Getaway driver who helped Olivia Pratt-Korbell's killer is jailed

Getaway driver who helped Olivia Pratt-Korbell’s killer cover his tracks after shooting the nine-year-old girl is jailed for 22 months

  • Paul Russell, 41, assisted an offender by driving Thomas Cashman from scene

Paul Russell (pictured), 41, admitted assisting an offender by driving Thomas Cashman, 34, away from the shooting before passing his clothes to another person

A getaway driver who helped Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s killer flee the scene of her murder has been jailed for 22 months – sparking upset among the schoolgirl’s grieving family.

Paul Russell, 41, admitted assisting an offender by driving Thomas Cashman, 34, away from the shooting before passing his incriminating clothes to another person.

Cashman shot dead the nine-year-old during a botched gangland assassination in Dovecot, Liverpool on August 22 last year, and was this month sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 42 years.

But his accomplice Russell could be released ‘relatively soon’ after receiving his much shorter sentence on Wednesday, which saw members of Olivia’s family break down in tears. 

It came after Olivia’s brother Ryan Korbel walked out when the court was told Russel’s sentence could be suspended – which the judge ultimately refused, ruling that ‘immediate custody’ was required owing to the ‘seriousness’ of the crime. 

The slain girl’s father John Pratt had earlier yelled ‘so what?’, when Russell’s lawyer said he was finding time in prison ‘isolating’. 

Judge Mrs Justice Amanda Yip said while some may see his sentence as ‘lenient’, there was a ‘balance to be struck’ because he came forward ‘despite genuine fear of consequences’. 

She said: ‘I take account of your cooperation, the admissions you made in interview and your ongoing willingness to assist the prosecution by giving evidence at Mr Cashman’s trial even after you knew you would not be given immunity.’

Justice Yip said she had considered whether a suspended sentence would be appropriate, but added: ‘However, I have concluded appropriate punishment can only be made by immediate custody.

‘Assisting a murderer to evade justice will always be treated very seriously. You have not remained silent.

Murderer Thomas Cashman, 34, (pictured), shot dead the nine-year-old schoolgirl during a botched gangland assassination in Dovecot, Liverpool on August 22 last year

Olivia was fatally shot in the chest at her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on August 22 last year 

‘Those who maintain the cover up to the better end can expect no mercy.’

Russell was ‘terrified’ of Cashman and was not aware he had killed the schoolgirl when he helped him, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

He met police in the days after Olivia’s death and told them the man responsible was ‘Tommy Cashman’, the sentencing hearing was told.

His guilty plea could not be reported until after the trial of Cashman, who was found guilty of the schoolgirl’s murder last month.

Russell, of West Derby, Liverpool, admitted driving Cashman from an address in the aftermath of Olivia’s shooting, which happened at about 10pm on August 22 last year when the gunman chased convicted drug dealer Joseph Nee into the family home in Kingsheath Avenue, firing through the door and also injuring her mother, Cheryl Korbel.

Read more: Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s cowardly murderer – who refused to face her mother at his sentencing – ‘will be kept in isolation for his own protection in prison’ – after gangsters placed £250,000 bounty on his head 

Russell also disposed of a bag given to him by Cashman by taking it to another address.

The defendant, wearing a black suit and white shirt, appeared via videolink from a remote location for the hearing, which was attended by members of Olivia’s family.

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.’

He said Russell had offered to give evidence against Cashman as a prosecution witness.

Cashman’s trial heard that the killer fled the scene of the shooting as Olivia lay fatally injured and went to the house of a woman he had been in a relationship with.

The woman, who has been given lifetime anonymity, told the court Cashman had changed his clothes and she heard him say he had ‘done Joey’.

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.

The murderer had tried to carry out the hit job on Joseph Nee (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

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.

Tom Schofield, defending, said: ‘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 said moments after Russell was charged, last October, he was issued with a threat to life notice by police.

He had been remanded to a prison in Leeds but was transferred to another prison, under an assumed name, because of a threat to his safety.

Mr Schofield said Russell would be given a new identity and not allowed to return to Merseyside on his release.

He said: ‘The defendant, for what it’s worth to the court and to others listening, is the epitome of remorse for what he did.’

It comes after it was revealed last week that Cashman is appealing his 42-year sentence – while the Attorney General is deciding whether to increase it to a whole life term after complaints it was too lenient.

Thomas Cashman, pictured here in a court sketch after the verdicts were read, sobbed after being found guilty

The Attorney General’s Office last Friday confirmed it had received a request to review Cashman’s sentence as being ‘unduly lenient’ as it emerged his own lawyers are to appeal for a cut in his jail term.

A spokesman from the Attorney General’s Office said: ‘We have received a request for this sentence to be considered under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme.

‘The Law Officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision.’

But lawyers for father-of-two Cashman are to take his case to the Court of Appeal, where they will argue his sentence is too harsh and that he should serve less time before parole, the court confirmed.

The murderer is currently being kept in isolation for his ‘own protection’ after his abhorrent crime made him ‘public enemy number one in Strangeways Prison’. 

A gang insider previously claimed a £250,000 bounty had been placed on his head via encrypted messaging app Telegram. 

Olivia’s devastated family cried tears of relief earlier this month as Cashman was convicted of murder.

When sentencing the killer, judge Mrs Justice Amanda Yip told the court she had considered handing Cashman a whole life order, but decided against it due to his intent to kill not being directed specifically at the young girl. 

Cashman had tried to carry out his hit on gang rival Joseph Nee 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.

Although he claimed in court he was only a cannabis dealer, Cashman was allegedly known as a hitman who ‘thought nothing of putting a bullet in someone’.

Cashman insisted that around the time of the shooting he had been at a friend’s house where he counted £10,000 in cash and smoked a spliff.

During his evidence, he told the court: ‘I’m not a killer, I’m a dad.’

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