Murderers of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper to be sentenced today

Two men are facing life sentences today, after being convicted of the brutal murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 20th June 2019, 2:03 pm
Lee Cooper
Lee Cooper

Neil Maxwell and Luke Pearson will appear at Teesside Crown Court this afternoon, Thursday, June 20.

They attacked 43-year-old Mr Cooper with knives, hammers, and a television stand before stripping him naked and assaulting him as he lay in the street.

Maxwell, 40, of Lytton Court, North Ormesby, initially denied murder but changed his plea to guilty after Judge Stephen Ashurst ruled his partial defence of 'loss of control' could not legally stand.

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Neil Maxwell (left) and Luke Pearson will be sentenced for the murder of Hartlepool man Lee Cooper. Picture: Cleveland Police

Pearson, 19, of Westbourne Street, Stockton, also denied murder, claiming he had a mental abnormality which impaired his ability to think rationally and exercise self control, but was convicted by a jury.

The trial heard Mr Cooper had become embroiled in a dispute in Stockton which may have begun over a stolen bicycle.

He had gone looking for Maxwell because he had assaulted a friend of his, while Maxwell was looking for him because he believed Mr Cooper had assaulted a friend of his.

The pair 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 has also admitted wounding Matthew Elsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm in another attack involving a bicycle chain and other weapons and assaulting Jamie Jackson, occasioning him actual bodily harm.

Pearson also denied assaulting Jamie Jackson, occasioning him actual bodily harm, but was convicted.

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."