Lee Cooper murder: Pair facing life sentences as judge described evidence in murder of Hartlepool man as 'harrowing'

Two men are facing life in prison for the brutal murder of a man which left those who dealt with it in shock.

Monday, 17th June 2019, 2:06 pm
Updated Monday, 17th June 2019, 3:32 pm
Neil Maxwell (left) and Luke Pearson will be sentenced for the murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper. Pictures: Cleveland Police

Neil Maxwell and Luke Pearson attacked Lee Cooper with knives, hammers, and a television stand before stripping him naked and assaulting him further as he lay in the street.

A paramedic who attended the scene said Mr Cooper's injuries were worse than any he had seen in military service in Afghanistan.

The experienced detective who led the investigation said Mr Cooper's injuries were the most harrowing he had seen in many years of police service.

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A jury at Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Cooper, 43, who was from Hartlepool, became embroiled in a dispute in Stockton which may have begun over a stolen bicycle.

Several assaults involving other people took place in the 24 hours leading up to his murder.

The chain of events culminated with Mr Cooper looking for Maxwell because he had assaulted a friend of his, and Maxwell looking for Mr Cooper who he believed had assaulted a friend of Maxwell's.

Both men met in Westbourne Road in Stockton on December 23, last year.

"That was at about 5.30am and culminated with the killing of Mr Cooper after 7am in what the Crown says was the endgame of a simmering feud," said Nick Dry, prosecuting.

"Much of it was captured on CCTV, and it was witnessed by horrified residents.

"The vicious attack on Mr Cooper continued as he lay defenceless in the gutter.

"The defendants were seen to go into Pearson's house to get more weapons.

"Pearson picked up a discarded television stand which he used on Mr Cooper."

Mr Dry said Mr Cooper suffered more than 100 injuries, including 14 caused by ‘blunt force trauma’.

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

He changed his plea to guilty last Thursday after Judge Stephen Ashurst ruled his partial defence to murder of 'loss of control' could not legally stand.

Maxwell admitted wounding Matthew Elsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm in another attack involving a bicycle chain and other weapons.

Maxwell also admitted assaulting Jamie Jackson occasioning him actual bodily harm.

The was no apparent reason for that attack, the court heard.

All the offences took place on December 23 last year.

Pearson, 19, of Westbourne Street, Stockton, denied the murder Mr Cooper, and he denied assaulting Jamie Jackson, occasioning him actual bodily harm.

Pearson claimed he had a mental abnormality which impaired his ability to think rationally and exercise self control.

The jury found him guilty of both offences. 

Pearson admitted wounding Matthew Elsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.

Judge Stephen Ashurst thanked the jury for their careful consideration of the case, and the judge took the unusual step of apologising to the panel for the distressing nature of some of the evidence.

"I am sorry you have had to sit through and watch evidence that was particularly harrowing, and something that a jury would not normally have to see," said the judge.

“But I’m sure you understand the case had to be properly put before you.

"Both defendants will receive life sentences, it is for me to fix an appropriate tariff in each case."

Judge Ashurst will sentence Maxwell and Pearson on Thursday.