Lee Cooper murder: 10 key moments from the trial as two men convicted of murdering Hartlepool man

A violent man who cuts people with a Stanley knife as a ‘hallmark’ and a teenager with a history of hallucinations have been convicted of murdering Hartlepool man Lee Cooper.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 5:45 pm
Neil Maxwell (left) and Luke Pearson will be sentenced for the murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper. Pictures: Cleveland Police
Neil Maxwell (left) and Luke Pearson will be sentenced for the murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper. Pictures: Cleveland Police

After a two-week trial Neil Maxwell, 40, and Luke Pearson, 19, are to be sentenced for killing Lee Cooper.

Ex-factory worker Maxwell, of Lytton Court, North Ormesby, pleaded guilty to murder during the trial after failing to use loss of control as a defence.

Pearson, Westbourne Street in Stockton, was found guilty by a jury of murder.

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Neil Maxwell in police custody

He had sought to rely on a defence of diminished responsibility, pointing to his history of hallucinations and hearing voices.

Lee Cooper, from Hartlepool, suffered more than 100 injuries in the attack outside a hostel in Westbourne Street, Stockton on December 23 last year.

Now, after two weeks of evidence at Teesside Crown Court, we look back at some of the key moments of the trial:

Case opened by prosecutor Nick Dry

Lee Cooper

The trial began on Tuesday, June 4 after the Monday bank holiday.

The jury were sworn in at Teesside Crown Court before Judge Stephen Ashurst, and the case was then opened by prosecutor Nick Dry.

Jurors were shown CCTV of the violent incident, which shows a skirmish between a group of men in the street.

'I was screaming, hysterical': Witness gives harrowing account of fatal attack

The following day, the court heard from eyewitness Natalie Leeming.

She described what she saw to the jury: “Maxwell got knocked down three times, then he hit Lee [Cooper] 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.”

Pathologist describes the 114 injuries Lee Cooper suffered

On the Friday, forensic pathologist Dr Louise Mulcahy told Teesside Crown Court that Mr Cooper suffered 114 injuries in total, including stab and slash wounds, bone fractures and bruises, all over his body.

Addressing one particular injury for the jury, she said: “The circular nature of this fracture and the depressed nature of this fracture this would be typical of, if not indicative of, the use of a hammer.”

She said many of Mr Cooper’s injuries were consistent with being caused by a craft knife, while others, including puncture wounds and fractures to the face, were consistent with a spiked knuckleduster.

Teenager told police he attacked Hartlepool man with a TV

When the trial resumed after the weekend break, jurors learned how Pearson told officers that he had ‘smashed a TV off [Mr Cooper’s] head’ upon his arrest.

Pearson told officers in the police car: “How come I’m the only one arrested when there was ten people there?

“I will not be going to court because I have done nowt.”

However, despite claiming to have done ‘nowt’, Pearson later told officers: “I think I just did yous a favour.

“That lad I assaulted, he was wanted.”

Maxwell apologises to Lee Cooper’s family

Later that day Neil Maxwell took to the witness box to give evidence.

He told the jury: “I did mean to cause him a bit of grief but I did not want to kill no-body, he didn’t deserve to be dead.”

However Maxwell continued to deny murder, instead insisting that he had lost control and sought a conviction for manslaughter.

Pearson heard voices before killing Cooper

On the Tuesday the jury learned of Pearson’s history of psychosis and how he imagines a man in a black suit who tells him to harm himself.

However the prosecution suggested that he may have been ‘playing the mental health card’.

Neil Maxwell pleads guilty to murdering Lee Cooper

In a surprise twist, Neil Maxwell’s attempts to use loss of control as a defence to murder were rejected by Judge Ashurst on the Thursday.

Following that he stood up in the dock and pleaded guilty to murder.

Summing up and jury sent out

On the Friday morning Judge Ashurst began the lengthy process of summing up the evidence for the jury.

Jury delivers its verdict

Returning after the weekend, it did not take long for the jury to reach a verdict.

Jurors filed back into the courtroom about 11.30am today and delivered their verdict: guilty of count one, murder.

While it is impossible to know what went on in the jury room, by convicting him of murder it is clear that the jury rejected Pearson’s diminished responsibility defence on the balance of probabilities.

Pair to be sentenced for violent killing of Lee Cooper

Maxwell and Pearson are set to be sentenced for murder on Thursday at the same court.

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