(also known as Hissing Sid), (born 18 April 1927)
is a British convicted paedophile serving two life
sentences for a string of rapes against young boys.
Along with three accomplices, Cooke
was imprisoned in 1989 for the manslaughter of Jason
Swift in 1985. Jason was a fourteen year old boy, one of
many the four men had brutalized, sexually tortured, and
prostituted over a number of years.
Cooke was sentenced to 19 years in
prison, but was paroled in 1998 after convincing an
appeals court that one of his accomplices was the
ringleader of the paedophile ring.
That same accomplice had told
authorities that Cooke had murdered a 7-year-old boy
called Mark Tildesley, in Wokingham, Berkshire in June
1984, but his role in the death was not investigated
until years later. The boy's body has never been found.
Mark disappeared while visiting a funfair in Wokingham
on the evening of Friday 1 June 1984. It was believed he
was lured away from the fair by Cooke, who had manned a
test your strength machine, on the promise of a 50p bag
of sweets. His bicycle was found chained to railings
Three of the gang, Cooke, Lennie
Smith and Leslie Bailey were put to trial in 1991 over
Mark's murder but only Bailey was charged as they all
blamed each other. He was subsequently himself murdered
in prison by two fellow inmates in 1993. The Crown
Prosecution Service declined to prosecute Cooke for Mark
Tildesley's murder as he was already in prison for the
manslaughter of Jason Swift. Cooke still refuses to
discuss where they disposed of Mark's body after they
In 1999, a year after he was paroled,
Cooke was arrested again for sexually abusing two
brothers over several months in 1972-73, a crime which,
among others, had come to public attention after they
were reported on in the Channel 4 documentary
Dispatches. At trial, Cooke admitted committing a
number of sexual offences against children (while
denying certain others) and blamed the sexual abuse he
said he himself had suffered as a child.
(also known as Hissing Sid), (born 18 April 1927) is a British
convicted child molester serving two life sentences.
Along with three accomplices – Leslie Bailey,
Robert Oliver and Lennie Smith – Cooke was sentenced to 19 years in
prison in May 1989 for the manslaughter of 14-year-old Jason Swift.
The gang, led by Cooke, gang-raped Swift in what the mainstream media
described as a homosexual orgy, in November 1985.
Leslie Bailey had informed authorities that Cooke
was among those who murdered seven-year-old Mark Tildesley in
Wokingham, Berkshire, but Cooke's role in the murder was not
investigated until 1999; by this time, Bailey was dead, having been
murdered in prison in October 1993. Tildesley disappeared while
visiting a funfair in Wokingham on the evening of 1 June 1984. He was
lured away from the fair and his bicycle was found chained to railings
nearby. In 1991, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute
Cooke for Mark Tildesley's murder as he was already in prison for the
manslaughter of Jason Swift.
Cooke's sentence was reduced to 16 years on appeal
in 1989, and he was paroled nine years later in April 1998. He told an
appeals court that Bailey was the ringleader of the gang, who are
believed to have killed at least nine victims.
Cooke's parole caused huge public outrage. This was
exacerbated by a plan to move him to a hostel near two schools, and
Cooke himself admitted that he might re-offend; while in prison, he
refused to take part in rehabilitation sessions.
Police refused to disclose the location where he
was to be moved, smuggling him out of jail to avoid a vigil for his
victims. There were several demonstrations against Cooke's release. As
the police feared for his safety, he was forced to live in a suite of
cells at Yeovil Police station, but on 26 January 1999, he was again
arrested and charged with committing 18 sex offences which occurred
between 1972 and 1981. These included repeated abuse and assault of
two brothers and the rape of a young woman. Many of the offences had
come to public attention after they were reported on in the Channel 4
At his trial on 5 October 1999, Cooke pleaded
guilty to sexually abusing the two brothers on 10 occasions in 1972
and 1973. He admitted to having carried out five counts of indecent
assault and five counts of buggery but denied the remaining eight
charges, which were four counts of rape, three further counts of
indecent assault, and one of buggery, that occurred in 1981. These
were abandoned by the judge, who ordered them to lie on file. As a
defence for his crimes, Cooke claimed to have himself been sexually
abused as a child.
On 17 December 1999, Cooke received two life
sentences, and the judge told Cooke that he would only be considered
for release after he had served a five-year jail sentence. He is still
behind bars today for these offences, even though the five-year
minimum sentence has elapsed.
Cooke has since suffered a stroke while in prison,
and has been provided with a specially adapted mechanical bed due to
his impaired mobility.
While in prison, Cooke has struck a friendship with
a fellow paedophile dubbed "Britain's Josef Fritzl." The pair who are
hated by everyone in Wakefield prison, are said to be inseparable. One
insider said: "It's almost a perfect match - two sickos getting
together to form some kind of twisted bond."
In popular culture
Mockumentary Brass Eye did a skit in which
Chris Morris pretended that Cooke had been sent into space to keep him
away from children. Prior to the launch, an eight-year-old boy was
placed on board with Cooke by mistake.
Friday, December 17,
Sidney Cooke is regarded as a dangerous and predatory
paedophile who even at the age of 72 remains a constant threat to
He has been given two life sentences for a catalogue
of crimes involving the systematic rape and abuse of two brothers over
But these horrific admissions are just one of a
series of depraved acts the persistent offender has committed during the
past three decades.
In his job as a fairground worker, Cooke was able to
travel the country preying on vulnerable youngsters.
Known by colleagues as Hissing Sid, he set up his
children's 'Test Your Strength' machine at fairgrounds around the
country using the opportunity to meet boys and lure them into depraved
With his sick friends Robert Oliver, Lennie Smith and
Leslie Bailey, he would drug the children before subjecting them to
Cooke, who habitually dressed in a filthy suit and
trilby hat, was one of a 1980s gang suspected of being responsible for
the killing of up to nine young boys during sex orgies.
Operating from a flat on the Kingsmead estate in
Hackney, east London, the gang hired rent boys or snatched children off
the streets and subjected them to horrific sexual torture.
The former farm worker led the paedophile ring jailed
for killing 14-year-old Jason Swift from Hackney, East London, in 1984.
A gang of men each paid £5 to have sex with Jason in
the "stinking, filthy" flat they used on the Kingsmead.
A few hours later he was dead. His body was found in
a shallow grave on the outskirts of London.
Detective Superintendent David Bright, who was
involved in the hunt for the killers of the teenager, said: "I can't
think of anything worse that could happen to a human being and a
vulnerable young man.
"Cooke is a very hard and resilient man. He's a very
strong character but he's an evil man."
Cooke was sent to prison for 19 years in 1989 for
Jason's manslaughter but later managed to get his sentence reduced to 16
years by appeal court judges and was released after just nine in 1998.
He convinced the judges that Leslie Bailey was the
evil genius and the mastermind behind the gang.
Cooke, however, was named by Bailey as one of the
killers of seven-year-old Mark Tildesley, who vanished in June 1984.
Mark disappeared after visiting a funfair near his
home in Wokingham, Berks.
His bicycle was recovered nearby but no trace of him
has ever been found. Police believe he was lured away from the fair by
Cooke for the promise of a 50p bag of sweets before being tortured and
killed by Cooke's gang in a caravan.
Cooke has indicated he knows where Mark's body is
buried but refuses to tell police or the boy's grieving parents exactly
where his grave is.
In 1991 the Crown Prosecution Service declined to
prosecute Cooke for Mark's murder.
During his time in London's Wandsworth prison Cooke
was admired by other paedophiles for the extent of his depravity and the
lengths he was prepared to go to ensnare his victims.
Angry protests had greeted his release from prison
last year and he was forced to keep on the move as soon as his identity
He eventually lived, at his own request, in a suite
of three cells at Yeovil police station in Somerset where the Home
Office provided him with a TV, washing machine, microwave and small
Nearly a year after his release, Cooke was arrested
at the police station by Thames Valley Police detectives investigating
allegations of rape and other serious sexual offences which had come to
light after the Channel 4 documentary, Dispatches.
Following his sentencing, NSPCC director Jim Harding
said of the sentence: "The children who were abused by Sidney Cooke
suffered some of the vilest and cruelest sex offences imaginable.
"He should never have been freed after serving his
last sentence. We sincerely hope he will never be given the opportunity
to hurt another child again."
Victims snared at funfairs
October 5, 1999
Paedophile Sidney Cooke set up his own funfair
stall at fairgrounds around the country to lure his unsuspecting
The 72-year-old, nicknamed Hissing Sid, used a
children's Test Your Strength machine to meet his victims and trap
them into under-age sex orgies.
With his friends Robert Oliver, Lennie Smith and
Leslie Bailey, former farm worker Cooke would drug the children before
subjecting them to brutal assaults.
Habitually dressed in a dirty suit and trilby hat,
he was one of a gang in the 1980s suspected of the deaths of up to
Operating from a flat on the Kingsmead estate in
Hackney, east London, the gang hired underage male prostitutes or
snatched children off the streets to torture them sexually, including
Jason Swift, a 14-year-old rent boy from Hackney.
A group of men each paid £5 to have sex with Jason
in the Kingsmead flat. He was later found strangled in a shallow grave
on the outskirts of London.
'Appalling beyond belief'
Det Supt Bright of Essex Police described Cooke as
"cocky and arrogant" before he eventually confessed to Jason's killing.
It was appalling beyond belief," he said.
Det Bright described how the gang would stalk boys
at fairgrounds as if they were hunting prey.
He added: "There are certain cases that you work on
during your career that will never leave you. I will never forget
Cooke was sent to prison for 19 years in 1989 for
Jason's manslaughter but managed to get his sentence reduced to 16
years and was released after nine.
Bailey named him as one of the killers of Mark
Tildesley, seven, who disappeared after visiting a funfair near his
home in Wokingham, Berkshire.
Police believe he was lured away from the fair by
Cooke on the promise of a 50p bag of sweets.
Admired in jail
He was then tortured and killed by Cooke's gang in
a caravan in almost exactly the same way as Jason.
But in 1991 the CPS declined to prosecute Cooke for
Mark's death as he was already in prison for killing Jason.
Cooke has indicated that he knows where Mark's body
is buried but refuses to tell police or the boy's grieving parents
exactly where his grave is.
During his time in Wandsworth Prison in London
Cooke was held on a special wing for sex offenders.
He became the centre of attention, admired by other
paedophiles for the extent of his depravity and the lengths he was
prepared to go to ensnare his victims.
Detective Constable Tina Birnie said: "He (Cooke)
has been put on a pedestal because he killed all of those kids. It was
a fantasy to all those paedophiles to go a bit further."
After his release in April last year Cooke lived,
at his own request, in a suite of three cells at Yeovil police station
in Somerset for his own safety.
He was arrested at the police station by detectives
investigating allegations of serious sexual offences.
Child killer 'living in fear'
Monday, 11 May, 1998
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
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
But he also insisted that efforts should be made to
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."
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."
M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: Sex.
Fairgrounds worker and pedophile child-slayer
years on one count, 1988 (paroled 1998)
Jason Swift: Killed by
gang in Hackney flat