Two youths have been jailed for killing a defenceless Harold Wood pensioner by posting a firework through her front door.

Kai Cooper, 19, was given an extended sentence at the Old Bailey for causing the death of 88-year-old Josephine Smith.

The court heard that despite writing a letter of apology to the judge, an expert probation officer had determined that Cooper posed a continuing high risk to the public.

Whilst purchasing the firework that killed Mrs Smith, he had boasted to the shopkeeper: “People are going to get terrorised tonight.”


Judge Mark Dennis KC sentenced Cooper, of Cleve Road in Leatherhead, to six years and six months in prison, plus another two years on licence.

“Justice has been done,” Josephine’s son Alan told the Recorder. “I think the right thing has happened.”

Cooper was convicted of manslaughter and arson with recklessness in February, after jurors heard he encouraged a younger boy to post the firework into Josephine’s home in Queens Park Road, Harold Wood, on October 28, 2021.

It set light to her kitchen and she died from smoke inhalation.

In victim impact statements, the family described the distress of arriving at her home that night and watching paramedics’ futile attempts to resuscitate her.

The boy who posted the firework, now 17, was sentenced alongside Cooper on Friday, April 28, having pleaded guilty late last year.

He too was deemed by a probation expert to have “the potential to cause serious harm”, but received a lesser sentence as a reward for pleading guilty.

He was jailed for three years and eight months.

“On that fateful evening in October 2021 you both had mischief in mind,” said Judge Dennis.

“Your wanton and reckless conduct led to the death of a vulnerable and much-loved person.”

Romford Recorder: Kai Cooper was given an extended sentence after being convicted of manslaughter and arsonKai Cooper was given an extended sentence after being convicted of manslaughter and arson (Image: Met Police)


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Christine Agnew KC, representing Cooper, said he had been a “lost” young man with “an extremely chaotic life”.

She said there was “the beginning of some hope” for him since he had been remanded at HMP Belmarsh, where he was already achieving qualifications.

But a probation expert said Cooper posed “a high risk of serious harm to members of the public”, and that the risk was “indiscriminate”.

Jennifer Dempster KC, representing the second boy, said he has “a traumatic and difficult background”.

“He never intended or foresaw the consequences of what happened that night,” she said.

“The regret and remorse he now feels is remarkable.”