Nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel screamed “Mum, I’m scared” seconds before she was shot dead in her own home, a jury has heard.
She was on the stairs behind her mother when she was hit in the chest by a bullet fired by alleged gunman Thomas Cashman, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Olivia had been frightened out of bed after hearing a commotion outside their home in Dovecot, Liverpool.
Mr Cashman, 34, was allegedly in pursuit of intended target Joseph Nee.
He claims he was not the gunman.
Opening the trial, David McLachlan KC said the man chasing Mr Nee “meant business, and it wasn’t good business”.
“This is what this case is all about,” he said. “The ruthless pursuit of Thomas Cashman to shoot Joseph Nee without any consideration for the community.”
On the night of the 22 August shooting, Mr Cashman, of West Derby, had a loaded pistol and revolver in his possession and was “lying in wait” for Mr Nee, who was “without doubt the intended target”, Mr McLachlan said.
Warning: This article contains details which some readers may find distressing.
The court heard Olivia’s mother, Cheryl Korbel, who was at home with her three children, opened her door after hearing noise outside and, as she did, Mr Nee “made a dash” towards her house, with Mr Cashman in pursuit.
Mr McLachlan said: “[She] then realised, pretty quickly, the gravity of the situation that she now faced and she turned in a panic, and ran back towards her house.”
Mr Cashman began firing at Mr Nee from the revolver, but the bullet missed him and hit the front door of the family home, the court heard.
Mr McLachlan said one shot likely “passed through the door, then passed through Cheryl Korbel’s right hand as she was no doubt trying to shut the door”.
“The bullet then went into the chest of Cheryl Korbel’s daughter Olivia Pratt-Korbel.”
The court heard Mr Nee had been banging on the door and shouting “help me” and Ms Korbel said she was screaming at him to “go away”.
She said: “I heard the gunshot and realised. I felt it, it hit my hand.”
Mr McLachlan said she then turned round and saw Olivia, who had come down the stairs screaming “Mum, I’m scared”.
“She went all floppy and her eyes went to the back of her head,” she said.
“I realised that she must’ve been hit – because I didn’t know until then – and I lifted her top up and the bullet had got her right in the middle of the chest.”
Olivia’s sister Chloe Korbel heard their mother screaming that “Livia had been hit”, the court heard.
Ms Korbel was saying to her wounded daughter “stay with me, baby” as Mr Nee slumped on the hallway floor, the jury was told.
A neighbour told police she was in bed when she heard two bangs outside, then two “muffled bangs” followed by “the worst screaming I’ve ever heard in my life”.
She then heard Chloe on the phone saying: “Where are they, where are they? She is dying.”
Armed police arrived at about 22:10 BST, with one officer, PC Cooper, going inside the house while a second, PC Metcalf, got a first aid kit out of the boot of the patrol car, the court heard.
But they decided to take her straight to hospital.
PC Metcalf could feel a faint heartbeat and Olivia’s eyes were open but her lips were blue and she was unresponsive, the jury was told.
Olivia was pronounced dead at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital later that night.
A post-mortem examination showed Olivia suffered three gunshot wounds caused by a single bullet, which went into her chest, exited the chest and became embedded in her upper arm.
Mr McLachlan said Mr Cashman ran away from the scene of the shooting through back gardens.
The court heard he went to the house of a woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who said she heard Mr Cashman say the name “Joey Nee”.
She also said she heard him say something along the lines of: “I’ve done Joey.”
The jury was told Mr Cashman was later driven back to where he had parked his Citroen Berlingo van earlier in the day.
Neighbours said they saw Mr Nee stumble out of the house and collapse in the road, where he made a phone call before a black car with five males in it arrived and took him away, the court heard.
The jury of 10 men and two women were told the main issue in the case would be whether they were sure Mr Cashman was the gunman.
The court earlier heard Mr Nee had been watching a football match at the home of another man, Timothy Naylor, shortly before the chase began.
Mr McLachlan said when Mr Nee left the house, with his friend Paul Abraham, Mr Cashman ran behind him and fired three shots from a self-loading pistol, one of which struck Nee in the midriff.
The jury was told witnesses heard Mr Nee shouting “please don’t”, “don’t lad” and “what are you doing lad?”
Mr McLachlan said Mr Nee stumbled and Mr Cashman stood over him and tried to fire again but, possibly because the pistol malfunctioned, he was unable to complete his “task” and kill Mr Nee.
The jury heard that was when Mr Nee ran away from Mr Cashman and made for Ms Korbel’s house.
Mr Cashman had intended to shoot Mr Nee earlier in the day after seeing his van outside Mr Naylor’s house, but had been “thwarted” when he returned and Mr Nee had left, the court was told.
The court heard Mr Cashman was arrested almost two weeks later on 4 September in Runcorn.
He swore at officers and told them “youse are stitching me up for whatever it is”, the jury was told.
When he was told the circumstances and that he was being arrested on suspicion of murder, he said: “Youse are mad” and “I’ve done nothing. It’s nothing to do with me.”
During an interview he gave a prepared statement saying he had no involvement and then answered “no comment” to questions, the court heard.
The jury was told he was re-arrested at an address in Liverpool on 29 September and told police: “You’ve got an innocent man.”
Mr McLachlan said a forensic scientist found gunshot residue on a pair of tracksuit bottoms found in Mr Cashman’s sister’s house, as well as his DNA.
He told the jury it was a “pre-planned and ruthless attempt to kill Joseph Nee” but, instead of the planned “execution”, he had instead shot a nine-year-old girl.
Mr Cashman, of Grenadier Drive, is also charged with the attempted murder of Mr Nee and the wounding with intent of Olivia’s mother, as well as two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
The trial is expected to last about four weeks.