Health services failed to identify the risk posed by a mentally ill man who stabbed his teenage nephew to death, says a new report.
Thirty-two-year-old Alan Cooper was jailed for life – and ordered to serve at least 22 years – in September 2011 for the murder of 14-year-old Jordan Cook at their Washington home, after a row over a mobile phone.
At the time of the killing, Cooper was receiving mental health care from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (NTW) NHS Foundation Trust.
After the court case was completed, NHS England commissioned an independent investigation into his care and treatment.
In line with NHS policy, the names of those involved are not used. Alan Cooper is referred to throughout as ‘E’ and Jordan as ‘ND’.
The report says Cooper first came to the attention of NTW’s mental health service in May 2010, when he was assessed as being at high risk of harming himself.
He spent from two months as an inpatient, absconding seven times and frequently returning drunk, including one occasion on which he assaulted another patient.
On discharge, he was diagnosed as suffering form an Impulsive Personality Disroder, but when he failed to co-operate with health services, his care plan was downgraded.
Today’s report – which refers to Cooper as ‘Mr E’ – finds that despite staff knowing he was on bail for a serious assault, staff failed to document or consider his history and current risk and failed to obtain information on his criminal record, despite regular contact with police.
And he was released from hospital without the appropriate care plan in place.
The agencies involved failed to share information that would have flagged up how serious a danger Cooper posed: “Even based on the partial information that was known at the time, there was significant evident to indicate Mr E had extremely high risk factors of violence towards others and that he had few protective factors in his life,” says the report.
“All involved agencies failed to adequately identify his high risk of reoffending or to take the appropriate steps to obtain further information to inform their risk assessments and clinical judgements.”
“Furthermore, based on Mr E’s previous offences, it was highly predictable he would have been involved in another impulsive violent episode.
Cooper had ‘a significant history of violent and unprovoked incidents which resulted in the victim at times suffering significant injuries,’ says the report.
He was ‘consistently either unwilling or unable to engage in any meaningful rehabilitation programme,’ including failing to take his prescribed medication, which made the failure to share information all the more serious.
“We have identified many occasions where secondary mental health services failed to obtain significant information from both other agencies (police and probation) as well as from Mr E’s family,” says the report.
“This information would have enabled a more accurate assessment of Mr E’s risk factors but would also have alerted agencies to the potential risk and support needs of Mr E’s family.”
It was unlikely, however that even with better informed risk assessments in place, the horrific events of March 1, 2011 would have been preventable, the report concludes.
Killer uncle had a long history of violence
Alan Cooper had a history of violence and drug and alcohol abuse going back to childhood.
His mother reported him getting into trouble for fighting when he was just eight-years-old, and in a letter in February 1994, she described him as a ‘bully.’
His parents separated during his first year at secondary school and he was convicted of arson after setting fire to his father’s car.
From the age of 13 he began drinking and was experimenting with illegal drugs and solvent abuse and from 1994 to 2010, he was arrested and charged for assault or battery nine times, picking up a number of convictions.
From the age of 16 he attended A&E ‘on numerous occasions’ with injuries he had suffered during fights or assaults.
In November 1998, aged 19, he ‘attempted to gouge his father’s eyes out,’ then assaulted a police officer who arrested him.
Police were called to reports of Cooper assaulting his girlfriend three times between 2004 and 2008 and in May 2009 he received a caution for battery after headbutting a 15-year-old.
He was convicted of battery in March 2010 after attacking his girlfriend and then arrested for assault just two months later, after an attack which left her needing surgery for a ruptured bowel.
He was admitted to hospital with head injuries four times from 1998 to 2009 and in October 2010 was found unconscious in his flat, in ‘a pool of blood.’
Horrific attack that killed teenager
Jordan Cooper suffered nine separate knife wounds in the fatal attack by his uncle.
Alan Cooper had lunged at his sister’s son as the youngster sat watching television with his grandmother, Susan Smith, after a row over a mobile phone.
Cooper admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but denied murder.
His defence team said he was suffering an abnormality of mind which diminished his responsibility for what happened.
But after just over four hours deliberation, jurors found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict of 10 to one.
The court heard Jordan had been talking to his girlfriend on the phone while sitting up watching TV in his grandmother’s bed at her home in Newriggs, Washington when the attack happened on February 28, 2011.
His grandmother, who had lying next to Jordan when her son pounced, tried to protect the schoolboy then made a desperate 999 call pleading for help.
The court heard as he was being taken to hospital, Jordan said to a paramedic: “I’m going to die aren’t I?”
Det Insp Gareth Craig, who led the investigation, said: “Alan Cooper’s actions led to the tragic death of a boy who had his whole future ahead of him. The loss of Jordan has been felt by not just his family but his friends and people he went to school with.
“I’d like to thank Jordan’s family for their assistance during this investigation and the dignity they’ve shown despite difficult circumstances.
“I hope they can eventually move on from what has been a horrific ordeal.”
A family statement read: “This is not a victory for us. There are no winners out of this trial. It doesn’t change anything.
“We have to live with our pain every day and the knowledge that we will never have Jordan back.”
Hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to the Year Nine Biddick Comprehensive pupil at his funeral at Washington Parish Church.