Son’s laptop held damning evidence of dad’s bizarre crimes


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A teenager’s laptop held crucial evidence showing how he helped his “obsessed” dad’s strange attempt to swindle a company out of £4million.

Paul Cooke, 58, sobbed in the dock and said “I’m sorry for everything” as a court heard how he got his son, 17-year-old Tom Cooke, to help him forge documents and even scam County Court judges.

The pair carried out “twisted and elaborate” fraud attempts against three different companies, who Paul Cooke believed had wronged him in various ways. His son, Tom Cooke, was not convicted of involvement in the final, most audacious attempt against Birmingham Midshires Financial Services Ltd.

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Documents found on Tom Cooke’s laptop included forged letters made up to appear as if they had been sent by solicitors acting for the companies his dad was trying to scam.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the pair, both of Millbrook Lane in Eccleston, St Helens, filed claims against the companies at the County Court but did not include the correct addresses for their headquarters, meaning when court staff sent notice of the legal action to the defendants with a court date it was never received – meaning they had no idea they were being sued.

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Cooke then hoped judges would rule in his favour by default, with the oblivious targets of their “ludicrous” claims failing to turn up to court to defend themselves. Cooke senior pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud on the day of their trial in August this year, while Cooke junior, now 22, admitted five counts.

Judge David Aubrey, KC, sentencing, told Paul Cooke today: “You were engaged in perverted and twisted grievances, indeed a vendetta, against others that had no credit.”

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, told the court: “An aggravating feature of the case is that the defendants submitted forged court orders, purportedly issued by judges of the County Court, in furtherance of the frauds.”

The first offence began in August 2017, after OneSure Insurance Ltd cancelled an insurance policy bought by Paul Cooke to cover a motor trading business, when it noticed a document claiming to be proof of a no-claims bonus, sent from Tom Cooke’s email address, was a forgery.

The Cookes then decided to sue the company for loss of earnings, despite no evidence Paul Cooke ever operated any motor trading business. Knowing their claim had no chance of success in a fair hearing, Tom Cooke, claiming to be a paralegal acting on behalf of his dad, changed the company address on the paperwork to a random block of flats in London, rather than its true headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent.

Paul Cooke, 58, of Eccleston in St Helens, jailed over a bizarre serious of frauds using the County Court system

(Image: Merseyide Police)

Initially, the fake claim succeeded and Cooke received a default judgment in his favour for £5,709. Keen to cash in on their success, Tom Cooke instructed a firm of bailiffs called Direct Collection Bailiffs Ltd to collect the money via an online portal on the firm’s website, this time including the correct address for the company headquarters.

Bailiffs attended the address in Congleton Road, Stoke, on March 16, 2018, and a baffled company director agreed to pay, while also vowing to investigate how the judgment had been obtained. The company looked into the judgment and applied to have it set aside, meaning the bailiffs were unable to release the money to Paul Cooke.

Undeterred, Tom Cooke sent several forged documents made to appear as if they had been issued by court admin staff and even from a County Court Judge demanding the immediate release of the cash. The Cookes ceased contact when the bailiffs told them the case was being investigated by the Fraud and Investigation Team at the courts.

At the same time the fake claim against OneSure was ongoing, the pair also decided to sue the convenience store chain Martin McColls Ltd. This followed McColls taking over a Co-op shop next door to the Cooke family home, which resulted in a row over guttering, trees on McColls land and a boundary wall.

The pair used the same tactic at St Helens County Court, issuing a claim for £31,000 but including an incorrect address. But this time they went a step further.

Documents produced on Tom Cooke’s computer were sent to the County Court in December 2017 and the following February, appearing to be a Notice of Admission by McColls admitting the claim in full and then suggesting McColls had agreed to settle the case for £137,000.

However an experienced county court judge, His Honour Judge Wood, KC, smelled a rat, calling the claim “ludicrous” and suggesting it involved a “Walter Mitty style approach” to what was “fantasy litigation”. He struck the claim out as an abuse of process.

The final, and most audacious attempt obtain cash took place in November 2017, when Paul Cooke issued a claim for compensation against Birmingham Midshires in relation to his family home in Huyton Quarry being re-possessed.

Mr Slack said: “The value of the claim was a staggering £4,792,745.”

Again Cooke changed the address of Birmingham Midshires on his claim form to one in London, meaning they were unaware of the litigation. Raising the stakes further, on January 24, 2018, the court received a letter purporting to be from legal firm Eversheds Sutherland, suggesting it was acting on behalf of Birmingham Midshires, and asking for all documentation to go to the fake address.

A Deputy District Judge was again suspicious, noticing the discrepancy in the addresses, and refused to enter a default judgment when no-one from Birmingham Midshires attended court. Still Cooke persisted, and forwarded the court a letter he claimed he had received from Eversheds Sutherland stating their client had admitted liability and were willing to pay the eye-watering sum.

A different judge looked at the case, and checks were made with the real Everlands Sutherland, which confirmed the letters were not genuine and it had never agreed to represent Birmingham Midshires in the case.

Both men were arrested in January 2019 and denied any wrong doing. Searches of Tom Cooke’s laptop recovered a number of forged documents used in their scheme, which he claimed “had nothing to do with him” and suggesting “lots of people” had access to his computer.

Daniel Travers, representing Paul Cooke, told the court his client’s behaviour was fuelled in part by his mental health issues, and told the court Cooke had received a recent diagnosis of ADHD.

He said: “He has become fixated, not only with the original difficulties in respect of Birmingham Midshires, but he has then become obsessed with these proceedings in an unhealthy way.”

Mr Travers said the trouble began in July 2013, when Cooke’s family home, which he had lived in since 1966, was repossessed in what Cooke claimed were unfair circumstances relating to “a few hundred pounds” in arrears and some “is…

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