Sample Law Essay Paper on Case Study of Eric Edgar Cooke

Murder is an unlawful, malicious act of killing another human being and is punishable by
prison or death (in some societies) sentence. Cain killed his brother Abel as recorded biblically
marking the first murder in human history. The cause of murder still remains an unsolved
mystery but some of the apparent reasons include fear, insanity, revenge, anger, envy or greed
(Murder Article: Why Men Murder 1957). Undoubtedly, most of these reasons have a common
origin which is the mind. Murder has evolved with time and the most intriguing being murders
committed for psychological satisfaction which is termed as serial killing. The killings are
conducted in a pattern with the motives ranging from thrill, monetary gain, attention to rage.
Therefore, application of psychology within law with regards to murder commonly defined as
forensic psychology (Cronin, 2009, p.5) is very vital in solving the cases presented by murders or
serial killings.
The name Eric Edgar Cooke will forever remain engraved in the Australian criminal
between 1958-1963 where he committed 22 acts of crime with violence and 8 murders inclusive.
Eric Edgar Cooke dubbed “The Night Caller” was an Australian male serial killer born on 25
February 1931 in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, known as Victoria Park. Eric was the
eldest with two younger sisters. His father, Thomas Vivian Cooke, was a native who worked as a
shop assistant while his Scottish mother, Christine née Edgar, cooked and cleaned at a local town
hotel (Collins, 1993).
Eric’s alcoholic father had been forced to marry his mother only because she had become
pregnant with him. Eric was exposed to violent beatings at an early age from his drunken father
especially when he stood up and tried to protect his mother from the usual beatings. His father’s
alcoholic violent outbursts resulted in his mother occasionally opting to sleep in the staff room at
the Como Hotel where she worked in order to escape the night beatings. On the other hand,

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young Eric would hide in the house, roam outside or sometimes seek solace in orphanages or
foster homes. Eric was raised in a violent, abusive home and grew up by the fist knowing no
other way. Having been born with some deformities namely a cleft lip and cleft palate, Eric
Cooke underwent two corrective operations while he was three months and 3½ years old
(Blackburn, 2005, p.18). The operations were not entirely successful leaving him with a minor
facial deformity and a stammer when he spoke. As a result, he was very much targeted by bullies
who made fun of his shortcomings. All this experiences led to Eric’s growing hatred towards
everyone around him as he felt God, his parents and the society had failed him. The hatred
culminated in the killing spree witnessed in his later years. Horror Buff (2003) in fact quoted
Eric Cooke as saying, “I just wanted to hurt somebody” in his confessions, an avenue he thought
best to vent his anger out.
Eric was accident prone with regular hospital visits due to head injuries which later raised
eyebrows as to whether he had suppressed suicidal behavior due to his agonizing past. He also
experienced frequent headaches with supposed brain damage that led to his admission to a local
asylum. The headaches cleared after an operation in 1949. Although shy and with little friends,
Eric had a good memory and exhibited manual adroitness which proved helpful during his school
life. However, he was expelled from Subiaco State School after going through a teacher’s purse
and stealing money while just six years old. He was taken to Newcastle Street Infant’s School
where he was subjected to continuous mocking and bullying due to his facial deformity and
stammer. This extended to every school he attended i.e. Highgale Primary School, Forrest Street
Primary School and Perth Junior Technical School. Eric finally dropped out of school at the early
age of 14 to work so as to support his family. He undertook a several semi-skilled jobs, starting
at Central Provision Stores as a delivery boy and dedicated his weekly wages to his struggling

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mother. Eric Cooke’s work life was marked with injuries due to the risky nature of the jobs. He
was struck once on the nose by a windlass while working at the Harris, Scarfe and Sandover
factory. Eric, 16 years old, later served as a hammerboy for blacksmiths in a workshop situated
in Midland Junction. He liked signing ‘Al Capone’ to his lunch bag which caused him second-
degree facial burns from steam while at work. He also injured his left hand thumb and right hand
later on.
Eric Cooke graduated into the world of crime at a tender age of 17 years dedicating most
of his night time to vandalism acts and small-scale crimes. He was forced into stealing so as to
support his mother and sisters because his father cared less about his family and spent most of
his income on alcohol. Lack of money propelled him to steal so as to survive with the lax
neighborhood security presenting opportunity to the lad. Eric once served 18 months in jail after
committing an arson attack on a local church after being turned down in a choir audition. His
later teenage years were coupled with burglaries and damage to property as acts of vengeance.
He took pleasure in his criminal deeds and even cut out newspaper reports of his crimes so as to
show his associates solely to earn friendships. The young lad had gotten away with his petty
crimes but the police finally uncovered evidence at Eric’s grandmother’s house on 12 March
1949. After investigations, his fingerprints matched those left in several crime scenes over time.
Eric aged just 18 years, was sentenced to three years in prison on 24 May 1949 on charges of
four arson crimes, two counts of theft and seven of burglary. Eric’s naivety led him to leaving a
trail of fingerprints in crime scenes which made investigations a rather easy task for the
detectives but this would be lesson in his future crime acts.
On 27 May 1952, Eric joined the Australian Army after serving his sentence. However,
on 28 August just 3 months later, his training was short-lived as he was dismissed upon

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discovery of his juvenile criminal record prior to recruitment. He had quickly been promoted to
lance corporal and taught how to use firearms during his training period. On 14 October 1953,
22-year-old Eric Cooke married Sarah Lavin (19 years old) at Methodist Church in Cannington.
Sally worked as a waitress and had seven children (4 boys and 3 girls) with Eric. Eric Cooke
continued his past vice but masked himself by working as a truck driver. He loved and provided
for his family who did not know of his double life. In 1955 he was again arrested for car theft
and handed a two-year sentence with hard labor. Shortly after his release, Eric took to crime once
more but this time exercising discretion unlike his past criminal activities. He used women
gloves so as to avert fingerprint trails.
Eric began his era of terror on the city of Perth from 1959 to 1963 where he employed
unusual methods in his serial killings. He was an opportunist who murdered at random (Sable,
1994) thereby making investigations difficult as his next area of attack or victim could not be
predicted. Eric Cooke used an array of weapons to either shoot, stab, strangle or do random hit-
and-runs using stolen cars. Victims murdered included George Walmsley 54, Patricia Berkman
33, Lucy Madrill 24, Rosemary Anderson 17, John Sturkey 19, Brian Weir 29, Jillian Brewer 22
and Shirley McLeod 18. Eric’s bizarre tendencies were exhibited in several instances such as
when he strangled a victim to death with a bedside lamp cord, raped the corpse, pulled it out to a
neighbor’s lawn, used an empty whisky bottle to penetrate it sexually and left the bottle held in
the corpse’s arms. In yet another shocking incident, he stabbed a victim, took lemonade from the
refrigerator and enjoyed the cold drink while sitting on the veranda. Eric usually stole cars at
night which he used to conduct hit-and-runs mostly targeting women walking in the streets. In
the 1960s Australians mostly didn’t lock their cars and/or also left the ignition keys thus making

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it easy for Eric to steal a car. In some cases he was able to return the stolen cars without
knowledge of the car owners.
On 27 January 1963, Australia Day, at around 2.40am Eric randomly shot two victims
who were sleeping, left without stealing anything and proceeded to shoot another victim who had
come to answer his knock at the door. The city of Perth was engulfed in fear and the police urged
residents to exercise caution by locking their cars and houses. Investigations led the police to
fingerprint 30000 males above the age of 12 years whilst locating over 60000 .22 inch rifles
which were then test fired (Western Australia Police, 2006). Eric Cooke struck once again weeks
later after the shootings where he strangled Lucy Madrill to death. On 18 August 1963 months
later, he shot Shirley McLeod at Dalkeith as she was babysitting. Evidence surfaced when an
elderly couple discovered a rifle as they were picking flowers in the bushes in the suburban
streets of Mt Pleasant. The police tested the gun and proved it was the exact one that had been
used to kill Shirley McLeod. They then planted a similar gun that was inoperable at the exact
spot and kept the area under constant surveillance. On 2 September 1963, 17 days later, Eric
Cooke was apprehended as he was retrieving the concealed rifle marking the end of his terror.
After his arrest, Eric confessed to having committed many of the unsolved crimes with 8 counts
of murders and 14 murder attempts. His sharp memory was reflected in his confessions where
he gave detailed description of most of his past crimes e.g. he confessed to more than 250
burglaries stating exactly what he had stolen with exact coin number and denominations taken in
every break in.
Eric Cooke’s haunted childhood led to his wrath towards society which fuelled his later
murder fetish. Eric’s only affection was witnessed towards his mother and younger sisters who
shared the burden of his earlier mistreatment and for that he stole to support them. He also

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showed love to his wife and children as no form of abuse was ever reported towards his family.
He chose to give his children the childhood he had been starved of exhibiting a positive
psychological element as would most parents that the offspring receive a good growth
environment. It is thus clear that his father’s deviant behavior, bullying from peers, low self
esteem and opportunity may have played a big role in molding him into a bloodthirsty serial
killer.
Eric attempted to escape a death sentence by presenting a plea of insanity. Eric’s lawyer,
Hatfield K.W., argued that his client was suffering from schizophrenia which impaired his
personal judgment and control. This claim was soon brushed off after the director of Western
Australia Mental Health Services testified that Eric Cooke was in fact sane. Dr Arch Ellis was
also able to conclude after several examinations that the serial killer had a long-lived hatred
towards the society. On 28 November 1963, Eric Cooke was convicted of the murder charges.
Eric thanked the judge calmly after being sentenced to death by hanging. He thought he deserved
to pay for his wrongdoing and asked his lawyer not to file an appeal on the ruling. On 26 October
1964 a year later, Eric Cooke (then prisoner number 29050) was led out of death row to Swan
River Settlement for execution. Ten minutes before his hanging, Eric confessed to having killed
Rosemary Anderson and Jillian Brewer proving the innocence of two falsely convicted men. Eric
Cooke, aged 33 years, was hanged at exactly 8am in the morning on 26 October 1964. Sarah, his
stigmatized wife, pinned a handwritten note on the front door of their house on this same day
urging people to leave her family be. Eric was then laid to rest at Fremantle Cemetery in grave
that was unmarked just above the remains of Martha Rendell, a child murderer who was hanged
at Freemantle prison in 1909 (Fortney, 2006). Eric Cooke and Martha Rendell are the last man

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and woman respectively to be executed by hanging in this State after capital punishment for
willful murder was abolished in Western Australia in 1984.
Eric Cooke ended many lives, disabled most survivors and left the victim’s families with
a bitter aftertaste. Eric’s killing spree resulted in two false convictions where Darryl Beamish (a
deaf mute) was convicted for the killing of a wealthy Melbourne lady, Jillian Brewer, who was
stabbed by a machete and scissors. John Button was forced into confession by events and was
also falsely convicted for the hit-and-run murder of his girlfriend Rosemary Anderson who was
walking down a Perth road after they had disagreed (Page, 2002). After years of imprisonment
and seeking justice, Button in 2002 got awarded $460000 by the Western Australia government
for wrongful imprisonment (Webb Emily, October 23 2012, Herald Sun). In 2011, Beamish was
also granted a $425000 ex gratia payment (The Sydney Morning Herald, June 2 2011). They
were also exonerated of their earlier charges.
Eric’s period of felony shook Perth city prompting a rapid change in household and
community security measures whereby more locks, dogs and guns were traded (Drewe, 2000).
The impact of the society on young Eric Cooke’s life would later through his crimes have a
social impact as well reflecting a case of the community molding a monster that would later
haunt it. Eric Edgar Cooke has fictionally been portrayed as ‘The Nedlands Monster’ (Winton,
1991).

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References

Blackburn E. 2005, Broken Lives. Retrieved from

www.estelleblackburn.com.au/mywork.htm#brokenlives

Collins H. 1993. 'Cooke, Edgar Eric (1931–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National
Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved from

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cooke-edgar-eric-9817

Cronin C. 2009, Forensic Psychology. Retrieved from

http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2013/09/forensic-psychology.aspx

Drewe R. 2000, The Shark Net. Retrieved from
http://www.thewag.net/books/drewe.htm
Fortney Bonnie, 12 September 2006, Article on Martha Rendell. Find a Grave Memorial.
Retrieved from
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=15710099
Horror Buff, December 7 2003. Eric Edgar Cooke – The Night Caller. Retrieved from
http://www.unsolvedmysteries.com/usm348226.html
Murder Article: Why Men Murder (1957). Retrieved from

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http://www.all-about-forensic-psychology.com/murder-article.html
Page Wendy, July 29 2002, Murder He Wrote – Part 1. Australian Stories Transcripts Retrieved
from
http://www.abc.net.au/austory/transcripts/s614985.htm
Sable Kari, 1994, Serial, Spree and Mass Murderers Retrieved from
http://www.karisable.com/skaz.htm
The Sydney Morning Herald, June 2 2011. Ex gratia payment for wrongly jailed man Retrieved
from
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/ex-gratia-payment-for-wrongly-jailed-
man-20110602-1fhq6.html
Webb Emily, October 23 2012. Herald Sun, Eric Edgar Cooke, 'The Night Caller' was one of
Australia's worst serial killers in 1960s trials. Retrieved from
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Western Australia Police, 2006, Episodes in Western Australia’s Policing History.
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6W936p424&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PFIlVJekJOT8ygOk0oHYBQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=clou
dstreet%20tim%20winton%20and%20eric%20edgar%20cooke&f=false