A key political ally of Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner is linked to a career criminal jailed for helping policewomen’s killer Dale Cregan, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Arooj Shah, 44, the newly elected Labour leader of Oldham Council, was pictured celebrating her win this month with Cregan’s getaway driver Mohammed Imran Ali.
Ali, 42, was jailed for seven years in 2013 for driving Cregan to a safe house after he killed gangland rivals. One-eyed Cregan evaded a huge manhunt and, while on the run, murdered two policewomen in Manchester in a horrifying gun and grenade ambush.
Known locally as ‘Irish Imy’, Ali, who has also been convicted for drug trafficking and assault, is a childhood friend of Ms Shah’s and campaigned for her at the local elections, urging residents to join ‘Team Arooj’.
He was also pictured in front of a huge ‘Vote Shah’ billboard that was being towed by a blacked-out Land Rover.
BACKING: Arooj Shah with Angela Rayne
Arooj Shah being cheered by Mohammed Imran Ali, with fist raised, after her election win this month
The Mail on Sunday has obtained another picture that shows Ali, with fist raised, among a group of Labour activists standing directly behind Ms Shah after she regained a seat on Oldham Council, in Greater Manchester, on May 5. A further image shows Ali and Ms Shah later celebrating her win at a ‘mocktail’ lounge in Oldham.
On Facebook after the election, Ali said: ‘Nice to have the real leader of Oldham Council back. Oldham stood up and got behind the best person for the job!’
Ali and Ms Shah’s relationship raises questions for Ms Rayner, 43, whose Ashton-under-Lyne constituency includes parts of Oldham. Like Ali, Ms Rayner, along with Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon, attended the May 5 election count at Oldham Civic Centre and they were pictured congratulating Ms Shah on her win. Ms Shah also posted a picture on Twitter of her and Ms Rayner after a ‘coffee and catch-up’ a week before polling day.
Ms Rayner spoke out in 2021 about the ‘threats and abuse’ her ‘friend’ Ms Shah faced during an earlier stint as council leader.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that just hours before his appearance at last month’s election count, Ali pleaded guilty at Manchester Magistrates’ Court to breaching a restraining order and was given a 12-month community sentence.
The order had banned him from approaching a local political activist.
Last night Tory councillor Lewis Quigg said it was a ‘disgrace’ that Ms Shah was associating with Ali and called on Ms Rayner to detail what she knows about his role with the local Labour Party. He said: ‘You would think from listening to Sir Keir Starmer that the Labour Party is a paragon of virtue, yet in Oldham he has a council leader who is hanging around with a convicted criminal. Irish Imy assisted one of the country’s most notorious criminals, Dale Cregan, who murdered two police officers.
JAILED: Mohammed Imran Ali drove Dale Cregan to a ‘safe house’
One-eyed Cregan evaded a huge manhunt and, while on the run, murdered two policewomen in Manchester in a horrifying gun and grenade ambush
‘It’s mind boggling that this person appears to have had any role in Arooj Shah’s campaign.
‘Angela Rayner and Jim McMahon should explain exactly what they know about this individual’s role with the Labour Party in Oldham and why the council leader continues to associate with him.’
Ali drove gangster Cregan and two others from Manchester to Leeds after Cregan, 39, shot David Short dead in August 2012.
Cregan had shot Short’s son Mark dead at a pub in Droylsden, Tameside, three months earlier.
A month after killing David Short, Cregan lured PC Fiona Bone, 32, and PC Nicola Hughes, 23, to a home in Tameside with a bogus 999 call before murdering them in a sickening gun and grenade attack.
Ali appeared alongside Cregan in the dock and was jailed for seven years for assisting an offender.
He was freed in 2016 but recalled to prison in 2018 after breaching the terms of his early release licence. At his trial, Ali admitted serving sentences behind bars totalling 16 years, starting with three months for assault at 15. Sentences followed for trafficking drugs including heroin and cocaine. He was also convicted of assault after hitting a 59-year-old man with a two-foot plank outside a pub.
In an emotional town hall speech three years ago, Ms Shah addressed her association with Ali, who she has known since age 11.
She said she knew her friendships and relationships would be ‘difficult for some people to accept’ but added she could not ‘pretend they don’t exist and certainly I can’t turn my back on people I’ve known since childhood’. She said she would never condone Ali’s actions, added: ‘I do not disown people for political convenience nor do I to advance my political career.’
A Labour source said Ms Shah did not invite Ali to the election count and that he is not a member of the party, or formally affiliated with it. Ms Shah last night declined to comment.