There were only a few paces between the door to the cells and his place in the dock, but Dale Cregan still managed to walk them with a swagger.
Five policemen stood so close to him they were almost touching, and four more carrying sub-machine guns watched him constantly from the well of the crowded court.
This was the one-eyed murder suspect’s first appearance before a judge after being arrested over the savage deaths of two policewomen. He marked it with a yawn.
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Standing guard: Officers armed with machine guns stood in the rainy dank conditions as Cregan was swept to face magistrates
It happened just before the first mention of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in the charges that were being read to him.
He glanced around the room with his one good eye.
Every police officer stared back.
In one of the biggest security operations ever mounted for a magistrates’ court appearance, the man whose face had appeared on wanted posters and billboards around Manchester was finally seen in public.
CREGAN SENT TO STRANGEWAYS
Dale Cregan will spend the weekend at Manchester’s infamous Strangeways prison (above).
His police van sped him to the jail only a mile away from the magistrates court in central Manchester that he appeared before this morning.
The judge told him he would be remanded in custody and will appear at the crown court on Monday, where he could ask for bail.
Its famous design has a central snowflake shaped building, with two blocks and ten wings of cells running from it with a famous giant watchtower rising upwards.
It has housed various infamous killers who have appeared at Manchester Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody there to await trial.
Ian Brady, the Moors Murder was held there as was ‘Dr Death’ Harold Shipman.
Strangeways has more than 1,200 prisoners and was originally built in 1868. It was also one of the first in Britain to have permanent gallows, used to hang more than 100 people up until 1964. Many were buried in the grounds of the prison in unmarked graves.
Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed during riots by inmates there in 1990 (above)
Between April 1 and April 25 almost 150 and 47 prisoners were injured – including one death among the prisoners. It needed £80m of Government cash to rebuild it and Strangeways was then renamed Her Majesty’s Prison, Manchester.
He had a full beard now and looked considerably thinner than in that now-familiar photograph. The false eye was the same – an onyx one in his left eye socket, giving him a pronounced squint.
In a tight-fitting, dark blue sweatshirt and tracksuit trousers, he had the appearance of a bodybuilder – but compared to the burly officers who surrounded him behind half inch-thick glass in the dock, he looked tiny.
There was a seat in the dock and he went straight towards it and sat down.
Instantly, the judge told him to stand. He spoke only once to confirm his name and date of birth and stood mostly with his unshackled hands folded in front of him.
Two minutes later, it was all over.
The comparatively low-key performance of the man accused of two murders that horrified the nation was in dramatic contrast to the operation deemed necessary to bring him to Manchester city magistrates.
The two policewomen were mown down in a gun and grenade attack on Tuesday, and police had already said they could not rule out the possibility that more grenades were in criminal hands in the city.
So on a dark, miserably wet morning, roadblocks were set up around the court building and officers carrying Heckler and Koch carbines took up positions inside and out.
A heavily-armed convoy brought him to court in a van more than two hours before he was due to appear.
Meanwhile in a tiny courtroom on the fourth floor, every seat was taken.
Among those in the public gallery was a young man wearing a grey jacket bearing printed portraits of Mark Short, another of Cregan’s alleged victims, above the words ‘RIP Mark’.
Sitting alongside him was Michelle Short, widow of Mark’s father David Short, who is also alleged to have been killed by Cregan.
Neither of the PCs’ families attended, according to court staff, and if any of Cregan’s relatives or friends were in court, none was identified.
Downstairs, two officers with sub-machine guns, flak jackets and black armoured outfits monitored everyone coming through the security search. Even inside, they wore their jet black protective glasses.
In a scene rarely witnessed in Britain, four officers brought their weapons into the courtroom and stood guard.
Whatever unseen arrangements were made to get the defendant securely into the dock, it took more than five minutes to put them into operation after district judge Jonathan Taaffe ordered him to be brought.
Cregan was charged with four counts of murder and four of attempted murder.
Apart from the killing of the two PCs, he is accused of killing Mark Short at the Cotton Tree Inn in Droylsden, Tameside, on May 25 and his father David in an attack at his home in Clayton, Manchester, on August 10.
He is further accused of attempting to murder Michael Belcher, Ryan Pridding and John Collins, who were in the pub at the time; and Sharon Hark on August 10.
The judge ordered him to be remanded in custody and to appear at Manchester Crown Court on Monday.
Visitor: Michelle Short, widow of David Short and mother of Mark Short, was in court while another family member wore a hoodie with a tribute to Mark on it
A police convoy duly took him to the city’s Strangeways jail to await the next stage of what is likely to be a lengthy legal process.
Ten miles away on the Hattersley estate where Fiona, 32, and Nicola, 23, fell, forensic officers were still working at the scene.
The floral tributes and messages of condolence continued to arrive.
A 15-year-old boy was arrested at a school yesterday over the murders.
The teenager was held on suspicion of assisting an offender, questioned by police and later bailed.
Victim: Fiona Bone, left, with partner Clare Curran. The couple were planning their civil partnership ceremony
Fun loving: Nicola Hughes, left joking about as a barmaid and right with a friend, was known and loved for her sense of humour
Missed: Her friends and family have revealed their pain after Nicola’s murder – pictured here with friends having a good time away from work
Distraught: Officers are still being seen sobbing over their colleagues’ deaths – which have shocked the whole of the country