sheffield!). “Sadly, however, an aspect of local identity has died. It will never return,” reads one of the top comments by ZintW4. Well excuse us Zint, but not if we’ve got anything to do with it.
If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email email@example.com. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
We’d like to speak to anyone who has worked within (or has knowledge of) Sefton Council’s Children’s Services department for a piece we’ve had in the works for a few months. Any insights at all would be greatly appreciated — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we’re putting together an interview hit-list for the next few months. Can you recommend anyone we need to chat to? Let us know.
Letters from readers
Congratulations on this excellent campaign. You are making a significant contribution to local journalism. I have just upgraded my subscription to Founding—worth every penny. It is heartwarming to read good journalism. I was beginning to think all modern journalists had been bought by the system, and chained to workstations fed by confetti-spraying puff stories from marketing fluff-heads (continued..), ‘Rejoice! The plants are safe!’, Jed Stone
As for Paul himself, a man who despite all the deserved adulation, was never really taken with any of it, and no matter what he was doing, on stage, on tv, or on radio, the Real Paul O'Grady was never too far away. Deeply missed and gone way too soon, ‘Queen of the drag world, king of the kennels: The loving life of Paul O’Grady’, Baz