Sheila Cooper’s life of horror began in the autumn of 1948. She was 13 and had gone to her bedroom after taking a bath, when her father entered…

He told her to take off her nightdress. Then he had sex with her, and this was repeated night after night for the next three months.

Her mother noticed that Sheila had become very quiet, seldom speaking to her father, but Mrs. Cooper assumed this was just an adolescent phase the girl was going through. Then Sheila came home from school one afternoon in February 1949, rushed upstairs past her mother and burst into tears in her bedroom.

“I’m pregnant!” she sobbed when her mother asked what was wrong. She refused to say who was responsible, and her father took her to a hospital near their Shepherd’s Bush, London, home.

When he told doctors at the hospital that Sheila had been raped they said the police would have to be informed. Anticipating this, Bernard Cooper said it would be too distressing for his daughter, who wouldn’t tell the police anyway. Accepting this, the doctors performed an abortion.

Sheila’s mother was unaware of this development. She assumed that Sheila must have had a miscarriage, but her relief that the crisis was over was soon replaced by a new anxiety. She began to notice the way her husband was looking at Sheila. And she began to think the unthinkable.

In the early hours of APRIL 1st, 1949, unable to contain her suspicions any longer, Mary Cooper “had it out” with her husband. Later that day the police were called to the Coopers’ home. Sheila had found her mother lying dead in her bedroom, a stocking tied round her neck.

Bernard Cooper had disappeared. The hunt for him ended five days later when he was found sleeping rough in the bicycle shed at a girls’ school in Ashford, Kent.

He claimed his wife had forgiven him for making their daughter pregnant, but had then started accusing him of continuing to have sex with Sheila, which he denied.

“My wife became partly hysterical,” he told the police. “I saw red…I slapped her face for a start, but she kept on. I picked up a stocking…I put it round her neck as if putting it round a bollard, and pulled it tighter and tighter…”

Charged with murder, he pleaded not guilty when tried at the Old Bailey, his counsel seeking a manslaughter verdict on the grounds of provocation. But it took the jury only 11 minutes to decide that Bernard Cooper was guilty of murder, and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison on June 21st, 1949.