Son tells of moment he found Brick Lane bagel shop owners dead at family home

Cohen family's Beigel Bake 24-hour shop in Brick Lane, Bethnal Green. Picture: Mike Brooke

Cohen family's Beigel Bake 24-hour shop in Brick Lane, Bethnal Green. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

A renowned Brick Lane bagel baker broke down in court as he described finding his mother and sister lying in a pool of blood at the family home.

Mother-of-five Louise Cohen, 66, and Hannah Cohen, 33, were allegedly stabbed to death in the basement of their six-bedroom house in Golders Green, north London, on August 11 last year.

Widowed Mrs Cohen’s youngest son Joshua Cohen, 28, allegedly attacked them before changing his bloodstained clothes and walking out.

He was arrested in nearby Golders Hill Park the following day and charged with two counts of murder.

Members of the Cohen family, who run a world famous bagel bakery on Brick Lane, attended the Old Bailey for a trial of issue.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC ruled the defendant, who sat in the dock, was unfit to stand trial.

He told jurors Cohen was mentally unwell and they would only be asked to decide whether he caused the unlawful deaths of the two women, and not whether he was guilty of any offence.

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Giving evidence, his brother Nathan Cohen, 31, tearfully described how he found his mother and sister.

At about 9pm on August 11, Mr Cohen had returned home from work at the family bakery.

He told jurors his youngest brother had previously worked there but left because of “issues” with customers and staff.

That day, Mr Cohen said he was keen to catch the second half of an Arsenal match and did not see his mother, who usually slept downstairs because of a knee injury.

He said: “I wanted to catch the second half. I went upstairs to go and have a shower and as I was going upstairs I did glance over and did not see her there.

“As you go upstairs you can see into the kitchen and I noticed there was a lot of mess on the floor.

“There was red footprints to the end of the kitchen so I thought that was a bit odd.

“Then I came downstairs and went into the kitchen and I noticed there was lots of footprints. Initially I didn’t realise. I came to realise it was blood.

“It came to the end of the kitchen leading back to the basement.”

Mr Cohen wept as he told jurors: “I was going, ‘What’s going on here?’. I followed them (the footprints). I saw my mum and sister lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

“First I was in shock and went over to my mum. I was tapping her going, ‘Mum, mum’.

“I turned to my sister. She was very pale. I straight away called 999. I said, ‘You’ve got to come’. They said an ambulance was coming.

“They said, ‘Are they breathing?’. I said, ‘You’ve got to get here quickly. You’ve got to get here right now’.”

He said there was no response from either woman.

At the time of the killings, Joshua Cohen had been living in an annex at the bottom of the garden, while Mrs Cohen, Hannah and Nathan stayed in the house.

Nathan Cohen told jurors his brother no longer had a key to the house and would not usually come in unless another brother was present.

CCTV cameras at the home captured the sequence of events in August last year, the court heard.

At about 8pm, Cohen allegedly walked to the main house and was let in by his mother while his sister vacuumed in the sitting room.

Cohen went into the kitchen followed by his mother and sister.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC said: “Hannah and Louise Cohen were never seen again. In the next few minutes both of them were stabbed to death in the laundry room in the basement.”

Cohen emerged with blood on his head and legs, carrying bloodstained clothes upstairs, jurors heard.

He changed into a red hooded top and grey tracksuit bottoms before leaving the house, the court heard.

A post-mortem examination revealed Louise Cohen suffered 13 stab wounds to the head, face, neck, body and right arm and a traumatic brain injury most likely from multiple blows to the head.

The head injuries were said to have been caused by a heavy weighted object such as an iron or meat tenderiser.

She also had defensive-type injuries to her hands and arms.

The cause of death was recorded as a stab injury to the neck and blunt force trauma to the head.

Hannah Cohen suffered a stab to the neck which severed the carotid artery and would have killed her in seconds, the court heard.

The trial of issue was adjourned until 10.30am on Tuesday.