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The True Story Behind The Pembrokeshire Murders

The True Story Behind The Pembrokeshire Murders

ITV's new three-part drama Pembrokeshire Murders began on Monday (11 January) and people are already completely gripped.

Serial killer John Cooper, who is played by Keith Allen in the show, committed crimes described as 'evil wickedness' by a judge, who deemed four whole life sentences the only sufficient punishment.

Cooper was convicted in 2011 after three decades of murders, violence and robberies but until 1998, his involvement in many cases, including rapes and murders, going undetected for years.

Serial killer John Cooper. Credit: Shutterstock
Serial killer John Cooper. Credit: Shutterstock
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But Cooper's own son recalled how his father would roam around the town of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, carrying a shotgun under his coat.

Unknown to everyone at the time, Cooper was actually looking for houses to break into.

He had learned his skills thanks to his huge collection of SAS manual, and was waiting for the opportunity to put them into practice.

He originally turned to crime when he lost thousands of pounds while trying to get into the property market, gambling and losing £90,000 that he had won in a newspaper competition in 1978.

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In 1985, he located his first big target, a mansion in Milford Haven. It was owned by millionaire Richard Thomas - a farmer - and his sister Helen. Helen would become the first of Cooper's known murder victims, with prosecutors speculating that he had killed the siblings when he was disturbed.

Their bodies were found in the burnt-out house days after Cooper had broken in. They had both been shot at point-blank range with a shotgun.

Four years later, a second case followed.

Husband and wife Peter and Gwenda Dixon were on holiday and had gone for a walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. The couple, from Oxfordshire originally, came across Cooper while they walked.

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Peter and Gwenda Dixon were murdered in 1989. Credit: PA
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They were shot at close range, after Cooper had stolen Peter's wedding ring and wallet.

The murderer was seen trying to use Peter's card to withdraw cash, but police still couldnt catch him, despite a TV appeal on BBC's Crimewatch.

Both cases were unsolved, when in 2006, Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins (played by Luke Evans), went back to Dyfed-Powys police after he'd worked with National Criminal Intelligence Service for two years.

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After gaining experience, Wilkins delved into the unsolved crimes, which were part of Operation Ottawa

The double murders from the 1980s were included, and an incident which took place in 1996, in which five teenagers were attacked, with one raped and another sexually assaulted.

He used new DNA profiling techniques, as well as a full review of all the evidence - including an appearance by Cooper on TV game show Bullseye, which they managed to compare with an artist's impression of him - to get enough evidence to charge him.

He was convicted of the two murders, as well as the rape and sexual assault from the incident in 1996.

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Although he denied the charges, he was sentenced in 2011. Cooper, now 76, still remains in jail - at an undisclosed location - to this day.

The Pembrokeshire Murders continues this evening, at 9pm on ITV.

Featured Image Credit: ITV

Topics: TV and Film

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Amelia Ward

Amelia is a journalist at LADbible. After studying journalism at Liverpool John Moores and Salford Uni (don't ask), she went into PR and then the world of music. She spent a few years working on festivals and events. Soon realising you can't pay your bills with guestlist, she went back to her roots. In her spare time, Amelia likes music, Liverpool FC, and spending good, quality time with her cat, Paul. You can contact Amelia at [email protected]