Liar friend is jailed for killing
The family of popular cricket captain Adrian Cooksey said the friend who killed him with one drunken punch on a night out, before lying about it and seeing an innocent man put on trial – should be locked up and “have the key thrown away”.
The three grieving sons of Mr Cooksey, who ran a family building firm in Trowbridge, spoke of their fury after Richard Elmes, 51, was jailed for just three-and-a-half years for the manslaughter of their father. He will serve another 20 months after that for perjury, after a court was told his lies meant another man was originally tried for the crime.
But he could be out on parole by the summer of 2015 if he only serves half his sentence. The Cooksey family said they would be serving a life sentence after their father went on a night out with old school friends and never came home.
The sentencing yesterday brings a close to one of the West’s longest-running police investigations, which has seen two trials, three-and-a half years of police appeals, and a controversial police inquiry into the original investigation.
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Elmes had denied killing his friend Mr Cooksey at the end of a night out in Melksham, Wiltshire, on Saturday, March 7, 2009.
By the early hours of that Sunday morning, the pair were walking back to the town centre down Spa Road to get a taxi home, but argued after Mr Cooksey brought up the subject of an affair Elmes had with the wife of a mutual friend 25 years earlier.
The pair had known each other since they were six years old and were on a night out in Melksham with another friend, whose house they went back to after the pubs closed.
Back in Spa Road, the court was told, Elmes punched Cooksey, knocking him down. His head hit a low brick wall and he died later that morning from massive head injuries. Elmes walked off and left his friend unconscious without seeking medical help. He was found later by an off-duty police support worker and rushed to hospital, but did not come round.
A teenager who had been out in Bath for the night was later arrested and charged with the manslaughter after Elmes lied to police and said the pair had not been in Spa Road together. Tom Minshull, who was 19 at the time, was on his way home but did not see the altercation. He denied hitting Cooksey and was acquitted at Bristol Crown Court the following year.
After Wiltshire police initially said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the manslaughter, a neighbouring force assessed the handling of the case and urged that it be reassessed. That stage was carried out by detectives who issued scores of CCTV images trying to identify every single person walking or driving through Melksham town centre late that night.
Elmes’ lies began to unravel after he confessed to his wife he had lied to police initially, and he was finally charged with manslaughter earlier this year.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Saunders said: “For three years, Richard Elmes continually and deliberately lied about his involvement to police and lied under oath.
“Throughout this investigation we have worked closely with Adrian’s family, it been an extremely difficult time for them and we hope that they can now find some peace of mind,” he added.
Mr Cooksey’s family spoke of their anger that their father’s friend turned out to be his killer. “Whatever sentence passed would never be enough to satisfy us,” they said. “Richard Elmes has continued to lie and avoid the truth. “This was supposed to be our dad’s friend. It has now been clarified that he punched our dad to the ground and left him lying there.
“How anyone can live with this and continue to lie to save their own skin deserves to have the key thrown away. Our family has been dealt a life sentence by this man,” they added.