Olivia Pratt-Korbel: what family of murdered nine-year-old said at killer Thomas Cashman's sentencing
Olivia Pratt-Korbel had been due to have her hair cut five days after her murder, and wanted to donate 12 inches of hair “for sick kids to have beautiful wigs”.
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Olivia Pratt-Korbel's mother has told how lived out her worst nightmare as her little girl died of a gunshot wound.
Mum Cheryl Korbel was unable to perform CPR on little Olivia after being shot in the hand by Thomas Cashman - who chose not to appear for his own sentencing. The 34-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 42 years at the Manchester Crown Court on Monday (3 April), after he was last week found guilty of fatally shooting the schoolgirl as he chased a convicted drug dealer into her Liverpool home last August.
Cashman refused to appear in the courtroom, claiming that the Crown Prosecutors had been singing "We are the Champions" after his verdict last week. Justice Yip slammed his lack of attendance as “disrespectful” to not only the court, but the family of the deceased.
Cheryl, 46, took to the witness box during the Monday sentencing to read a statement, clutching a teddy bear made from Olivia’s pyjamas.
She said the nine-year-old had been due to have her hair cut five days after her death and wanted to donate 12 inches of hair to the Princess Trust “for sick kids to have beautiful wigs”. Ms Korbel described her daughter as a “girly girl” who “had her own style”.
As her other two children, Ryan and Chloe, became older, Olivia spent most of her time with her mother, she added. “She was nicknamed my shadow," Cheryl said.
She told the court Olivia was always talking: “One thing I miss the most is hearing her say ‘mum’. I just miss hearing her voice. It’s just so quiet. I would do and give anything in the world to hear her chatting to me.”
Ms Korbel described returning to the family home after Olivia’s death: “Right in that moment I was home, we were back to how our lives were before that night and I soaked up the surroundings until reality dawned and brought me back to my living nightmare.”
She said she was unable to give CPR to Olivia properly because she had been injured herself, sustaining a gunshot wound to the hand as Cashman tried to burst through her front door that night.
“My worst nightmare was being separated from Liv, not being with her when she needed me the most,” she told the court. “I was the first person to hold my baby girl and as her mum I should have been the last.”
“I cannot get my head around how Cashman continued to shoot after hearing the terrified screams and utter devastation he had caused. He doesn’t care. His actions have left the biggest hole in our lives,” she continued.
Ms Korbel said her grandmother had been admitted to hospital recently, and a couple of weeks ago was brought home for end-of-life care. She told the court she “held out long enough to hear that coward had been found guilty”, but died last night.
She said Olivia would never get to make her Holy Communion, wear a prom dress or have a 16th birthday party: “All that promise for her future so cruelly taken away.”
“Now I have to drive to the cemetery to be close to my baby daughter. I tell her she will live on in my heart, she will always be with us. My little shadow," she added.
Reading her own statement to the court, Olivia’s sister Chloe, 18, said: “22 August 2022 was the worst day of my life, the day my Olivia was taken away from us.
“Not only did I lose my baby sister but I lost my best friend… When I was told she passed away I felt as though my heart had stopped beating,” she continued.
Chloe told the court it was like: “a piece of me left with her that night, and since then I have felt as though I am in a nightmare I can’t wake up from”.
A statement from the family of Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s father John Pratt, read outside court by his sister Louise, said they were “happy with the outcome” but “would not be celebrating as nothing could fill the gap in our lives following the loss of Olivia”.
“Our greatest hope is for this conviction to lead to more guns, and especially those used in the murder of OIivia, to be handed into the police so that no other families go through this tragedy," they said.
“Lastly, I would like to say Olivia Pratt-Korbel died a scared nine-year-old and we hope Cashman is haunted by this knowledge for the rest of his life.”
Sentencing Cashman, Justice Amanda Yip said the defendant had not acknowledged his responsibility for Olivia’s death. and had demonstrated no remorse. “His failure to come into court is further evidence of that," she said.
She said Cashman had “relentlessly pursued” his target Joseph Nee, a convicted drug dealer, into Olivia’s home that fateful day, where the schoolgirl had left her bed after hearing the commotion.
The judge said: “She came downstairs to seek the comfort of her mother...Her last words were ‘mum, I’m scared’... In a terrible twist of fate she had stepped directly into the line of fire.”