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Detective Admits Murdering Partner
A former police detective has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years after admitting the murder of his partner, a policewoman whose body was found in a shallow woodland grave.
Peter Foster had previously pleaded not guilty to killing Detective Constable Heather Cooper, 33, who was stabbed before her body was dumped in Blackdown Woods, near Lurgashall, West Sussex, in October last year.
But the 36-year-old former detective constable, who lived with the mother-of-two in Haslemere, Surrey, changed his plea to guilty at Lewes Crown Court today.
Miss Cooper was killed at the couple's home while she was on maternity leave with her second child, who was born just weeks prior to her death.
The court heard that Foster claimed Miss Cooper had attacked him and he initially acted in self-defence but then his actions turned to aggression.
The hearing was told he hit her over the head 10 times with a baseball bat before stabbing her in the throat.
The court was also told that Foster did not have a clear memory of the events.
Miss Cooper, who grew up in York, joined Surrey Police in 2003 and worked in the Public Protection Investigation Unit based at Guildford police station.
During her career she received several letters of praise from senior officers for her work on various crimes and in 2009 was given a commendation by the force for her "professionalism, dedication and commitment''.
Sentencing Foster, Judge Richard Brown described him as an "extremely dangerous individual'' who may never be safe to be let out of prison.
He said: "This was a wicked, savage and senseless attack on a young mother in her own home.
"Not only have you taken her life, you have also deprived Joshua and Isabel of a loving mother and, no doubt, devastated her family and friends.''
The judge added that aggravating factors were that the attack was carried out in front of the couple's children, that the defendant was trained in martial arts, and the ferocity of the attack which involved two weapons.
He said the minimum prison term would be 17 years but it would be a matter for the parole board whether Foster would then be released.
He told him: "Whether or not you will ever be released will be a matter for them.
"Many matters may point to you being an extremely dangerous individual.
"However, that's a matter for the parole board, not me.''
This statement was issued by Surrey Police
Heather had been an officer with Surrey Police since 2003 and was based at Guildford Police Station. At the time of her death she was on maternity leave having given birth to a daughter in August 2011. The couple, who had been together since 2007, also have a three-year-old son.
Foster, a former officer with Surrey Police, resigned from the force in 2009. At the time of his resignation he was suspended from duty and facing disciplinary action for an incident which occurred whilst he was off duty in Hampshire. He went on to set up a business as a self-employed plumber.
In 2010, Heather disclosed to friends that her relationship with Foster had become strained. He would often lose his temper over trivial matters, start arguments, and smash up items around the house in anger. She later said she had considered leaving him but was persuaded to stay and they discussed getting him help with anger management.
On October 16 2011, the couple and their children attended a friend's christening in Farncombe but left early at around 11:30am following a row over a lost bag. Just before 3pm, Foster was seen on CCTV buying alcohol in a supermarket close to their home. It is believed the attack on Heather took place shortly after this time.
Later that afternoon Foster made a number of trips to a relative's house in Witley where he dropped off the children. During these trips he revealed he had bloodied sheets in the back of his car which he needed help to destroy and made reference to having ?done something stupid?. His behaviour caused concern for Heather?s welfare and that evening the police were contacted
Officers from Surrey Police attended the family home in Haslemere where they found blood in the living room. A knife and a baseball bat were later recovered from black bin liners in the garage. Foster was arrested on suspicion of murder and led police to an area of woodland where Heather?s body was found in the early hours of October 17 hidden under some bracken.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Nick May, of Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: "Foster was a volatile man whose actions that day have destroyed this young family. On the afternoon of October 16, he viciously attacked Heather striking her repeatedly and with extreme force. His attempt to cover up his crime by hiding her body and trying to dispose of evidence shows he was thinking only of himself.
"This has been a sad and difficult time for Heather's family. Our thoughts remain very much with them and in particular her two children."
Surrey and Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: "Heather Cooper was an exceptional police officer but first and foremost she was a young mother and our thoughts continue to be with her family and in particular her two small children who have lost the opportunity to get to know her.
"The death of an officer in such circumstances has affected many at Surrey Police and I would like to thank the investigation team in Sussex for their hard work, sensitivity and professionalism in dealing with this case.
"Over the past few months, many of Heather's colleagues and friends have come together to raise money to help towards her children's future which is a fitting tribute to someone who spent their own life helping others.
"Heather's death is a huge loss to the police service and she continues to be missed."
Statement issued on behalf of the family of Heather Cooper
"Since Heather's tragic death, we have been humbled by all the wonderful tributes of respect and love that have been paid to her and the immense compassionate and sensitive support we have received from all quarters. We couldn't have asked for more.
We would like to thank everyone, in particular the investigation team for all their professionalism and their hard work over the last eight months and all Heather's friends and colleagues for the incredible fundraising which they have undertaken in her memory. She would have been proud of them all."
Five Sussex Police officers are under investigation after a 32-year-old died in the back of a police van earlier this year.
The mother of Mary Shipstone, 7, shot dead by her father, has thanked people in the village of Northiam for their support.
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