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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Millom mum killer shows no remorse

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SCENE OF TRIAL: Manchester Crown Court where Benjamin Cooper pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted murder this week. INSET: Victim Claire Marshall (left) and Det Insp Geoff Huddleston (right) Warren Smith © 2010

AS they sit around a board table in a Manchester hotel it’s clear to see that the trio of detectives are not jubilant.

They may have a killer due to be sentenced today but all three say they don’t feel like winners.

At the end of the day three children have been left motherless and families ripped apart by drugs and brutal violence.

On Monday Benjamin Cooper, admitted killing 35-year-old Claire Marshall and the attempted murder of his step-father Gerald Fern.

Cooper, 35, had convinced himself that both were plotting to murder him so he decided to get in first.

He slashed Miss Marshall’s neck so ferociously with a knife she was nearly decapitated in front of her 15-year-old daughter and their child, aged three.

They watched in horror as the man their mother had once loved carried out a frenzied attack before leaving her for dead.

Soaked in Claire’s blood he climbed into his car and headed to his stepdad’s house only minutes away.

When Mr Fern answered the door to the man he thought of as his son Cooper told him he “had been doing a bit of butchery” and asked to loan a meat cleaver and a knife.

Minutes later he slammed the cleaver into the 64-year-old’s head.

Detective Inspector Geoff Huddleston and Detective Constables Sandra Thomas and Carl Davidson say not once has Cooper shown any remorse for what he did.

He simply described the incident to police in a calm, matter of fact manner after his arrest.

DI Huddleston explains how the day unfolded.

He said: “I was at the scene of an attempted murder in Baycliff with forensics on January 24, last year, when I got the call about a Millom incident.

“It must have been about 10am. At that time it was a report of a sudden death in Newton Street, Millom, and there was just one incident.

“I set off and during the journey was informed that there had been another incident in Mainsgate Road too. At that time we had no idea the two were connected or what had happened.

“I knew it must be bad. As I got nearer two ambulances passed by flanked by police cars with their lights flashing.

“I was a bit apprehensive as I had no idea what to expect at that time.

“In the meantime while I was travelling, a call had come in from the ambulance service giving more detail. There were only two officers on duty in Millom at that time so reinforcements were called in from Egremont, but they were half-an-hour away.

“Both incidents were treated as a very high priority by the force and 15 detectives came down from Workington, Whitehaven and Barrow. It took about 10 minutes to realise the two incidents were connected.

“Two crime scenes were set up to avoid any cross contamination. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Carter took over the Newton Street investigation and I took over Mainsgate Road.

“I never went into Claire’s house but dealt with Mr Fern’s attack. If the Millom paramedics hadn’t acted so fast we would have been dealing with a double killing. He was in emergency surgery in Preston less than half-an-hour after they treated him after being accessed locally. If he had been taken to Barrow he could have probably bled to death.

“It may seem strange to people but when Mr Fern answered his door that morning he didn’t see the blood. He just saw who it was and let him in. It wasn’t unusual for Cooper to ask for knives and such as he often did cut up his own meat. Mr Fern was also a qualified butcher before becoming a prison officer.

“Mr Fern started to walk away when he felt the blow to his head. Nothing was said, it was all done in silence. Then another blow. As he turned he saw Cooper had the meat cleaver in one hand and a large knife in the other. He tried to defend himself and get the knives off him. He knew if they stayed in the house he was going to die so knew he had to get Cooper into the street. Once outside the struggle continued and Cooper ended up dropping the knives. Despite being seriously injured Mr Fern picked them up and moved up the street. Cooper went back into the house and reappeared seconds later with two more knives and attacked him again. Eventually he told Fern that that was it. It was over and sat down on a wall. He was then arrested.

“It was a very difficult and unusual situation and from a resources point of view it was difficult, but the people of Millom were fantastic and never complained once.

“It was thanks to appeals in the Evening Mail that we had invaluable witnesses come forward and tributes on the Mail website were also a great help to us in tracing people.”

The DI gave his praise to the lone Millom police dog handler who arrested Cooper with little thought for his own safety.

He said: “After the attack on Mainsgate Road, Cooper had sat on a wall. People around had no idea what was going on and who was the attacker and who was the victim as Cooper and Mr Fern were both covered in blood.

“Cooper asked for a glass of water as he sat there and as PC Ian Armstrong approached him he simply said ‘it’s me you’re looking for. It’s me you want’.

“The PC put him in handcuffs and Cooper was compliant throughout. He was taken to Furness General Hospital for treatment then to Barrow police station.

“He was then taken to Workington where he was deemed fit to be interviewed by psychiatrist Anneke Muller after 21 hours. Over the next two days he was interviewed by Detective James Mason and sergeant Dave Bennett while I observed from upstairs.”

“In most cases like this you would get a ‘no comment’ but he was happy to talk and in fact helped with the investigation because he helped us establish exactly what had happened and by what he said about both cases helped forensics put together the case and match blood splatters.

“He was totally emotionless throughout and has remained that way. He has never once apologised for what he did.

“We can’t thank everyone enough who was involved from the PCs at the scene to ambulance staff, forensic teams, those who created virtual reconstructions, the Crown Prosecution Service, prosecuting counsel and obviously all the detectives involved. It was all their hard work, which meant when we went to court on Monday the case was watertight and looking at the evidence Cooper decided to change his pleas.

“We appreciate what he did as he saved witnesses from having to go through the trauma of reliving the evidence again.

“I am pleased it’s over but we don’t feel like winners. There are no winners in this case. Three children have been left without a mother and a father figure.

“It has been a very tragic and distressing case for everyone involved.

“Crimes like this are extremely rare in this part of Cumbria and the last big case was the Millom tip baby 20 years ago. It’s thanks to the people of Millom that what was a distressing incident didn’t become even more problematic. Crime in Millom has seen a reduction over recent years, despite this tragic event.

“I want to reassure the people of Millom that it remains a safe place to live and visit and the police will do all they can to make sure it remains that way.”

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

Posted by Roann Jones on 28 October 2010 at 11:13

6 years...???! Unbelievable!!!

Posted by Smiffy on 25 February 2010 at 15:30

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