Stabbed burglar's accomplice jailed over break-in at businessman Vincent Cooke's house

 

A man has been jailed for 10 years for an aggravated burglary in which his accomplice was stabbed to death by the homeowner.

Both masked offenders tricked their way into the house of businessman Vincent Cooke in a bid to force him to hand over the contents of his safe.

During the raid the victim's wife and 12-year-old son returned home which led Mr Cooke to pick up a kitchen knife "in panic and confusion", Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

One of the intruders, knife-wielding Raymond Jacob, lunged at him, he said, and they fell to the floor in a struggle and what followed was a "knife fight".

In a statement, Mr Cooke, 40, from Bramhall, Stockport, said: "I felt like I was now fighting for my life. If I did not stab him first he would stab me."

Jacob, 37, from Wythenshawe, died from blood loss after eight stab wounds were inflicted, six to the arms and two to the leg with one severing his femoral artery, according to police sources.

It is understood Mr Cooke suffered superficial injuries.

Fellow burglar Michael Thorpe, 34, of Heald Green, Stockport, played a "secondary role" in the break-in and was upstairs searching for valuables when Mr Cooke led Jacob to the kitchen safe which contained a key to another safe on the premises.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary on the basis that Mr Cooke's uncle and former business partner Christopher Toner was the source of information that led to the property in Midland Road being targeted on August 9 last year.

Police sources said there was insufficient evidence to link Mr Toner directly with the burglary, with the possibility that the information had been leaked unintentionally.

Thorpe, of Outwood Road, will serve a five-year term on extended licence following his 10-year sentence. He will effectively be free in four years after having already served about 12 months in custody on remand.

Mr Cooke was arrested on suspicion of murder but was told last October that he would not face any charges after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled he acted in "reasonable self defence".

Mark Kellet, prosecuting, said Mr Cooke was at home alone at about 7.15pm when the front doorbell rang.

Through the glass panels he could see figures outside wearing high-visibility jackets.

A voice shouted "Gas" and he unlocked the door, the court heard.

Jacob and Thorpe stormed in and Mr Cooke was told: "You are being robbed."

One of the raiders then shouted at him: "We know you have got money. We know you have got a wife. Where is your wife and son?"

Mr Kellet said the homeowner was then frog-marched to his study upstairs where his main safe was kept before Jacob led him to the kitchen when Mr Cooke informed them the master key was contained in a kitchen safe.

"When Mr Cooke was in the process of opening the kitchen cupboard he noticed his wife in the doorway of the kitchen," the prosecutor said.

"His concerns went beyond property and himself and he became particularly concerned about his wife and 12-year-old son being in the house where there were two intruders and knives were being brandished.

"He told his wife to run. He said in the panic and confusion that followed he grabbed the first thing that came to hand and used a knife in the knife block.

"He said Mr Jacob lunged at him and the two collided and fell to the floor."

Mrs Cooke had by then raised the alarm with neighbours who rang the police and two of whom tried to apprehend Thorpe as he fled the scene.

Jocelyn Addeley "extremely bravely" followed the defendant on foot and then flagged down a passing motorist, Valerie Lord, in her pursuit.

Ms Lord tried to block his path with her vehicle as he got into a parked Citroen Berlingo and made his escape but she did manage to note his registration number which led police to arrest him later.

Thorpe was seen carrying a black rucksack at the scene which was later found to have contained two laptops, three mobile phones, satellite navigation equipment and £400 worth of foreign currency.

When interviewed he said Mr Cooke had invited them to the house to discuss an "unfair business deal" of importing training shoes illegally, the court heard.

He claimed Mr Cooke was "in control of the situation" and an argument then followed in which Mr Cooke started talking down to them.

In a victim impact statement on behalf of the family, Mrs Cooke referred to the "stress, pressure and anxiety" they had suffered as a result of the burglary.

It added they had to live with the consequences of the "unfortunate outcome" to Mr Jacob and that it had an effect on them in terms of mental health and, far less significantly, their finances.

They had to leave the area for four months at a time when their son was studying for his GCSEs and he was still suffering from the lasting impact of the incident.

The court heard Thorpe had a long record of offences mainly involving dishonesty and violence.

He had previously committed burglaries and robberies in which he had used knives and a handgun to threaten shop staff and had also resorted to violence on occasion.

Barry Grennan, defending, said the basis of plea was against a background of a dispute between Mr Cooke and Mr Toner, and that Mr Cooke had been the subject of an investigation by Trading Standards in relation to counterfeit goods.

He said the laptops stolen in the raid were given to Mr Toner for reasons that were unclear.

The court heard that Mr Cooke and Mr Toner had run a transport storage business together from 1996 to 2007 before the firm was dissolved.

Mr Cooke went on to set up an unsuccessful internet company with his wife before returning to the transport business.

Mr Grennan said Thorpe thought Mr Cooke had been injured when he fled the scene and was physically sick when he discovered the next day that his friend had died.

He was so distressed he attempted to take his own life in custody through an overdose, said the barrister.

He accepted his part in the offence and has shown remorse for his actions.

Sentencing, Judge Mushtaq Khokhar said it was a "sad case" in some respects in that Jacob had died but that Thorpe knew the manner the raid was going to be executed as they sought a large amount of cash.

It was always a possibility that the knife carried by Jacob may have to be used if the victim resisted in any way, he explained.

"You leant yourself to an enterprise knowing that a knife was going to be brandished in someone else's house," he told the defendant.

He awarded sums of £350 each from public funds to Ms Addeley and Ms Lord in honour of their "public spiritedness".

Following sentence, Senior Investigating Officer, Andy Tattersall, said: "The fact that Thorpe was not armed that night and did not take part in the planning of the burglary is of little significance when you examine the tragic and unnecessary events that unfolded.

"One man lost his life, another - an innocent home owner - lives with the knowledge that he took it, and a third, Michael Thorpe, will now spend several years behind bars.

"This incident has ended one life and destroyed two others.

"Michael Thorpe was recruited to be the 'muscle' for the burglary and while he could in no way have envisaged what would happen, he nonetheless went in the full knowledge that he and Raymond Jacob would commit a criminal act at the home of an innocent man and his family."

PA

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