Millom mum dies in savage knife attack - stabbed 41 times
Last updated at 15:08, Wednesday, 17 February 2010
A KILLER who attempted to cut off his ex-girlfriend’s head in front of her two daughters was convinced she was out to kill him.
Delusional Benjamin Cooper stabbed Claire Marshall 41 times in what pathologist John Rogers said was an attack so savage “that I can think of no other reason than he was trying to cut Claire’s head off.”
The 35-year-old was repeatedly stabbed by Cooper, also 35, in an attack described as being ‘of the utmost savagery’ at her Newton Street home, Millom.
Cooper, a self-employed recruitment consultant, of Wellington Street, later tried to kill his step-father.
When he appeared at 64-year-old Gerald Fern’s door, in Mainsgate Road, soaked in blood on the morning of January 24, last year he was asked what he had been up to and replied: “I have been doing some butchery.”
Yesterday at Manchester Crown Court Cooper pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and attempted murder.
Prosecutor Howard Bentham QC, told the court that Miss Marshall and Cooper split up a year before the killing.
They remained in touch and Cooper was allowed access to the couple’s three-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Miss Marshall, who also had daughters aged 15 and eight from an earlier relationship, was getting Hannah ready for an access visit when Cooper carried out his frenzied attack just after 9.30am.
Miss Marshall’s 15-year-old daughter, who cannot be named for legal reason, later told police: “He was looking at my mum dead weird. He was scary.
“Then he jumped my mum and started hitting her and hitting her. Then he got his penknife out and started to cut her throat. It is all a blur. He went into the kitchen to grab a knife. I tried to stop him and reason with him but he just pushed me away.
“I grabbed Hannah and put her in her car seat and turned her away from what was happening.
“I was running around like a headless chicken. I didn’t know what to do.”
The teenager left her sister in her seat and ran for help. Hannah then followed her out into the street and a neighbour ran to Claire’s aid.
Mr Bentham continued: “The defendant attempted to cut Claire Marshall from ear to ear.
“Finding his penknife inadequate, he went into the kitchen for a larger knife.
“My Lord, I want to emphasise at this point that neither girl could have done any more than they did to save their mother.
“The elder girl put her sister in a chair and tried to turn her away from what was happening. Her mother was screaming for her to get Hannah out.
“The main feature of this case is that the attack took place in front of the children and continued for some time before he left the house.
“When he left he was covered in blood and an eyewitness saw him get into his car, do a measured three-point turn and drive towards his step-father’s house.
“Paramedics found Claire Marshall lying down in the living room, with the knife, on her back.”
Pathologist John Rogers said the dead woman had 21 wounds to her head and neck, 12 to her right arm and eight to her left arm. There were further lesser wounds to her lips and mouth.
He said all vital organs and arteries had been severed and she would only have lived for a few minutes after the attack.
Mr Rogers added: “I can think of no other explanation other than he was trying to cut off Claire Marshall’s head.”
Mr Bentham told the court that Cooper, who had a history of drug abuse, was suffering from delusions and believed that Miss Marshall was intending to kill him as was his step-father. After leaving Miss Marshall’s home a blood-soaked Cooper headed to Mr Fern’s house.
The prosecutor continued: “He knocked on the door and was let into the house. He said he was doing some butchery and needed a meat cleaver and a knife.
“Mr Fern pointed to the kitchen drawer and headed into the dining room. The defendant picked up the meat cleaver and struck him twice on the head.”
A struggle then took place and spilled into the street as Cooper tried to stab Mr Fern with a long serrated-edged knife. Mr Fern was seriously injured but Cooper continued the attack with, not just the knife, but the meat cleaver, too.
Mr Bentham said: “Suddenly during the attack Cooper announced ‘That’s enough’ Mr Fern asked why and Cooper replied ‘Claire’s in a worse state than you’ then left.
“Mr Fern was taken by air ambulance for treatment, and if he hadn’t been he wouldn’t have survived.”
He was left with a right ear hanging off and deep cuts and bruises to his arms, skull, chest and back.
“Cooper was soon arrested by police.
“In interview with a psychiatrist the defendant said he remembered cutting deep into her neck. He said he felt frenzied. He also said he had thought that Claire was going to have him murdered the next week, adding: ‘I was at the end of my rope and seized the initiative’.’”
Cooper was described as a man with a good education, who completed his ‘A’ levels and was very articulate. His father was in the RAF.
The court was told that he had a problem with amphetamine addiction which led to delusional and psychotic behaviour.
Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Paul Carter, a senior investigating officer in the case, said: “This was an horrific attack on an innocent young woman which has left her family truly devastated.
“Our thoughts are also with Claire’s three girls, who are being supported by their family and being helped to come to terms with their tragic loss. I hope that the result today will mark a turning point, and help them begin to rebuild their lives.
“Millom is a very peaceful place and the events of last January rocked the local community to the core, but I have been overwhelmed by the strength of spirit which local people have shown throughout the police investigation.
“Local people offered support and a tremendous amount of help, demonstrating their confidence in the police by coming forward and offering information which helped us to bring this man to justice, and for that I thank them.
“I am proud of my investigating team and all the officers and staff involved in this case for their hard work and determination which has helped secure this conviction.
“Whilst incidents of this nature are rare in Cumbria, one thing this case demonstrates clearly is that when they do happen, they will not be tolerated by either the police or the local community.
“We are committed to tracking down and ridding the streets of dangerous offenders and by working together we can ensure Cumbria remains a safe place to live.”
Cooper will be sentenced tomorrow.
First published at 13:00, Tuesday, 09 February 2010
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
i am writing in responce to Ian Honeyman's comments. for starters i will properly introduce myself i am Roann Jones Ms Marshall's eldest daughter and witness to her murder, Cooper is a animal he took my mams life away from her and took her away from her daughters and family and if he is not concidered a animal to you then you dont understand the full extent of what this thing did to me and my sisters not only has the youngest lost her mum but her father aswell. anyway i do not like the fact that you are kind of sticking up for him in my eyes and people who knew my mum he is a monster and deservers to died for what he did he has ruined our life's and now we have to cope with his mess its not fair on us.Roann
6 years...???! Unbelievable!!!
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