A man arrested on suspicion of the murder of two female police officers in Manchester was on bail pending inquiries into another killing, it has emerged.
Dale Cregan, 29, was arrested on Tuesday following the deaths of PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes. At the time Cregan was one of Manchester’s most wanted men, and was being sought by police in connection to the killings of father and son David and Mark Short.
In June he was arrested on suspicion of murdering Mark Short in a pub in the Droylsden area of Manchester. He had been released on bail pending further inquiries.
On Wednesday police announced that a second man had been arrested. The 28-year-old was detained in Hattersley on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy defended the decision to bail Dale Cregan.
He said in a statement: “It is absolutely normal in the course of complex crime inquiries that when people are arrested there are occasions where there is insufficient evidence available for them to be charged.
“In those circumstances suspects have to be released on bail as there are strict time limits covering how long suspects can be held in custody without charge. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
Bone and Hughes died yesterday after attending a reported burglary in Abbey Gardens, Hattersley, yesterday morning. Both women were unarmed. Police said yesterday they were working under the assumption that Cregan or someone else had reported the burglary.
Sir Peter Fahy said a firearm and a grenade had been used in the attack.
PC Bone died at the scene and PC Hughes died from her injuries in hospital. A short while after the incident Cregan walked into Hyde police station, where he was arrested. He is being held on suspicion of the murders of the two officers, and of David and Mark Short.
Sir Peter said that it was routine for unarmed officers to attend reports of a burglary. He also said the address was unknown to them.
Manchester United football club announced that its players would wear black armbands during their Champions League match against Galatasaray at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said:
“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of two young policewomen protecting our community. Fiona and Nicola were highly valued members of Greater Manchester Police and the local community. Our thoughts and prayers are now with their families and friends at this devastatingly sad time.”
Following their deaths, Sir Peter paid tribute to the policewomen, calling Hughes a “chatterbox” and a “great bobby” who was “always smiling”, and Bone a “calm, gentle woman” and an “excellent bobby” who had been in the middle of planning her wedding.
“Clearly we are devastated today by the loss of two of our officers,” Sir Peter said. “This is one of the darkest days in the history of the Greater Manchester Police if not for the police service overall, because we have lost two deeply loved and valued colleagues, because they are part of our team.”
The hunt for Cregan has been an extensive one by Greater Manchester Police, and has included searches of more than 100 homes and a high-profile billboard campaign. A reward of £50,000 had been offered for information leading to his arrest.
Police wanted to speak to Cregan in connection with the killings of David and Mark Short. David, the father, died in an attack at his home in Clayton on 10 August. His son Mark was shot at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden on 25 May.
Four men have been charged in connection with Mark Short’s murder and are due to enter pleas at Manchester Crown Court in November. Earlier this month a 33-year-old man appeared at Manchester Crown Court charged with the murder of David Short.