'I was screaming, hysterical' : Witness gives harrowing account of fatal attack on Hartlepool man Lee Cooper

A woman told a jury of the moment two men attacked and killed a Hartlepool man.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 2:30 pm
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.

Neil Maxwell and Luke Pearson are accused of the murder of Lee Cooper in an early morning street attack in Stockton.

Natalie Leeming said she was in a room in a house in Westbourne Street when she became aware of Mr Cooper and two other men outside the house

Hartlepool man Lee Cooper.

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"I felt intimidated," said Ms Leeming, 29. "I told Maxwell not to go out because they had weapons.

"He did go out and they started fighting, the other two ran off.

"Maxwell got knocked down three times, then he hit Lee in the face with a hammer.

"I was screaming, hysterical, I ran off and came back a short time later, but it was too late.

"Lee was in the road making funny noises, like snoring or he was choking.

"They had stripped him off and were slashing his back, Maxwell put a cross on it.

"I thought they were going to cut off his buttocks.

"Luke chucked a big TV stand, a silver one, off Lee.

"I told him not to chuck it, but he did anyway, I thought he was going to chuck it at me but he didn't.

"I went to phone the police, the phone in my pocket was dead, but before I got to the call box the police arrived."

A resident told the jury how he was woken by the early morning fight in the street.

"It was a Sunday morning," said Vince Tranter, 40.

"I heard raised voices in the street, which I'm used to because of where I live.

"But this got worse, it was different, not just lads on a Saturday night Sunday morning.

"There was two lads attacking one guy who was on the ground, he wasn't fighting back

"They were tearing his clothes off while still hitting him.

"I couldn't quite grasp what I was seeing.

"A woman's voice shouted that they'd killed him.

"I saw one the guys get a TV stand, I couldn't watch it any longer and went to get my phone.

"By the time I'd found it the police had arrived.

"There was lots of commotion, but I don't think anyone fled."

Another resident, Joanne Hamilton, said her daughter told her there was a fight going on outside.

"I saw Neil Maxwell hitting a lad with a hammer," said Mrs Maxwell.

"That attack lasted for a canny little bit, he hit him on the ankles, back, head, and hands.

"It was awful, we thought he was dead.

"There was a second lad who was joining in with Neil Maxwell, hitting or kicking.

"My husband said he thought he saw the lad on the ground being stabbed in the side."

Jamie Jackson said he was walking in Westbourne Street around midnight when someone called to him from an upstairs window.

"I thought they wanted a Rizla or something," said Mr Jackson,

"I went up four flights of stairs and met Maxwell on the landing.

"He didn't say anything he just hit me on the face, twice, knocking me down two flights of stairs.

"Another lad then came and kicked me down the other two flights to the front door.

"Next thing I remember is waking up in hospital."

The court heard earlier a feud had developed after Mr Cooper has allegedly assaulted a friend of Maxwell's.

Mr Cooper wanted to confront Maxwell and Pearson after they attacked a friend of Mr Cooper's.

The confrontation took place in Westbourne Street at about 7am, the jury was told.

Maxwell, 40, of Lytton Court, North Ormesby, denies the murder of Lee Cooper.

He admits wounding Matthew Elsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.

Maxwell also admits assaulting Jamie Jackson occasioning him actual bodily harm, all on December 23, last year.

Pearson, 19, of Westbourne Street, Stockton, denies the murder of Lee Cooper.

He admits wounding Matthew Elsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.

He denies assaulting Jamie Jackson, occasioning him actual bodily harm.

Mr Dry said both men now accept killing Mr Cooper, but Maxwell claims he acted in fear of serious violence causing him to lose control.

Loss of control is a partial defence to murder which, if accepted, would make Maxwell guilty of manslaughter.

The jury was told that Pearson's defence is that his mental health problems impaired his ability to make rational judgments.

If his defence of diminished responsibility is accepted, he would be guilty of manslaughter.

Mr Dry said the prosecution do not accept either defence, alleging that both men are guilty of murder.

The trial is expected to take two weeks.