Court Decides Missing Huddersfield Man is “Presumed Dead “ against family’s wishes

After more than 8 years, a judge in Leeds has decided that Steven Frank Cooper of Golcar, Huddersfield, who went missing in January 2008 must be presumed to have died, despite the opposition of his family.

The court case was made under the Presumption of Death Act 2013 by Steven Cooper’s partner Claire Lodge, who had been in a relationship with Steven for 10 years before his disappearance on 21st January 2008, his 47th birthday.

Steven left the home that he shared with Claire early in the morning.  His Ford Focus car was found near Loch Laggan in the Scottish Highlands shortly after he went missing but a massive police and mountain rescue operation failed to find any trace of him and the police search officially came to an end on 27th February 2008.

Steven, who was an experienced carpenter and joiner was unemployed at the time of his disappearance because of a disability due to a medical condition, Marfan Syndrome.

Steven’s sister Trish Cooper, brothers Christian and Mark and mother Margaret had never given up hope that he is alive. They have, over the years, made many appeals for help in finding him – but to no avail. They opposed Claire’s application as they felt that there was still hope that Steven Cooper was still alive. A contested hearing took place at the High Court in Leeds on Monday 27th June.

Steven’s partner Claire is a joint owner of their home. Without a declaration of presumed death she was unable to remortgage or sell the property-  and no one had the right to deal with Steven’s financial affairs.  The court order means that Claire can now apply for a grant of probate to deal with Steven’s estate.

Claire Lodge is relieved that the order has been made:

“I have to accept that I don’t think we will ever know why Steven went missing or what has happened to him.  No one has had any contact from him since the day he went missing and over time I have had to come to the conclusion that he has died.  I had to make the application to court to sort out Steven’s estate and I’m glad that I can finally start to move on with my life now”.

Claire’s solicitor Sarah Young, a partner with Ridley & Hall in Huddersfield, specialises in resolving the affairs of missing people.  She said:

“It is disappointing that Steven’s family contested Claire’s application and that we had to have a court hearing in front of a judge; but I’m glad that we got the right result today.  Steven’s Cooper disappearance is tragic but as there have been no sightings of him or contact for more than 8 years, the judge agreed that Steven Cooper ought to be presumed to have died.  A lot of people think that you have to wait at least 7 years before someone can be presumed dead – that’s not true and an application can be made at any point after someone has gone missing if there is evidence to support the view that they have died”.

Sarah YoungSarah Young is a Partner with Ridley & Hall solicitors in Huddersfield. She specialises in contentious probate cases and has a particular interest in cases involving missing people and supports the work being done by the charity Missing People.

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on her direct dial 01484 558838 or her mobile 07860 165850.