DCSIMG

Hanging tragedy of blackmail victim

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A Pickering man hanged himself after becoming the victim of a blackmail plot, an inquest has heard.

The body of Graham Cooper, 59, was found by his father Gerald in the garage of the home they shared on January 8 this year.

Police began investigating the circumstances surrounding his death after the discovery of documents left behind by Mr Cooper which detailed that he had been threatened for cash.

Officers later stressed that Mr Cooper had not been involved in any illegal activities.

They soon tracked down the culprits – Aysha Mullah, 18, and 19-year-old Javed Ali, both of Bolton, and arrested them two days after his death.

Both immediately admitted their guilt and were each sentenced to five years’ imprisonment earlier this month.

Thursday’s inquest at Scarborough Town Hall heard how Mr Cooper, a music graduate from Newcastle University, taught at Great Sankey School in Warrington before moving back home to Pickering after securing employment at George Pindar School, Scarborough. He was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury.

A private man, described as a “loner” by his father, he would often travel to London, Warrington and York to visit theatre shows and galleries.

After his death, it emerged he would also meet up with other men for company.

The inquest heard that Mr Cooper had taken a phone call on December 23 and yet had afterwards appeared quite “chirpy and happy” when he asked his father if he could borrow £2,000 in cash.

The next day they visited two banks in Pickering - withdrawing £1,000 from each.

Mr Cooper later told his father he was catching the bus to York, a trip now believed to have been carried out to pay off his blackmailers.

Father and son had “a lovely Christmas and New Year together,” with his father adding: “he appeared to be in good spirits.”

But the blackmail started again and on January 8 this year, Mr Cooper left the house in the morning. His father believed his son was following his normal routine and going for a walk but when he failed to return at 11.30am, he went to look for him.

Noticing the garage door slightly open, he found Mr Cooper’s body.

Throughout the day and next, there were several phone calls from a young woman asking to speak to Mr Cooper and, on the last occasion, a detective took over the phone after his father became suspicious.

A day later, police arrested Mullah, of Olive Street, and Ali, of Foxley Grove, Bolton, charging them with blackmail.

In his statement, Gerald Cooper said: “Graham never mentioned to me that he was being blackmailed. He never mentioned that he used to meet up with males for company when he travelled away.”

Detective Constable Steven Monty, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “Through this investigation, it would appear that Graham Cooper was the victim of their blackmail. They communicated just prior to Christmas. Further demands were then made. On receiving this money, they were able to extra money from Graham Cooper and continued with the blackmail.”

A postmortem later revealed the cause of death was hanging. In his verdict, coroner Michael Oakley concluded that Mr Cooper had committed suicide.

 

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