THE 29-year-old man being questioned over the murder of two unarmed policewomen was preparing to come to Ireland on a one-way ferry ticket.
Friends of Dale Cregan said he was ready to leave the country on a boat bound for Ireland before the officers were killed.
Cregan was one of Britain’s most wanted men and was sought by police for the murder of a father and son in separate gun and grenade attacks.
On Tuesday he walked into a police station after PC Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, were murdered as they investigated reports of a burglary.
Police yesterday rejected accusations that they should not have sent two unarmed female police officers into the estate, where officers have conducted raids on at least two addresses in the past month and mounted armed patrols.
Friends said Cregan had been in hiding in the local area for weeks and appeared to revel in his notoriety. There were numerous reports of him being seen drinking in pubs and going shopping.
However, police said they received hundreds of routine call outs in the area every day and could not send an armed response to each one.
Cregan handed himself into police after six weeks on the run.
On May 25, a masked gunman walked into a pub in Greater Manchester, and shot and killed 23-year-old amateur boxer Mark Short.
Cregan was arrested but bailed over the murder, but on Aug 10 Short’s father, David, was also killed in what police believe may have been a “pre-emptive attack”.
He was shot in his driveway before a grenade was thrown at him and exploded as he lay dying.
Nine minutes after the killing, two men were filmed on CCTV carrying out a grenade attack three miles away at a house with four people inside it. Nobody was injured.
Greater Manchester Police began one of the biggest manhunts in the history of the force for Cregan, which cost an estimated €165,000 a day and involved hundreds of officers.
Police offered a €65,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and put out an all ports alert.
According to friends, Cregan feared he would be killed by friends of the Shorts and made plans to leave the country.
However, he decided the plans were too risky after his family were placed under surveillance by detectives.
One said: ''With everyone looking for him it was too difficult to move Dale so he stayed local in the area so he could be near his family.
''The fact is he's been round here for weeks and all his friends have been going to visit him every day.
''We know people have been scared to turn him in but I'm still really surprised the police didn't find him.
''He was more worried about friends of the Shorts getting him rather than being caught by the police.
''We believe he only gave himself up to avoid being tracked down by them. If the friends of the Shorts had got to him first, god only knows what would have happened.''
Aside from offering the reward for information leading to his capture, Cregan’s image was also broadcast on big screens before a match at Manchester City Football Club’s Etihad stadium.
By Steven Swinford and Sam Marsden Telegraph.co.uk