Pembrokeshire Murders: Watch killer John Cooper in chilling Bullseye stint before arrestJanuary 8, 2021
John Cooper: Detective looks back on Bullseye appearance
John Cooper carried out a series of double murders among other things in the Eighties and Nineties in the sleepy South Welsh town of Milford Haven. Spaced years apart, Cooper wasn’t convicted for his crimes until 2011, some 20 years after the acts. Advances in DNA analysis enabled detectives and forensic scientists to pin the murders on him.
However, a key “eureka” moment in convincing officers that Cooper was their man came after the covert group assembled in 2006, “Operation Ottawa”.
It was here that lead detective Steve Wilkins recovered archived footage of Cooper’s appearance on the popular game show, Bullseye.
Cooper, who had by then committed one double murder of brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas, went on the show in May 1989.
In the footage, Cooper appears as a charismatic figure, dressed in a yellow polo, and exchanges trivialities with the show’s late host, Jim Bowen.
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Mr Bowen said to Cooper: “You’ve got an unusual hobby John, haven’t you?”
Cooper replied: “Oh yes, the scuba diving.”
Mr Said: “Apparently it’s the place to do it down there (Pembrokeshire) isn’t it?”
To which Mr Cooper explained: “We’ve got the coastline, we’ve got the deep water where you can swim over the mountains and all sorts of things.”
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Just three weeks after the episode was filmed, Cooper went on to commit his second double murder.
In broad daylight, on Pembrokeshire’s National Coastal Path, he tied Peter and Gwenda Dixon up, demanded they handed over their bank cards, PINs and cash, and shot them in the face at point-blank range.
In the show, after winning £220, Cooper and the other finalist chose to gamble their winnings.
The real gamble was Cooper ever appearing on the show.
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When detective Wilkins found the lost footage, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
He paused the Bullseye episode in the exact place where Cooper’s side profile matched that of an artist’s impression of the murderer from a witness description in the Eighties.
In the clip for ITV, Mr Wilkins said: “For me, it was like a tracing.
“The way he was standing, his build, the scraggly hair, sort of shoulder length, the unkempt moustache.
“The senior investigator officer advisor, I showed it to him, and his response to me was, “F***ing Wilky, it’s him.'”
Ten years after Cooper was convicted, the cold case has been dramatised by ITV in its new mini-series, ‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’, with Mr Wilkins played by Hollywood actor Luke Evans.
Speaking on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ yesterday, Mr Evans admitted he knew “very little” about the case but on being cast in the role delved into its brutal history.
He said the programme “didn’t need to be dramatised” as the cold case was “enough to put the fear of God into the team”.
Mr Evans added: “To catch Cooper in the way the team did is such an achievement.
“The drama explains how there were flaws in the investigation.
“The clock was ticking in a terrifying way when he was released on parole in 2006, so everyone was concerned.
“Everyone knew deep down that Cooper was the killer, it was just finding the evidence to prove it.
The Pembrokeshire Murders begins on Monday January 11 at 9pm on ITV.
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