Dale Cregan: why the cop killer risks losing another eye in jail
Some prisoners might look up to Cregan but his impulsiveness could cost him, Nigel Horne hears
WE CANNOT, of course, be sure what is going on in the head of a psychopath like Dale Cregan, but many expert observers believe that, knowing he was going to be jailed anyway for the murders of David and Mark Short, he set out to kill two police officers in order to win kudos in prison.
In the perverse hierarchy of inmates, which puts armed robbers at the top and child sex offenders at the bottom, cop killers come pretty high. Cregan was a man who liked to walk tall within his community – we've heard how he would strut around Tameside "making people feel uncomfortable, staring at people" - and he'll want to command the same respect inside.
But will the fact that he killed two relatively defenceless women officers, with only a Taser between them, not undermine his macho status?
"Possibly," said David Wilson, professor of criminology at City of Birmingham University, talking to The Week this morning. "He is quoted as saying he would have preferred it if they had been men.
"But I don't think their gender is enough to tip the balance. They were police officers first and women second in his eyes and he will still enjoy the perverted respect of other inmates."
Cregan will also enjoy fame as the man described by Greater Manchester's Chief Constable, Sir Peter Fahy, as a "scourge on our society". Prisoners read newspapers and watch television and Cregan will be a celebrity in the early days, at least.
But whether he will be able to build a circle of trust among inmates, enabling him to play out the Godfather role he may have imagined for himself, is a very different matter.
"Cregan is seen as a loose cannon – so impulsive he cannot be trusted," says Wilson. "Other prisoners don't want to associate with people who are that unpredictable."
Other prisoners might also have read the testimony of criminal psychologist Elie Godsi, who said: "Grandiosity is central to the behaviour of psychopaths because usually their lives are quite pathetic, empty and meaningless... so they have to create a very distorted sense of their own self-worth."
Or this from Chief Constable Fahy, who said men like Cregan "make themselves out to be 'Mr Bigs', glamourising themselves as some kind of folk heroes who rule through violence, intimidation and reputation, but in reality they spend their miserable lives looking over their shoulders to see who is coming after them and their families. If the rest of civilisation contributed the same as these individuals, we would all still be living in caves."
Prof Wilson was told by one former Category A prisoner this week that if Cregan fails to curb his impulsiveness inside, "He'll need to be careful. He could lose his other eye."