Son beat ex-BBC journalist dad to death with a hammer

A son beat his retired BBC journalist father to death with a hammer in a "shocking and gruesome" attack at the country cottage they shared, a court heard today.

Joseph Cooper, 24, even broke the hammer handle in half as he used it, along with three kitchen knives and a pair of large secateurs, to inflict appalling injuries on Winton Cooper.

The 64-year-old was discovered by police at the cottage in the picturesque Dorset village of Marnhull, near Sturminster Newton, on 15 April last year.

Cooper pleaded guilty today at Winchester Crown Court to manslaughter through diminished responsibility but denied murder.

The prosecution accepted his plea after reports found he was mentally ill.

Cooper was a retired BBC Radio Sheffield reporter who was at the 1989 Hillsborough football tragedy where 96 Liverpool fans died. He was killed on the 22nd anniversary of the disaster.

Stewart Jones QC, prosecuting, said Cooper junior had a troubled childhood at the hands of his father and mother, who had drink problems and Cooper had been violent and abusive to his son.

His parents had acrimoniously split in the 90s and Cooper was the middle of three brothers and he had spent his younger years in care and in trouble with the police after his father did not want him and his mother could not cope with him, the barrister said.

Cooper moved to Dorset after his retirement to look after his elderly father and eventually his son came to stay. Jones said the pair lived a "peaceable existence" in the village revolving around going to the pub, local shops and home.

But Cooper did attack his father in December 2009 with a bar and pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm, the court was told. The older man had barricaded himself into his bedroom on that occasion after his son "lost it".

But in April last year Cooper launched the fatal attack on the landing of their home just hours after Winton Cooper had told neighbours his son "was acting strangely".

After the killing, Cooper phoned his brothers and mother Gail to say he had killed his father. Jones said that, at first, all three were sceptical but eventually Mrs Cooper called the police and three officers turned up.

"The scene that confronted the three there was a shocking and gruesome one," Jones said.

Two psychiatric reports found that Cooper suffered from such an abnormality of mind it had impaired his responsibility for his actions.

Judge Guy Boney QC adjourned sentencing for a date to be fixed so that Cooper can undergo a hospital assessment.

No mitigation was entered on his behalf at today's hearing.

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