Pembrokeshire Murders – real story behind crime spree as ITV lifts lid on investigation

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Serial killer and diagnosed psychopath John Cooper was sentenced to four life sentences over two double murders he committed in the 1980s.

The vile criminal, now 76, was convicted in 2011 for the double murder of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas in 1985, as well as the double murder of Peter and Gwenda Dixon in 1989.

The evil killer murdered his first victims, brother and sister Helen and Richard, at their manor house near Milford Haven.

Just four years later, he ruthlessly killed Peter and Gwenda Dixon on a coastal path near Pembroke.

Cooper was also jailed for 16 years for a spate of some 30 burglaries and the Sardis robbery alone.

John Cooper was sentenced to four life sentences over two double murders he committed in the 1980s
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

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Double murder of Richard and Helen Thomas

Evil killer Cooper murdered his first victims, brother and sister Helen and Richard, at their manor house near Milford Haven in 1985
(Image: ITV)

On December 23, 1985, police found the charred remains of a body from the smouldering rubble of a three-storey manor house near Milford Haven, Wales.

Grisly clues at the crime scene would soon confirm to police that their worst suspicions were well founded, according to Wales Live.

Shotgun pellets were found in the wall of the first floor bedroom in which the body was found, while what appeared to be a blindfold or gag, having survived destruction by the flames, lay nearby.

Helen Thomas, 54, had been bound and shot, alongside her millionaire farmer brother Richard, whose body had already been found sporting a point blank entry wound to the stomach.

The pair were gunned down on December 22nd, as evil Cooper burned down their three-storey farmhouse Scoveston Park.

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Double murder of Peter and Gwenda Dixon

Just four years after the first double murder he committed, Cooper ruthlessly killed Peter and Gwenda Dixon on a coastal path near Pembroke
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

Four years on after murdering siblings Richard and Helen in cold blood, killer Cooper had struck again.

Middle-aged couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon were on holiday together in Pembrokeshire, blind to the fact that trip would be their last.

The pair were killed by vile Cooper on June 29, 1989.

The evil killer had tied them up, demanded they hand over their bank card and then forced them to give him their PIN code.

Carrying a sawn-off shotgun, Cooper robbed Peter of £300 and shot the couple in the face.

Their lifeless bodies were later found along the Pembrokeshire coastal path, near Little Haven.

What officers would later discover is that the weapon used on the Dixons was the same Belgian-made 12-bore shotgun that had belonged to Richard Thomas – the barrels of which Cooper had also turned on him and his sibling four years prior.

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2006 cold case review

Cooper was also jailed for 16 years for a spate of some 30 burglaries and the Sardis robbery alone
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

Cooper's evil crimes went undetected for decades.

It wasn't until Det. Supt. Steve Wilkins took over serious crime at Dyfed-Powys police in 2006, and decided to launch a cold case ­review.

While they knew Cooper was the main suspect behind the chilling crimes, officials didn't have the evidence they needed to lock him up.

It was a fight against time before Cooper would find his next victims.

Years went by as cops searched long and hard for evidence permissible in court, however no luck.

One day, cops spotted something – a trophy Cooper stole from one of his victims which proved to be the crucial piece of evidence they needed.

The killer is serving four life sentences
(Image: PA)

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At the time, the criminal was serving a 14-year term for a string of violent burglaries in the area.

It was Cooper's wife Pat, who put up with years of abuse at the hands of her cruel husband, who unknowingly provided the final piece of the puzzle that brought Cooper to justice.

A police sketch from 1989, known as the “wildman” sketch, depicted a man seen using Peter Dixon’s cash card at an ATM after his murder.

A policewoman noticed some khaki shorts seized from Cooper bore a resemblance to those in the sketch, and also appeared to be women’s.

They turned out to be Gwenda Dixon’s, kept as trophy by Cooper, whose unsuspecting wife turned them up – and in doing so trapped vital DNA evidence in the seams.

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Bullseye episode

Cooper appeared on a Bullseye episode in May 1989
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

In an even more bizarre twist, Cooper's love of darts saw him implicated further still as old footage surfaced of him competing on Bullseye, the Sunday teatime game show presented by the late Jim Bowen.

The episode in question had been recorded in May 1989, exactly a month before the Dixon murders and, in a pre-round ramble with the programme's host, Cooper talked about his hobbies and love of The Great Outdoors, detailing at length the geography of the West Wales countryside.

More specifically, it showed he had intimate knowledge of the area where the English hiking couple had been killed.

His appearance at the time, with scruffy mullet and moustache, also proved a dead-ringer for the sketch artist's impression of the suspect from the original '89 enquiry.

His appearance showed he had intimate knowledge of the area where the English hiking couple had been killed
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

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Police knew when the gameshow had been aired but not when it was recorded. Their investigations found that it had been recorded three weeks before the Dixons were murdered, which meant they now had a good indication of what Cooper would have looked like at the time.

They compared this footage of Cooper with the artist's impression from the time. Steve, 61, said: "If you've seen it – I've never seen one as close in 33 years in the police. It was like a tracing."

It was good evidence but it was forensics they were still chasing. "We were now three years down the line and one day I had a call from the scientist to say: "Steve, we've got your golden nugget."

Investigators had recovered a pair of shorts from Cooper.

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The item was examined and a microscopic speck of blood was found on them which matched Peter Dixon's.

They also found fibres in the pocket of the shorts which were identical to fibres found on the sock of Richard Thomas from Scoveston park. It all matched up.

In addition, a Swansea Crown Court jury further convicted Cooper of sticking up five terrified teenagers at gunpoint in woods on Milford Haven’s Mount Estate in 1996, where he raped one 16-year-old girl and indecently assaulted another, aged 15.

After a six-year investigation and forensic costs that were more than £1million over-budget, Cooper – now 76 – was convicted on all charges, and jailed for life on May 26, 2011.

*The Pembrokeshire Murders, ITV, January 11 to 13 at 9pm

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