Lee Cooper murder: Jury sent out to decide if teenager is guilty of murdering Hartlepool man

Jurors have retired to consider the evidence against teenager Luke Pearson, who is charged with murdering Hartlepool man Lee Cooper.

By Michael Drummond
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 12:55
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.

Pearson, 19, does not deny killing Mr Cooper in a violent attack in December last year, but he denies murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The jury went out to start their deliberations on Friday afternoon and did not reach a verdict before the end of the court session.

Neil Maxwell who admitted murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper

So the judge sent the jury home for the weekend and they will return to continue considering their verdict on Monday morning.

His trial at Teesside Crown Court was told that Pearson ‘heard voices’ before the incident and has a history of hallucinations.

However the prosecution has suggested that Pearson, of Westbourne Street, Stockton, may have been ‘playing the mental health card’.

Shortly before sending out the jury, Judge Stephen Ashurst summed up the evidence for the 12 men and women who will decide if Pearson is guilty or not guilty of the murder of Lee Cooper.

Lee Cooper

Pearson has already admitted manslaughter, but this has been rejected by the prosecution.

Judge Ashurst told the jury: “A more violent end to a life it is hard to imagine.

“Maxwell had something of a track record of using unlawful violence on other people, particularly the hallmark use of a Stanley knife.

“You are to consider whether the mental health difficulties which undoubtedly Luke Pearson had endured from an early stage play a role in this incident on the 23rd of December.

“The behaviour of Luke Pearson, it is argued by [defence barrister] Mr Lumley, is not the behaviour of a person acting normally, they had lost their grip on reality.”

However Judge Ashurst then turned to the prosecution’s argument, which asks the jury to look at Pearson’s behaviour throughout the time period, in which he is involved in other incidents.

At the jury was sent out at 1.04pm on Friday, June 14, to consider their verdict and will return to the court on the morning of monday, June 17.

Lee Cooper suffered more than 100 injuries in the attack, which happened outside a hostel just after 7am in Westbourne Street in Stockton.

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In dramatic turn of events, co-accused Neil Maxwell, 40, of Lytton Court, North Ormesby, changed his plea to guilty on the eighth day of the trial after the judge rejected the main thrust of his defence.

Judge Stephen Ashurst told the jury: “Maxwell has never suggested it was an accident or that he did not intent at least very serious injury or to kill him.

“He seeks to rely on a provision in law of loss of control as a partial defence to murder.”

But Judge Ashurst told the jury that following legal discussion he had rejected the defence of loss of control in Maxwell’s case.

Following this, Maxwell, stood up in the dock and pleaded guilty to the charge of murder.

Giving evidence earlier in the trial, Maxwell admitted killing Lee Cooper.

He said that Cooper had attacked his friend and he had wanted to send him a message in return.

“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.”

Maxwell claimed he ‘just went beserk’ when confronted by Mr Cooper and two friends and ended up killing him.

“I hit him in the head – three whacks in the head. Put him out straight away.

“I was angry, a bit of a frenzy.

“I just want to say sorry to the family and to my own family.”

Maxwell said he did not intend to kill Mr Cooper and he was ‘gutted for the lad and his family’.

He will be sentenced following the conclusion of the trial of Luke Pearson.

The case continues.