Probably Died 29th April, 2010
Debbie Cooper, later briefly known as Debbie Starbuck, (44) from Nottingham, was probably killed on 29th April, 2010. She was a self-employed proofreader.
Her husband, Jamie Starbuck (now 36), from Nottingham, killed her eight days after their marriage and dismembered and burnt her remains at their home in Desford Close, Old Basford. He then pretended to be travelling abroad with her.
He admitted murder at Nottingham Crown Court and on 11th May 2013 was sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge ordered that he serve a minimum of 30 years.
It has not been established exactly how Ms Cooper died, but during the police’s investigation they found an unsent email from her killer that read: “I had planned for it to be quick… I never expected you to be so durable.”
Ms Cooper married her husband at West Bridgford register office on 21 April 2010 and was killed eight days later.
Timothy Spencer QC, prosecuting, said Ms Cooper had inherited £150,000 following the death of her mother. After he killed her, Starbuck used nearly £65,000 of her money to travel the world. He tried to cover up the crime by sending emails in Ms Cooper’s name, pretending they were travelling together. Starbuck was arrested at Heathrow Airport on 19th January after concerned friends of Debbie Cooper contacted the police and reported her missing in March 2012.
Judge Michael Stokes QC called it a “grotesque and inhumane act”. The judge said: “This case shows the categories of wickedness are never closed. On more than 75 homicides I’m trying hard to think of one as horrific as this. You knew she came from a strict Jewish background where cremation is wholly outside their tradition. You dismembered her body and burnt it. Even in death you stripped her of all dignity. It is difficult to imagine a more grotesque and inhumane act.” The judge said he was satisfied the murder was for “financial gain”. The judge told Starbuck “After you disposed of her remains, you plundered her account and set out to live the life of Riley”.
Speaking on behalf of Ms Cooper’s family Beth Jones said: “There are so many things about this that are almost impossible to bear. The unbelievable and shocking fact that she is dead, has been dead for so long and we didn’t even know. For nearly three years we thought we were communicating with her, living with the illusion that she was alive and happy and travelling around the world with Jamie. We are haunted and tormented by the suffering that she must have endured in the violent act that caused her death.”
Speaking after the sentencing today, Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin, of Nottinghamshire Police, who led the investigation into Debbie Cooper’s disappearance and murder, said: “Even though concerns for Debbie were only reported last year, all our enquiries seemed to link back to Jamie as being the last person to see her alive. His activities seemed very strange and out of character, heading off suddenly on his travels. He was obviously running away from what he had done to Debbie. As part of routine enquiries, we emailed both Debbie and Jamie’s accounts asking them to make contact. Jamie never replied. However we later discovered that a number of emails claiming to be from Debbie, sent to her family and friends in an attempt to convince them she was alive, were actually sent on the same day and from exactly the same location as emails sent from Jamie to other people.”
Mr Griffin continued: “We have learnt that Jamie Starbuck is a very controlling man, who engineered a situation to ensure he could benefit financially from Debbie’s disappearance.
After admitting his guilt today, I hope Starbuck will now give Debbie’s family a chance to grieve and have a proper funeral by revealing where she is.”
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Times, Daily Telegraph and the BBC.