A massive security operation has been mounted for the first court appearance of the man accused of the murders of two policewomen and a father and son.

The hearing for one-eyed Dale Cregan before a district judge lasted just two minutes as he was remanded in custody and taken back to Manchester's Strangeways prison.

Cregan, 29, sat down as he was brought into the dock at Manchester Magistrates' Court but got to his feet after he was asked to stand by District Judge Jonathan Taaffe. He wore a false black onyx eye in his left eye socket and spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth to the courtroom, which was packed with reporters.

Judge Taaffe then read out the eight charges the defendant faces, including murdering Pc Nicola Hughes, 23, and Pc Nicola Bone, 32, in a gun and grenade attack in Hattersley, Tameside, on Tuesday. The defendant also faces charges of murdering father and son David and Mark Short earlier this year and four attempted murders.

The proceedings were held amid a ring of steel as officers in high-visibility yellow jackets stood guard on street corners around the city centre building. Inside the court complex, armed officers wearing black uniforms and carrying machine guns stood guard.

There were more armed officers outside court number 16, the courtroom where Cregan appeared after he arrived in a convoy of police vehicles and into an underground car park. Cregan, who has grown a thick beard, will next appear at Manchester Crown Court on Monday.

Later in the day, David Cameron arrived at the headquarters of Greater Manchester Police where he had private talks with the families of the two policewomen together.

The Prime Minister said: "I wanted to come here to Manchester myself to pay my own personal respects to the two officers, the women police officers, who fell in the line of duty. I think the whole country is profoundly shocked by what has happened and it is right we praise the work that they did and remember all they have done."

A 28-year-old man arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder has been released without charge, police said.

It emerged on Thursday night that armed police staged a raid at the housing estate in Hattersley several weeks before the two officers were killed there. A search took place on the morning of August 16 at a house near the murder scene as part of the hunt for Cregan, who was wanted at the time over the deaths of the Shorts. No arrest was made in relation to the August 16 search.