THE father of a policewoman gunned down by killer Dale Cregan spoke lovingly about her last night.
As one-eyed murderer Cregan was starting a life behind bars, Bryn Hughes said Pc Nicola Hughes was “bubbly, lively and a chatterbox”.
And he said the young officer, who had studied at the University of Huddersfield , always wanted to help people and loved being a police officer.
Double police killer Cregan was cleared of a final charge of attempted murder at the conclusion of a 12-week trial involving nine other men.
Earlier in the trial at Preston Crown Court, Cregan admitted killing Greater Manchester PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in a gun and grenade attack.
Later on in proceedings he also pleaded guilty to killing father and son David and Mark Short.
Mr Hughes, 49, said his daughter liked “make-up, nails, hair dye and studying” and though only 5ft 6ins was described by her sergeant as having the body of a lion cub and the heart of a lion, determined to make a difference even from her youth.
“She just wanted to help people from an early age,” said Mr Hughes, from Oldham, Greater Manchester.
“I remember she used to check on an elderly neighbour and the next thing she was, ‘you need to go round to fix her windows’. She was always volunteering me for things.
“If she couldn’t help them she would volunteer me. Once there was a school cycling trip and she checked my diary to see if I was off. I ended up cycling 26 miles.
“On another occasion all her class was going swimming and they needed some help. She spoke to the head teacher and told him, ‘my dad can do that’. I didn’t know I was going to be looking after 26 boys on the trip, all because Nicola volunteered me. I had no choice. That’s the way she put it.”
She practised karate from the age of 10 and was a green belt, training at the club run by her father, the Karate Club Oldham Kyokushinkai.
Mr Hughes said: “She was good, very technical. One of her sergeants at Hyde said she had the body of a lion cub and the heart of a lion. That’s right, that’s definitely Nicola. Everything was a determined effort for Nicola. There was nothing she wouldn’t try.
“There is a four-day summer camp every club in the UK goes to and at the end there’s supposed to be a controlled sparring session and it turned into a mass brawl. It was quite controlled at the beginning. In the end it was a big, mass brawl and she absolutely loved it.”
Nicola went to Saddleworth School and then Oldham Sixth Form College where she did A-levels in psychology and law but abandoned her degree in social sciences and psychology at Huddersfield University half way through her first year, telling her father: “This isn’t for me.”
She had part-time jobs at a shoe shop and at the Bull’s Head pub in Delph, near Oldham, waiting on tables in the tapas restaurant there. Her boyfriend Gareth Clemminson plays for 3D Dynamoes in the Huddersfield District League .
Nicola applied to join the police, becoming a new recruit aged 20.
Mr Hughes said he is still struggling to come to terms with her death but was heartened by the “overwhelming” response of sympathy from the public and fellow police officers.
“At first it was hour by hour,” he said.
“It progressed to day by day. I think it’s still day by day and event by event, with everything that’s occurring and things that are coming in the future and the memorial services. It’s a constant reminder, not that you need reminding.
“There’s obviously been a great deal of sympathy and shock. GMP couldn’t do enough.
“I don’t know what GMP was like beforehand but if this has brought people together and made people respect the police more, then I think that would be a fitting legacy.”