The murder of Lea Brooke 15 years on: A crime that shook a Wakefield community
The 81-year-old mother-of-five and grandmother, had lived in her home, the Old Coach House, at Sandal Grange Farm, Walton Lane – built by her late husband Lindsay – for 25 years.
During the early hours of November 10, 2008, Mrs Brooke was alone in the house when the killer poured white spirit through the letter box and set it alight.
Her house was situated on a small development, hidden from the main road by trees and fields, and it was several minutes before anyone raised the alarm.
By the time fire crews arrived, 80 per cent of the house was engulfed in flames.
Around 25 firefighters, from Wakefield, Ossett, Featherstone and Normanton battled the fire.
An inquest heard how Mrs Brooke was found in her nightclothes in a bathroom, her body partly covered by fallen debris caused by a fierce blaze which took firefighters more than two hours to bring under control.
At the time of the incident her family told the Express: “Léa will be sadly missed by her family and friends and all who knew her.
“She was born in Belgium and came to live in Wakefield nearly 60 years ago after marrying the late Lindsay Brooke, a local building contractor.
“She met Lindsay in the Belgian village of Herentals while he was serving in the Army during the Second World War.
“She quickly settled into life in Wakefield, learning English and soon became involved in community affairs, as well as bringing up her large family.”
A motive for her murder has never been established and 15 years on, the killer of the much loved and respected community figure is still free.
Mrs Brooke was an active member of the community. She had served as the district president of the Inner Wheel Club of Wakefield, which she had been a member of for more than 50 years, and regularly attended Wakefield Golf Club in Sandal, devoting her time to helping others.
In the hunt for Mrs Brooke’s killer, a reconstruction was broadcast on BBC’s Crimewatch in 2011 but no new witnesses came forward.
Detectives from West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team have kept the case under review as they continue to try and identify the person or persons responsible for Mrs Brooke’s murder.
They have always maintained that the answer to her death lies in the local community.
Today, on the 15th anniversary of that day, police have issued a fresh appeal for information.
Detective Chief Inspector Damian Roebuck, who is now leading the investigation, said: “Léa was a mother and a grandmother, and her murder was a huge shock to the local community, as well as her family and friends.
“We continue to appeal for any information about the person or persons responsible for causing her death.
“We continue to believe the answers Léa’s family are so desperately seeking will be found in the local community and would ask for anyone who has any kind of information about this matter to come forward, as they may have that vital piece of evidence which could lead to a significant development in this case.
“Fifteen years is a long time and it is possible that allegiances may have changed within this period. If you know anything about what happened on that night in Sandal then I urge you to come forward and speak with my team.”
Anyone with any information should contact the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team on 101 or by using the online chat facility, referencing Operation Pitkennedy.
Information can also be reported anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online.