Teenager heard voices before killing Hartlepool man in violent street attack

A hallucinating teenager killed a Hartlepool man because a voice inside his head told him to, a top psychiatrist has said.

Tuesday, 11th June 2019, 5:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th June 2019, 7:16 pm
Lee Cooper

Luke Pearson, now 19, has a history of psychosis and imagines a man in a black suit who tells him to harm himself, a court heard.

However the prosecution suggest at Teesside crown Court that he may have been ‘playing the mental health card’.

He denies murdering 43-year-old Hartlepool man Lee Cooper in Stockton last year but has admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

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The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

Pearson, of Westbourne Street, Stockton is standing trial alongside Neil Maxwell, 40, of Lytton Court, North Ormesby.

Maxwell also denies murder, but yesterday admitted killing Lee Cooper and apologised to his family.

Today the trial heard from Dr Pratish Thakkar, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, who had interviewed Pearson following the death of Lee Cooper.

Dr Thakkar, who also encountered Pearson before the killing, told the court that he had presented with psychosis from a young age.

“The voices were telling him – over a number of years and at the time to – harm others and I feel that this would have affected his mind to form irrational judgements.

“It is my view that the abnormality of his mental function provides an explanation for his conduct.

“He was acting on his impulses and following the instructions of the voices.”

Asked if his mental health led to the attack in Westbourne Road on December 23, Dr Thakkar said he believed so.

“The psychosis and impulsivity of his personality trait led to the act of the killing of Lee Cooper.”

The law governing the defence of diminished responsibility requires a defendant to demonstrate a ‘abnormality of mental function’ at the time of the offence.

The jury heard that Pearson has admitted manslaughter in relation to the killing of Lee Cooper, but this has not been accepted by the prosecution.

Answering questions from defence barrister Nicholas Lumley QC, Dr Thakkar outlined Pearson’s complex mental health history.

The court heard how in May 2018 Pearson was admitted to Sunderland Royal Hospital after taking an overdose.

He told doctors that he was experiencing spells where he ‘loses time’, the court heard.

Dr Thakkar said: “It was a psychotic state where he is losing touch with reality. [He believed] God wants him to kill someone to keep him alive.”

Dr Thakkar said he believed Pearson had been presenting with psychosis since the age of 14 or 15, and that this had been made worse by prolonged use of cannabis.

However a psychiatrist called by the prosecution disagreed with Dr Thakkar’s assessment.

Prosecutor Nick Dry suggested Pearson may have been ‘playing the mental health card’ in his interviews with mental health professionals.

Dr James Stoddart, another consultant forensic psychologist, said he saw no evidence of ‘active psychotic symptoms’ on the day Lee Cooper was killed.

“I had seen no information – apart from Mr Pearson’s self-report – that active psychosis had played a leading role in his actions.”

Dr Stoddart said as a result he did not believe Pearson had an abnormality of mental function at the time of the killing.

The case continues.