One-eyed killer Dale Cregan will spend the rest of his life in prison for the ruthless murders of two unarmed policewomen and a father and son.
Cregan, 30, acted with “pre-meditated savagery” in luring Pcs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, to their deaths in a horrifying gun and grenade attack,
He went on the run days before he killed David Short, 46, last August after he gunned down his son, Mark, 23, in a pub in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, three months earlier.
The manhunt reached a ghastly conclusion on September 18 when he lured the constables with a bogus 999 call to a house in Abbey Gardens in Hattersley.
His last comment to the call handler as he was told officers were on the way was: “I’ll be waiting.”
He opened the front door as they walked up the front garden path and shot them in the chest with a Glock handgun.
Pc Hughes was hit eight times, including three strikes to the head as she lay on the ground.
Pc Bone was hit up to eight times after she managed to draw and fire her Taser at Cregan, who fired 32 bullets in total in barely half a minute.
He then left his “calling card” of a military grenade, which he threw on the path where the officers lay, before he calmly handed himself in at a nearby police station.
He then told an officer: “I dropped the gun at the scene and I’ve murdered two police officers. You were hounding my family so I took it out on yous.”
Sentencing to him to whole life terms for the four murders with no prospect of release, Mr Justice Holroyde said he had no doubt that Cregan could see the policewomen approaching the house and that they were unarmed.
He told him: “You acted with pre-meditated savagery...you drew those two officers into a calculated trip for the sole purpose of murdering them in cold blood.”
Preston Crown Court heard it was the first time a grenade had been used on mainland UK with such devastating consequences.
Outside court Bryn Hughes, father of Pc Hughes, said: “She was brutally and callously murdered in the most despicable and cowardly way.
“We can only imagine what thoughts and feelings she experienced in those few seconds it took for this person to pull the trigger and for Nicola to draw her last breath.
“Our lives have been shattered beyond belief and will never be the same again, to have a child taken from you in such a cruel and meaningless way is without doubt the worst thing any parent can wish to imagine.”
Paul Bone said of his daughter: “My family is still coming to terms with our loss and not a day goes by without thinking of Fiona.
“I am told that it gets easier in time, but for the moment every Tuesday lunch time is difficult, for that was when our lives changed forever.”
The spiral of violence began on May 25 last year when a balaclava-clad Cregan stepped into The Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden and shot Mark Short, who died in the arms of his father.
Cregan had a long-standing hatred of David Short and intended to kill as many of the Short family and associates as he could as they gathered in The Cotton Tree.
He was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Mark Short but was later released on bail. When he concluded that he was due to be re-arrested in August he set out to murder David Short.
On August 10, Cregan targeted Mr Short senior outside his home in Clayton as he unloaded furniture from his car.
He chased him into his house firing shots and then gunned him down at close range before he threw a grenade against his dying body.
During his four-month trial, Cregan admitted at various stages the four murders and the attempted murders of three others, along with a count of causing an explosion with a hand grenade.
Nine other defendants faced trial alongside him on various charges linked to the deaths of the Shorts. Four of them were cleared.
Cregan smiled and shook hands with the other defendants after the verdicts were returned by the jury of six men and five women.
Mr Justice Holroyde went on to criticise Cregan and his co-accused for not showing any signs of remorse or compassion for his victims during the trial.
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, described Cregan and his gang as a “scourge on society”, Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd called them “animals”, while Ian Hanson, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said Cregan was an “abomination upon our society”.
“I have no problem whatsoever with the thought of him staring through one eye at a locked cell door wondering what kind of life he is missing and after he has stopped being a drain on society he can rot in hell - if anybody thinks that’s harsh then I am afraid they are just going to live with it,” he said.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Dale Cregan is a despicable individual and I am pleased he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“The shootings of Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were a terrible reminder of the risks police officers face every day and a stark illustration of how organised crime can devastate our communities.”
An intensive security operation was mounted at the court which cost more than £5 million, in addition to the estimated £6 million cost of the manhunt for Cregan and another estimated £5 million in legal fees for the trial
Nothing was left to chance for the ring of steel, as Cregan was even subjected to twice-daily checks behind his false eye as he left and returned to prison on each day of the trial.