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Man who appeared on Benefits Street sentenced to life in prison for brutal murder

Luke Pearson and Neil Maxwell both received life sentences Credit: Cleveland Police

A man who appeared on the Channel 4 documentary 'Benefits Street' has been sentenced to life in prison for a brutal murder in Stockton.

Neil Maxwell had featured on the programme, which sought to depict the reality of life for people on benefits.

Maxwell was sentenced alongside Luke Pearson for a murder so brutal a doctor - and veteran of the war in Afghanistan - described it as worse than anything he had seen while serving in the conflict.

Pearson and Maxwell carried out the street attack in Stockton in December 2018. The court heard they armed themselves with hammers, a knife and a knuckle duster before murdering Lee Cooper.

Maxwell was sentenced to life in prison for a minimum of 30 years before he can be considered for parole. He also received concurrent sentences for charges relating to two other people; eight years for wounding with intent and 18 months for occasioning actual bodily harm.

Pearson was also sentenced to life in custody with a minimum of 24 years. This was adjusted to 23 and a half years after accounting for time already spent behind bars.

He too received concurrent sentences for two charges on other people; six years for wounding with intent and two years for occasioning actual bodily harm.

As a detective I have never dealt with such a horrific incident.

– Matthew Waterfield, Cleveland Police

Cleveland Police detective sergeant Matthew Waterfield said: "Lee Cooper was subjected to a brutal sustained attack at the hands of Neil Maxwell and Luke Pearson in the middle of a residential street on a Sunday morning.

"As a detective I have never dealt with such a horrific incident. Although accepting responsibility for Lee's murder, both Maxwell and Pearson raised different defences which caused Lee's family to re-live Lee's death and hear things about his murder that no parent should ever be expected to hear.

"Whilst nothing can be done to bring Lee back, I sincerely hope that Lee's family find some solace in today's verdict and the knowledge that Neil Maxwell and Luke Pearson will now serve a life sentence for this most serious crime of murder."