The ex-lover of murderer Thomas Cashman’s blew apart his fake alibi to make sure the monster was convicted for killing nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel.
Merseyside Police has said they have never seen such bravery and the woman has already received the most death threats of any witness the force has dealt with.
She broke the criminal gang code to make sure her ex-lover Cashman was held accountable for his crimes as she tore his testimony apart from the witness box, and even taunted him for lasting just 56 seconds in bed.
Now in the witness protection scheme, she may end up cut off from her friends and family for life.
Giving evidence from behind a screen, Thomas Cashman’s former lover was a contradictory whirlwind of defiance and vulnerability, conscience and barbed comebacks. ‘I’ve ruined my life for this,’ she told Manchester Crown Court. She said he had brought her a ‘world of pain’.
Cashman shared this photo on social media showing him posing with a fleet of luxury cars
Olivia was fatally shot in the chest at her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on August 22 last year
Kayleeanne Sweeney, Cashman’s partner, turned up every day during the trial at Manchester Crown Court
Thomas Cashman, 34, wiped away tears in the dock after being found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of murdering nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel
Giving evidence from behind a screen, Thomas Cashman’s former lover was a contradictory whirlwind of defiance and vulnerability, conscience and barbed comebacks. ‘I’ve ruined my life for this,’ she told Manchester Crown Court. Pictured: Stock image of silhouette
It all started when hitman and drug dealer Cashman carried out a botched hit job on Joseph Nee, 36.
Olivia’s mother Cheryl heard shots being fired and opened the front door. Nee pushed his way in as he tried to escape, while Cashman fired through the door.
A bullet struck nine-year-old Olivia in the chest. She died in her mother’s arms.
Cashman fled to his ex’s house as began a long endeavour to get away with the murder that shocked the nation.
His ex, a very modern-day heroine has since been granted a lifetime of anonymity under the witness protection scheme and is believed to have been moved out of Liverpool – ruing the day, no doubt, she and Cashman started their affair.
She described how drug dealer Cashman had jumped over back gardens to seek refuge at her home on the night of August 22, last year.
And how, after realising he had killed nine-year-old Olivia, she had reported the man she had been ‘infatuated’ with to the police – putting her own life on the line in the process.
As the star witness at Cashman’s 18-day murder trial, she had to provide humiliating and tawdry details about the couple’s affair, including the size of Cashman’s genitalia.
She described how drug dealer Cashman (pictured) had jumped over back gardens to seek refuge at her home on the night of August 22, last year
Yet if she felt diminished or daunted by the terrifying prospect of Cashman seeking revenge, she disguised it well.
As she put it to the killer’s lofty defence team: ‘I’m more than ready for you, so come on.’
So impressive was her candour that Detective Superintendent Mark Baker of Merseyside Police said: ‘In my 30 years as a police officer, I’ve never seen such bravery.’
Another police source told The Sunday Times: “Cashman is a drug dealer and a violent gangster. For her to give evidence against him meant everything — not only to Olivia’s family, but to the communities of Merseyside, and Merseyside police force as an organisation. It was the moment when Liverpool’s community said, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Cashman grew up living with his parents Stephen, a meat worker, and Angela, in a terraced council house just 15 minutes away from Olivia’s home.
He started delivering newspapers and washing cars before working at fairgrounds in Wales after he left school at around the age of 13 or 14.
Before he was convicted for Olivia’s murder, the father-of-two was living in a upmarket area of Liverpool in a £450,000 home.
Having become pivotal to Cashman’s conviction, she is said to have faced more threats than any witness Merseyside Police have ever dealt with.
The pair are believed to have known each other for years, and started flirting with each other on Instagram.
After she realised her ex had killed nine-year-old Olivia (pictured), she had reported the man she had been ‘infatuated’ with to the police – putting her own life on the line in the process
Cashman is facing decades behind bars for killing nine-year-old schoolgirl Olivia (pictured). He will be sentenced on Monday
Cheryl Korbel, mother of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, lifts one of her child’s toys in the air outside Manchester Crown Court after Thomas Cashman was found guilty of murdering her daughter. The teddy was a tribute to Olivia that was also carried at her funeral
Ms Korbel’s right hand showed the scars from the shooting as she held a teddy bear in memory of her daughter outside court today
‘Do you feel what I feel?’ Cashman asked his ex, who – dazzled by the designer clothes worn by the outwardly respectable father of two – in turn questioned him: ‘Why do your eyes undress me all the time?’
As she told the jury of Cashman: ‘I’m not gonna lie, he’s a good-looking lad.’
Thus began a ‘fling’ that continued ‘on, off, for months’ but, for all the initial excitement, seemed to offer his ex rapidly diminishing returns.
At first, she told the court, the sex was ‘actually amazing’, but by their third encounter, it ‘lasted about 56 seconds’.
She said Cashman was unable to perform in bed at all on occasion – and, with hindsight, said she felt ‘groomed’ by him.
Certainly, the killer seemed confident his ex would comply with his demands when he ‘sought refuge’, as prosecutor David McLachlan KC put it, at her house that fateful night last August.
His ex had been asleep for around two hours when Cashman woke her by tapping her on the leg and saying, ‘It’s Tommy, it’s Tommy.’
The murderer had tried to carry out the hit job on Joseph Nee, 36, (pictured) while he was walking home from a friend’s house, but his gun jammed and Cashman’s target fled, barging into Olivia’s home in a bid to save himself
Cashman’s family and friends gestured to crowds outside as they left Manchester Crown Court
He told her: ‘I didn’t know where else to go, I trust you.’ She followed him downstairs in the dark as Cashman muttered something to the effect of someone being after him.
He was trouserless and demanded ‘a pair of pants’ from his ex who, still half-asleep, handed him a pair of tracksuit bottoms belonging to her boyfriend, Paul Russell.
When she asked where Cashman had been, he told her that he’d ‘dropped the bits’ off – a reference to guns, she later deduced. Although he told her ‘no-one can know I’m here’, she called Russell, who rushed round.
On the doorstep, she heard the two men discussing Joseph Nee, the intended target of Cashman’s shooting.
‘I’ve done Joey,’ she heard Cashman say, before Russell drove the killer to the van he’d parked earlier, and took away the pile of clothes he’d been wearing when he killed Olivia and which had been dumped on the floor by his ex’s washing machine.
Sweeney vaped outside a Co-op on the day her long-term partner was found guilty for the brutal murder
If Sweeney regrets devoting herself to a wicked criminal who brought home up to £5,000 a week from drug deals — not to mention the infidelity that emerged in court — she showed no sign of it during the case
The following morning, after learning news of Olivia’s death on television, his ex ‘put two and two together’. Suspecting Cashman must have been involved, she broke down.
When she heard Nee’s name reported as the intended target, her worst fears were confirmed, and she told police: ‘I couldn’t protect him.’
She knew Olivia’s mother Cheryl deserved answers: ‘It’s her little girl, at the end of the day.’
And while police struggled to find witnesses in Cashman’s drug-dealing underworld willing to speak out, his ex said: ‘There is no such thing as a grass when it involves a nine-year-old.’
Yet at first, fear of reprisal prevented her from admitting she’d had sex with Cashman.
‘I was petrified to say yes and to go out there and all the drama to come to my door,’ she said, her world quickly descending into panic and paranoia: ‘I felt everything… happened so fast… I was scared… I didn’t think I was going back to my own home ever again.’
Yet her conscience prevailed: ‘I ended up breaking down because I physically couldn’t hold it inside me no more.’
Last October Paul Russell, 41, pleaded guilty to assisting Cashman at Liverpool Crown Court, his conviction unable to be reported until after Cashman’s trial. He is expected to be sentenced soon.
Last October Paul Russell (pictured), 41, pleaded guilty to assisting Cashman at Liverpool Crown Court, his conviction unable to be reported until after Cashman’s trial. He is expected to be sentenced soon
Having lost her lover and her boyfriend, Cashman’s ex-turned star witness turned up at Manchester Crown Court to be branded a ‘liar’ by defence lawyer John Cooper KC, who accused her of being ‘angry, resentful and vindictive’ towards Cashman because he had refused to leave long-term partner Kayleeanne Sweeney for her.
To which she retorted: ‘I certainly didn’t want a relationship with a thug with a little willy.’
Cashman accused her of trying to ruin his life ‘for loads of reasons’. He alleged Russell owed him a £25,000 drug debt and she wanted him ‘out of the way’.
When she was questioned about a text she sent to a friend a month before Olivia’s murder in which she said she wanted to ‘ruin him like he’s done to me’, she claimed this was because she had learned Cashman had also been seeing one of Ms Sweeney’s friends.
At times so emotional that the judge Mrs Justice Yip at one stage asked her to calm down, Cashman’s ex nonetheless managed to ridicule the defence team’s line of questioning.
When they suggested she couldn’t have been that shaken by what happened because she went to the gym and the nail salon, she asked: ‘Am I being shouted at for getting my nails done?’
And after objecting to Mr Cooper’s facial expression on one occasion, she told the barrister, ‘I suggest you shouldn’t look at me like that again. I’m not a child, I’m a grown woman. I don’t take s***.’
Her flippant remarks could have been dismissed as disrespectful, were it not for the truth and conscience that undercut every word.
At one point she described Mr Cooper’s line of questioning about her sexual relationship with Cashman as ‘appalling’ and said: ‘The only thing I’m very passionate about is that little girl – so should you be.’
Crying, she told jurors that if Cashman was ‘any sort of man he’d just f****** own it’.
‘I can’t believe he’s making the family go through what they’re going through,’ she said.
What her life will look like from now on will be in part up to her. The National Crime Agency (NCA) Protected Persons Service is not compulsory.
At any time she could create a social media account and expose herself.
That could lead to her life being threatened.
Her courage was perhaps the one redeeming factor of this tragic case. ‘I’ve got a lot of compassion,’ she said. ‘If I believe something I’ll fight it until my point has been heard.’