The man who assisted Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s murderer in evading punishment will be free in six months with a new identity, which will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
After admitting to assisting the perpetrator following the murder of the nine-year-old, Paul Russell, Thomas Cashman’s getaway driver, was sentenced to 22 months in prison.
Tragic Olivia was shot inside her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, in August, and the 41-year-old disposed of the child murderer’s clothing and took him back to his van after the nine-year-old was killed.
Russell appeared emotionless as the sentence was handed down this afternoon at Liverpool Crown Court, but the victim’s family was enraged after learning he will be released before the end of the summer.
He will be released inside six months after the judge took into account the time spent on remand, subjecting the little girl’s family to fresh torment.
Russell will be given a new identity upon his release at huge cost – a bill footed by the taxpayer, reports Liverpool Echo
Russell will be given a 25% credit for his guilty plea before his sentencing this afternoon, according to Justice Yip.
He has been advised, however, that he would “not be allowed to return to Merseyside” and that he will “no doubt be looking over his shoulder for some years to come.”
Olivia’s family members were in tears when they learned of his significantly lighter sentence on Wednesday.
When Olivia’s grieving brother Ryan Korbel heard the sentence would be suspended, he stormed out, which the judge finally denied owing to the’seriousness’ of the crime.
Tom Schofield, defending Russell, told the hearing Russell’s parents have had to move away from the city since the shooting.
He said: “It would be naïve not to recognise this hardship and disruption he has brought upon himself.
“Of course, all of that hardship and disruption is but a drop in the ocean of grief that Olivia’s family have had to endure and will continue to endure. I do ask the court to reflect those circumstances in some way in his sentence.”
Russell gave killer Cashman a lift from the home of Russell’s partner, where the ruthless gunman had fled to after shooting Olivia dead.
He also passed on incriminating clothes Cashman, 34, had worn during the shooting, to another accomplice who has not been identified.
At a hearing in October last year, he pleaded guilty to assisting an offender, saying he was “terrified” of Cashman and had no idea he had killed the schoolgirl when he assisted him.
His guilty plea could not be publicized until Cashman’s trial, in which he was found guilty of the schoolgirl’s murder last month, was completed.
Russell admitting driving Cashman from an address following Olivia’s death, when the gunman chased convicted drug dealer Joseph Nee into the family house on Kingsheath Avenue, firing through the door and wounded her mother, Cheryl Korbel.
Henry Riding, prosecuting, said: “Mr Russell not only admitted what he had done to assist Mr Cashman in the course of police interviews, he also named Mr Cashman in the course of the very first police interview.”
Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Mark Baker said: “The nation was rightly horrified by the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel as a consequence of the reckless actions of Thomas Cashman on that night.
“Assisting someone to escape justice when they have committed any crime is to be condemned but particularly so when an innocent child is the victim.
“Thankfully Russell saw fit to hand himself in when he realised the enormity of what Cashman had done and that Olivia had been killed.
“His guilty plea at least saves Olivia’s family the agony of sitting through another trial and having once again to relive that horrific night.
“Cashman will spend at least 42 years behind bars after being convicted of Olivia’s murder. As a consequence of what he did Russell will now also spend a period of time behind bars where I hope that he will be able to reflect on his actions on that night.”
Russell, who was also in a relationship with the woman, drove the killer from the address to Aspes Road, where he had earlier left his Citroen Berlingo van, and later took a bag containing his clothes to Snowberry Road, where friends of Cashman lived.
In police interviews, Russell said he did not like Cashman and just wanted to get him away from the woman’s house.
He told officers: “I’m terrified of him.”
The court heard at the time he was aware Cashman had been involved in a shooting but did not find out about Olivia’s death until the next morning.
He said he saw Cashman the following day and was warned: “Don’t say nothing.”
But, the court heard, that day Russell spoke to a trusted member of the community with a view to arranging to speak to police, who he made contact with the following day.
Mr Schofield, defending, added: “He doesn’t for a moment suggest he is blameless in this case and he recognises that it’s right he should be punished.”
He claimed that police issued a threat to life warning to Russell shortly after he was charged last October.
He was remanded to a Leeds prison but was transported to another prison under an assumed identity due to a danger to his safety.
Mr Schofield stated that Russell would be given a new identity and would not be permitted to return to Merseyside after his release.
“The defendant, for what it’s worth to the court and others listening,” he continued, “is the epitome of remorse for what he did.”
Cashman was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 42 years earlier this month.