Karen Cooper’s life was turned upside down when her brother, Gary, committed a shocking act of violence against their parents. Now, five years later, Karen is raising important questions about the preventability of the attack and the support available to families in the aftermath of such a tragedy.
In March 2019, Karen innocently decided to bake a cake to celebrate her father’s birthday. Little did she know that the following day, her brother’s deeply troubling behavior would once again come to the surface. Gary had a history of mental health issues, and Karen’s husband attempted to inform the police that he needed to be sectioned for his own safety. However, instead of receiving the necessary help, Gary was arrested, sent to the hospital, and eventually released under investigation.
Tragically, just ten minutes after being left alone, Gary launched a brutal knife attack on their parents. Karen returned home to find a police car outside and was rushed to the hospital, where she learned the horrifying news. Her father underwent surgery, but her mother had been stabbed in the throat. While her mother survived, her father tragically succumbed to his injuries three weeks later.
During Gary’s trial, it was revealed that he was suffering from schizoaffective disorder, leading to him being given an indefinite hospital order. Karen strongly believes that more could have been done to prevent the attack and that there is a lack of support for families like hers who are left to deal with the devastating aftermath.
Unable to continue working after the attack, Karen was compelled to sell her business. She firmly believes that families in similar situations should have access to specialized therapists, counselors, and legal support. In response to her father’s inquest, both the police and the mental health trust involved were urged to urgently review their procedures for dealing with individuals under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
While some changes have been made in the police’s handling of individuals with mental health issues in custody, lingering questions remain in this case. A domestic homicide review has yet to be published, and the Independent Office of Police Conduct has not conducted an investigation. The police also failed to make a mandatory referral regarding Gary’s parents, and the IOPC did not find a direct link between police contact with Karen’s mother and the subsequent attack.
Karen’s impassioned plea for additional support for families in similar circumstances has prompted a response from the Ministry of Justice. They have announced plans to quadruple funding for victim support services and expand the definition of a “victim” to include families bereaved by homicide.
For Karen, the challenge lies in reconciling her love for her brother with the horrifying actions he committed. She must find a way to move forward, knowing the devastating impact her brother’s actions have had on her family.
This case serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for improved mental health support and intervention, as well as the importance of providing comprehensive assistance to families affected by such tragic events.