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Monday, 11 May, 1998, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Child killer 'living in fear'
Sidney Cooke: free to leave whenever he chooses
Sidney Cooke: free to leave whenever he chooses
Child killer Sidney Cooke is living in fear of the public reaction to his release from prison, according to the police officer guarding him.

In an interview with BBC1's Panorama, Detective Superintendent David Edwards, of Avon and Somerset police, says Cooke is well aware how hated he is.

But Mr Edwards gave an assurance that the public would be protected - and said he was prepared to act if Cooke ever decided to leave secure accommodation.

"He certainly does not want to face the public. He is very well aware of the public reaction to him ... and is in some fear of that," he told Panorama - due to be broadcast on Monday.

"He spends a lot of his time watching television, he reads the papers. He cleans his accommodation, he sends out for food, he has his own money. He generally busies himself living under supervision in secure accommodation," he said.

'Nowhere else to go'

Cooke, who was released on April 6 after serving nine years of a sentence for the manslaughter of Jason Swift, 14, is free to walk out of his secure accommodation in the Avon and Somerset area at any time.

But Mr Edwards said: "If Mr Cooke does walk out of the police station we will react accordingly. If necessary we can also put a policeman with him 24 hours a day. In practice he has nowhere else to go."

But he also insisted that efforts should be made to rehabilitate Cooke.

He added: "If a person serves their term of imprisonment then surely it is incumbent on society to make every attempt to rehabilitate this person ... to rehabilitate and to absorb him into society."

Protests greeted Cooke's release from prison
Protests greeted Cooke's release from prison
There was a near-riot in the Knowle West area of Bristol and a series of protests in the Somerset towns of Yeovil and Bridgwater after it emerged that Cooke was being kept in a police station in the Avon and Somerset area.

The protests followed similar scenes in east London after Cooke was kept under guard by police in a secure building.

Lavinia Tildesley, the mother of seven-year-old Mark Tildesley, who disappeared from a fairground in Wokingham, Berkshire, in June 1995, also spoke to Panorama.

She appealed to Cooke, who was named in court as being involved in her son's killing, but was never charged, to tell her where the body is buried.

She said: "It's a long time gone, but if he'd just tell us, we'd know, and we can start living our life again."

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