Josephine Smith’s son said he may now leave Harold Wood, as all his favourite landmarks now serve as sad reminders of his mother’s killing. 

Josephine was killed when Kai Cooper, 19, of Cleve Road, Leatherhead, encouraged a younger boy to post a firework through the front door of her home in Queens Park Road in October 2021.  

Her son Alan Smith said his family had first moved to the area in 1868, when the railway was being built. 

But, he told the Recorder: “I think this has definitely tainted it.  

“The places that we watched in the CCTV in the trial – the chippy, the pub, the Chinese – they have all been places we associated our lives with. 

“Now they have become names in a trial for our mum.

"Harold Wood seems like a strange place now, I'm not going to be around much longer."

Alan said the family had received “amazing” support from the Harold Wood community. 

But, he said: “Losing Mum in such a horrible way has haunted our entire family.” 


During Cooper's trial, jurors saw and heard from CCTV and witnesses how the youths had lit and thrown fireworks outside various locations in Station Road, shortly before Josephine’s home was torched.  

“It’s been a bit of a blur, really,” Alan said of the trial. 

“I think for me, personally, I’ve used it as a coping mechanism – by dealing with this and shelving the rest of it away.” 

Romford Recorder: Josephine Smith, 88, was killed on October 28, 2021Josephine Smith, 88, was killed on October 28, 2021 (Image: The Smith family)

Asked what she felt would be an appropriate sentence for Cooper, Josephine’s granddaughter Kelly Gross said: “The only appropriate sentence would be, I think, if it has the effect to rehabilitate him. 

“Otherwise, he’s just going to continue to be a menace to society.” 

Alan agreed, saying: “There’s no point him coming out of prison and ruining other lives.” 

But, he added: “I think anything less than six or seven years would be a slap in the face. 

“I want him to get punished. I want him to do his time. And I want him to learn from his mistakes.  

“He had no family supporting him, which is quite tragic, really.  

“It’s tragic that lads like that have no family, no support, no life guidance and end up doing what they do. 

“I feel a little bit of compassion for anybody in that situation – that's lost and may go on to do something terrible. 

“I want him to do a good time in prison, change and come out a better person.”