BROOKE: Lea

1927-2008: Widow Lea Brooke died tragically as a result of an arson attack on her home at the Coach House at Sandal Grange Farm, Walton Lane, Sandal on Monday, 10 November 2008. Her five children and 12 grandchildren were robbed of a much-loved grandmother but the reason for the attack remains a mystery, despite being the subject of renewed police appeals. The inquiry team and relatives both agree it is inconceivable that the popular charity worker could have been the intended target. She had lived in the detached property since it was built 25 years earlier by her late husband, building contractor Lindsay Brooke. Belgian-born Mrs Brooke moved to Wakefield after her marriage over 60 years ago and was a well-known figure in the community. She was a regular at St Peter and St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church and attended the Sunday service the day before she was killed. She was in Wakefield Flower and Luncheon clubs, Inner Wheel, the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, the Civic Society and two bridge clubs. Very alert, she drove daily and on that Sunday had called at the local Asda store to buy biscuits for a coming social event.

Det Supt David Pervin, determined to solve his one undetected murder case, said the most likely reason for the attack was that someone with a perceived grievance against Mrs Brooke’s son Howard, who ran his building business from the Coach House and occasionally stayed overnight, either poured the white spirit through the letterbox or got someone to do it for them. As yet the evidence to prove or disprove this is still being sought. Other slim possibilities are that the attack on the secluded property was a case of an arsonist mistaking the Coach House for another target address or that it was a random arson. But so far police investigations indicate both these explanations unlikely. 

Detailed forensic tests confirmed the type of the accelerant and Det Supt Pervin, along with fire service investigators and a senior Scenes of Crime Officer, ‘established without doubt’ that the white spirit had been deliberately poured through that door and ignited. Burning patterns confirmed the threshold area as the seat of the fire and traces of white spirit were isolated in sawdust beneath the floor joists. For a BBC Crimewatch reconstruction of the crime click here

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