Man sentenced following death of Paul Cooper in Heywood

Date published: 08 September 2006

A 23-year-old man from Heywood has today, Friday 8 September 2006, been sentenced for causing the death of Paul Cooper in his home in Heywood in March 2005.

The judge found, on 4 September 2006, that Neil Thomas John Read (born 31/12/82) of Higher Lomax Lane in Heywood was not fit to enter a plea. On Thursday 7 September 2006, Read was found guilty of causing Mr Cooper's death. Read was today given a hospital order with a restraining order attached to it. He will now be detained indefinitely at a secure psychiatric unit.

Read attacked and killed Paul Anthony Cooper (born 25/06/64) of Walton Street in Heywood after becoming fixated with the idea that he had been indecently assaulted by him when he was a child.

In December 2004, Mr Cooper was visited at his flat on Walton Street by a man who accused him of indecently assaulting him when he was a child. This was a general obsession that Read is known to have had with a number of people in the area.

In early March 2005, Paul moved away from his home on Walton Street to live with a family member temporarily. Paul returned home to his flat on 18 March 2005, the day he was killed.

Paul is thought to have arrived home between 6.30pm and 7pm. Paul left his flat some time around 8pm to ask some of his neighbours if he could use their phone to call a taxi. No one was able to help him and he returned to his flat. This was the last time Paul was seen alive.

At approximately 11.45pm police received reports of a disturbance at Paul's home on Walton Street. Officers attended the scene and found Paul in the bathroom with serious head injuries. A post mortem examination revealed that he had died as a result of multiple stab injuries to his head.

Neil Read had, on the evening of the killing, been drinking at the Black Swan Pub. He left the pub around 9.30pm.

Around one hour later, Read arrived at a house party on Walton Close, a block of flats just behind Paul Cooper's home. He is thought to have been asked to leave a short time after he arrived. Read left the party with another man and went to Mr Cooper's flat, where neighbours reported hearing a disturbance.

Read, on arriving at Paul's flat, stabbed him repeatedly in the head. Paul died at the scene of the attack. Half an hour after leaving the party on Walton Close, Read tried to climb back in through the window of the property. He was punched in the face as he tried to do so. He left the area and was seen at 1.30am on Cromwell Street.

Read slept in a car owned by his aunt that night. He was seen wearing a light-coloured t-shirt, tracksuit bottoms and trainers at the party earlier in the night. At some point after the killing he changed and disposed of this clothing. The clothing that Read was wearing at the time of the killing has never been recovered. A knife recovered from the scene may have been used in the attack, however police remain open-minded as to whether this was the sole weapon used or whether another weapon was removed from the scene.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff McMahon from Rochdale CID said:

"This was an incredibly violent assault on a man who had limited mobility as a result of a quad bike accident several years earlier. Paul's disability would have made it virtually impossible to defend himself against such a sustained and violent attack.

"Neil Read has, for a long period of time, believed that he had been indecently assaulted by Paul when he was a child. Paul and Read knew each other from years earlier. We have never received any allegation that Paul indecently assaulted Read at any time. There is no evidence to suggest that Paul was ever involved in any sexual offence. He had never been arrested, questioned or convicted of any crime of a sexual nature.

"Neil Read had, over a prolonged period of time, persuaded a number of people in the community that Paul Cooper, and others in the area, were sex offenders. Many of those he spoke to believed him, and this misinformation hampered our investigation in its early stages.

"Paul died as a result of multiple injuries. It was a very violent attack from which it would have been almost impossible to survive. Paul's family has been left devastated by his senseless and tragic death."

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