A man has been jailed for life for the “chilling” murder of the niece of late comedian Tommy Cooper.
Tony King, 60, of Cornfield Terrace, Eastbourne, will serve a minimum of 22 years and 182 days for the murder of Sabrina Cooper which was described as “motiveless and senseless” by Judge Christine Henson KC.
Sabrina Cooper, who ran a magic shop until 2017, was selling up her property “excited” to start a new chapter in life, but was discovered dead by her daughter at her Eastbourne home, in East Sussex, Sunday December 18 2022.
The grandmother was found in a pool of blood with her family initially believing she had fallen down the stairs and reopened wounds from her recent operation recovering from cancer.
Police investigations then discovered she had suffered five stab wounds to her abdomen and chest.
King, who was a friend of Ms Cooper in Eastbourne, was arrested after a number of text messages were found between himself and Ms Cooper arranging for him to help her with boxes for her impending move.
According to prosecutor Amy Packham, King said the pair met through a mutual friend at a coffee shop and would chat while she walked her two dogs over a period of a few years and had become better friends more recently.
The day before the murder, December 17, King texted Ms Cooper to ask if she wanted to get some fish and chips but she had already eaten and thanked him for the invite saying she would see him in the morning.
On December 18, CCTV showed the 60-year-old going to Ms Cooper’s flat, and leaving around an hour later at 9.14am carrying an orange plastic bag.
Hove Crown Court was shown footage of King, the day before the murder took place, posting on his TikTok account to 11,000 followers saying: “Watch out for my next magic trick, it’s going to be amazing.”
In an unpublished TikTok video the following day, after the murder took place, he recorded himself saying: “I have just taken a life today.”
During questioning with Sussex and Surrey police officers, he admitted the murder, telling investigators he was carrying a knife in his pocket for protection against a neighbour he had trouble with, but then “took it out, didn’t say anything and just stabbed her”, Miss Packham said.
King then told officers: “I just took her life and to this day I don’t know why.
“She hadn’t done anything wrong.”
The court heard how after killing 68-year-old Ms Cooper, King had taken her passport and other ID documents, a bottle of wine, a bottle of Malibu and loose change from her flat which Judge Henson condemned as “callous and opportunistic”.
Despite admitting the murder in interview, King proceeded to plead not guilty in two preliminary hearings, before changing his plea to guilty in May 2023.
In the courtroom were Ms Cooper’s family and friends, including daughter Natasha Cooper and brother John Cooper who spoke of the “devastating” impact the murder has had on their family.
Mr Cooper learned of his sister’s murder during a phone call to their mother, Zena, where he heard Natasha Cooper calling her on the landline screaming “she’s dead, there’s blood everywhere”.
“In her final minutes she was faced with brutality and horror,” he said.
“We are haunted of the thought of what she endured.”
He spoke of his mother’s loneliness, now Ms Cooper, who was her primary carer and daughter was gone, and of his own relationship with his big sister, saying: “We played, we laughed, we fought, she was my sister and now she’s gone.”
Daughter Natasha Cooper described how since her mother’s death she has “good and bad days, most bad”.
The mother-of-two said: “Mum had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone, she didn’t deserve this.”
Speaking tearfully from the witness box she also glared at King, sitting opposite in the dock with his head down.
Defending, Lewis Power KC said King felt “ashamed” for what he’d done and had “constant guilt”.
From a mental health assessment, doctors diagnosed King with a personality disorder with narcissist features and that alcohol and drug misuse exacerbated this.
They added he was an “angry” man who felt cheated in life.
While he did not have a previous record of violence, King was convicted of importing Class A drugs into the country in 2008 and served a 10-year prison sentence.
King stared blankly as he was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 23 years, with 183 days already served.
Speaking after the hearing, Natasha Cooper welcomed the sentence, hoping that her mother will be able to “rest in peace with the knowledge that justice has, at last, been served.”
She added: “We do not believe for a second that this man has shown any remorse…this cowardly act will be his legacy.”
On her mother, she said: “This is just the beginning of life…without Sabrina.
“The laughs we shared and the memory of this fantastic woman will remain with us forever.”