The Pembrokeshire Murders cast in real life as Keith Allen plays twisted Bullseye killer

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Evil John Cooper was responsible for two separate double killings during the 80s.

The twisted killer murdered siblings Richard and Helen Thomas with a shotgun then burned their bodies inside their three-storey manor house near Milford Haven, Wales in 1985.

He managed to evade the law and four years later he struck again, brutally killing hikers Peter and Gwenda Dixon on a coastal path in Pembrokeshire.

What stunned police was that Cooper had brazenly appeared on an episode of ITV gameshow Bullseye just weeks before he committed the second set of murders.

The case was reopened in 2006 and the vile criminal was caught using DNA evidence and archive footage of the TV show, before being jailed for life in 2011.

A star-studded cast stars in the gripping ITV drama based on the Bullseye killer's sickening murders – and here is how they compare to their real-life counterparts.

SIO Steve Wilkins – Luke Evans

Luke Evans is playing the lead role of Steve Wilkins in The Pembrokeshire Murders
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

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Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilkins was the man responsible for bringing John Cooper to justice.

He returned to Dyfed-Powys Police in 2005 ao work as Head of Crime Operations and as a Senior Investigation Officer and began reinvestigating the 80s double murders.

With Pembrokeshire one of the safest place to live in the UK, he wanted to find the person responsible for the two double murders and attack on five children.

He worked closely with ITV journalist Jonathan Hill and will never forget the moment he saw archive footage of Cooper's appearance on Bullseye.

Explaining what special significance it took on, he said: "The investigation went on for six years and the team were totally dedicated to it so for them it was a large part of their professional lives, so it was significant professionally but also emotionally as well."

Former Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins brought the killer to justice
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Steve wrote Catching the Bullseye Killer with ITV journalist Jonathan Hill in 2011 and was a consultant on The Pembrokeshire Murders.

He will be played by Welsh Hollywood actor Luke Evans, who got the seal of approval from the detective, admitting he found it "surreal" that he was the star of a TV series.

"It’s a privilege to know someone of his ability and his reputation is doing it," said Steve,

"I met him with Jonathan in Cardiff before filming started and what a lovely guy, very down to earth.

"I was really impressed with his knowledge of the case and his humility and sensitivity to the investigation and towards the victims, he was highly professional."

Steve was thrilled that he was being played by Luke Evans
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

Award winning actor Luke Evans is best known for starring as Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit trilogy, playing the lead vampire in Dracula Untold and as Gaston is the live action Beauty and the Beast.

Filming the series was the first time the Welsh actor had worked on a project in Wales, so it was very poignant.

"I had the privilege of meeting the real Steve Wilkins, he’s a man of honour and integrity," said Evans.

"It's a huge responsibility that a human being takes on the search for the truth of another human being that doesn’t have a voice any more.

"When you play somebody real, the actual gift of being able to meet that person, the fact that they’re still around is a wonderful thing.

"Steve had an incredibly interesting career and was involved in some very interesting and serious crimes throughout his career. I just like the guy, he’s got an energy. There’s a fire inside Steve Wilkins."

He added: "There definitely a sense of responsibility and of being a voice to these people that lost their lives so tragically and I hope we’ve done it justice."

John Cooper – Keith Allen

Keith Allen in the role of the Bullseye Killer John Cooper
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

John Cooper was responsible for the double murder of brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas in 1985, then the killings of Peter and Gwenda Dixon four years later.

Evil Cooper fired at his bound victims with a shotgun in both attacks after trying to steal money from them.

Nicknamed 'The Bullseye Killer', the second attack came exactly a month after he had appeared on the ITV gameshow.

It was DNA evidence that was the "golden nugget" that brought Cooper down, as a microscopic spec of blood and fibres in his shorts matched that of the Dixons.

Cooper was arrested in May 2009 after a lengthy investigation and forensic costs that were more than £1million over-budget.

Mugshot of serial killer John Cooper, who was responsible for The Pembrokeshire Murders
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

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.

He was convicted of all charges and jailed for life in May 2011 – and remains in prison to this day at the age of 76.

Casting a real life criminal is tricky, but everyone involved with the show believes Keith managed to inhabit the killer.

Actor Keith Allen delivers an incredibly chilling performance as the murderer.

"Keith Allen was quite brilliant at absorbing the traits of Cooper and portraying a kind of strange dynamism that the man obviously had," said director Marc Evans.

Serial killer John Cooper, who was responsible for The Pembrokeshire Murders, shown here appearing on the TV game show Bullseye
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

While ITV journalist Jonathan Hill added: "Keith absolutely inhabited Cooper."

Keith, who is dad to famous singer Lily and Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen, will be digitally inserted into real footage of the Bullseye episode.

The acclaimed actor will also be de-aged to bring to life the disturbing scenes from the 80s.

Keith has appeared in films Trainspotting, Eddie the Eagle and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

He also starred as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood and had roles in Death In Paradise, The Body Farm and Bodies.

Jonathan Hill – David Fynn

David Fynn was cast as ITV journalist Jonathan Hill
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

ITV journalist Jonathan Hill was working on a programme on the unsolved murders when he spoke to Steve Wilkins, who had some alarming news.

"He was quite forceful and told me that he didn’t want the film to be made," explained Jonathan.

"He said, ‘what I’m about to tell you must never leave this room and if it does I’ll never speak to you again’.

"He told me that this case was being investigated and by making a programme, it would really cause a problem for him because it would alert Cooper to the fact that they were looking at it and they weren’t ready yet."

They made a deal that Hill would shelve the programme in return for getting the inside story when the police were ready.

They knew Cooper watched ITV news while in prison, so used Hill to send a coded message directly to the killer to see his reacrion.

ITV journalist Jonathan Hill who wrote the book The Pembrokeshire Murders about the famous ‘bullseye killer’ John Cooper
(Image: Rowan Griffiths)

He was also instrumental in finding the Bullseye footage, putting a freeze frame of Cooper on the show next to the artist's impression of the killer.

"I couldn’t believe my eyes there was John Cooper as bold as brass," explained Jonathan.

Jonathan actually got to meet actor David Fynn, who plays him in the series, while visiting the set.

He watched filming of the key moment on the coast path where they recreated the news broadcast that was made for John Cooper.

“My family think it’s uncanny that David Fynn has really captured me," said Jonathan.

"He was an absolute joy to work with and so diligent in trying to get it all right.

"I think that’s one thing for me is how authentic it is, the lengths they went to, from the makeup, to the costume, to the art department to make it accurate and authentic – it’s second to none."

Actor David has been in Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Doctor Who and Black Mirror.

But legions of Inbetweeners fans know him for playing Will's work experience colleague Wolfie.

Gerard Elias – Owen Teale

QC Gerard Elias is played by Game of Thrones star Owen Teale
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

Barrister Gerald Elias was Prosecuting Counsel at the trial of John Cooper at Swansea Crown Court

Barrister Gerald Elias was on the Prosecuting Counsel at the trial of Cooper at Swansea Crown Court.

The QC was handed the responsibility of prosecuting Cooper and got him convicted for the double murders.

He is played by actor Owen Teale, who is most famous for playing the role of Ser Alliser Thorne in Game of Thrones.

Throne hated Jon Snow and was head of the group who tried to murder him, but was sentenced to death when Snow rose from the dead.

He has also appeared in Line of Duty, A Discovery of Witches and River.

Andrew Cooper – Oliver Ryan

Oliver Ryan took on the role of Andrew Cooper
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

John's estranged son Andrew actually helped write the ITV drama because he had "a score to settle with his dad".

The sick killer tried to implicate his own son, who was then called Adrian, as the culprit time and time again during questioning.

Show writer Nick Stevens was determined to give Aidan, who now goes by the name of Andrew, a voice in the ITV drama – and it was ITV journalist Jonathan Hill who managed to track him down.

They wanted to make sure that Andrew was comfortable with his story being told publicly.

"Over the course of several meetings – quietly, frankly and without self-pity – Andrew told me how it had been for him growing up as the abused son of a serial killer," explained Nick.

Oliver Ryan has been praised for his portrayal of Andrew Cooper
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

"He also breathed life into the tragic figure of his mother, Pat, who, in another extraordinary twist, had died of a heart attack on Cooper's first night of freedom after his release from prison in Christmas 2008.

"Thanks to Andrew's openness and generosity, the drama I was writing now had a poignant, deeply personal storyline which would run in parallel with the police procedural."

Actor Oliver Ryan, who plays Andrew in the series, has appeared in Doctors, Midsomer Murders, Casualty and Hinterland.

"Ollie Ryan who plays John Cooper’s son, Andrew, deserves huge plaudits," said Executive Producer Simon Heath.

"Our drama tries to tell Andrew’s side of the story, recounting the terrible experiences he suffered at the hands of his father, and how he conquered his terror to help Steve and his team bring his father to justice – including bravely taking the stand during Cooper’s trial."

Pat Cooper – Caroline Berry

Pat Cooper being played by Caroline Berry in the show
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

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

"It’s absolutely incredible to think Pat’s simple act would lead to him finally facing justice," said Wilkins.

During Cooper's first night of freedom after being released from prison in Christmas 2008, Pat died of a heart attack.

She is played by Caroline Berry, who has starred in Doctor Who, Doctors and most famously as Pat Phelan's wife in Coronation Street.

Executive Producer Simon Heath said: "Caroline Berry is brilliant as Cooper’s put-upon wife, Pat.

"She’s absolutely terrified of him, unable to escape the controlling influence Cooper exerts on her, even while he resides in prison.

"When Cooper is finally released, her terror is palpable and leads to tragedy."

DS Glyn Johnson – Richard Corgan

Richard Corgan as DS Glyn Johnson
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

Detective Inspector Glyn Johnson will give insights into the investigation

Detective Inspector Glyn Johnson was one of the police officers responsible for bringing down the killer.

Now retired, Glyn himself will be appearing in Thursday's documentary The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching The Gameshow Killer.

He will provide a vivid insight into the mindset of a killer and the operation that eventually brought him to justice.

Welsh actor Richard Corgan is playing the role of DI Johnson in the series.

He has appeared in Casualty, BBC Three, Welsh-made series In My Skin and had the recurring role of Dafydd 'Dav' Llewellyn in Doctors.

DS Gareth Rees – Charles Dale

DS Gareth Rees is played by Charles Dale
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

DS Gareth Rees was one of the men who interviewed Cooper – and hated being in his company.

According to Wales Online, he said: "The first time I saw him, he looked at me straight and said ‘have I met you before?’ I said ‘No, I don’t think so’, and he said ‘I’m glad about that’.

"He was a very cold man, very clinical and he didn’t show any emotion."

Rees explained they had a "detailed strategy" to get a confession out of the killer and were told not to let him lose his temper.

In the show, he is played by Welsh actor Charles Dale, who is best known for playing Big Mac in Casualty.

He also starred in Coronation Street as Dennis Stringer, who was best friends with Les Battersby but had an affair with Janice before dying in a crash.

DI Lynne Harries – Steven Meo

DI Lynne Harries is played by Gavin and Stacey star Steve Meo
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

DI Lynne Harries is another member of Wilkins' team who was instrumental in uncovering Cooper as the killer.

He is played by Gavin and Stacey star Steve Meo, who fans will remember fondly as Owain Hughes.

Owain was the centre of a joke when he revealed his name – "and before you ask, no I don't".

It left all the Welsh characters in hysterics, but Gavin and Smithy had no idea what was so funny.

Steve has also been in Torchwood, High Hopes, Belonging and Baker Boys.

DI Ella Richards – Alexandria Riley

Alexandria Riley plays DI Ella Richards
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

DI Ella Richards is one of the officers who helped catch the serial killer in Wilkins' team.

She doesn't exist in real life – and is actually an amalgamation of real life people who worked on the case.

Alexandria Riley plays the investigating officer in The Pembrokeshire Murders.

On playing the role, Alexandria said: "She was challenging to play but in a really positive way. I really enjoyed playing her.” And of the real-life subject matter, how did Alexandria feel about that?

“It was the heaviest subject I ever had to deal with in terms of work. It put a lot into perspective most days and I think that also gave us a sense of responsibility," she said: "You’re not just playing a part, you’re telling someone’s story, someone’s tragedy. It was heavy to take on but we were all so set on doing the families justice, and the police justice and the people affected by these tragedies. It always outweighed how hard we were finding it.

“Being on location in areas where things happened and hearing first hand from people how they felt when this was happening in their little town, I think it was just something that was constantly with you.

"We really wanted to be respectful and honest and as authentic and truthful as we possibly could be for these people to keep this story in people’s minds, so everyone was very respectful."

The actress has previously appeared in Torchwood, BBC Wales comedy The Tuckers and The End of the F*cking World series 2.

DC Nigel Rowe – Kyle Lima

Kyle Lima as DC Nigel Rowe
(Image: WORLD PRODUCTIONS/ITV)

Kyle Lima plays DC Nigel Rowe, another one of the officers who managed to help crack the case and bring cooper to justice.

The Welsh actor has appeared in Merlin, Doctors and Welsh-made film, Pink Wall.

He is most recognisable for playing Nessa's tattoo customer Darren in last year's Gavin & Stacey Christmas special.

*The Pembrokeshire Murders starts tonight on ITV at 9pm

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