The Pembrokeshire Murders: ITV journalist details plan used to catch killer John Cooper

The Pembrokeshire Murders: ITV journalist details plan used to catch killer John Cooper

January 11, 2021

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ITV journalist Jonathan (played by David Flynn) covered the true story of two double murders which took place in Wales during the 1980s, with killer John Cooper (Keith Allen) becoming one of hardest men in history to track down. It was the relaunch of the investigation almost 20 years later in 2006 after The Pembrokeshire Murders first took place that the criminal was finally caught by Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins (Luke Evans) and his team. However, it was due to the collaboration with the broadcaster the authorities were able to devise a plan which would bring an end to Cooper’s reign of terror.

At the time, Hill was a journalist for the network’s Wales at Six programme, a position he still holds to this day.

Despite covering a vast number of stories in his career, the broadcaster has never forgotten about the coverage he presented on Cooper.

In fact, he went on to write a tell-all book alongside DS Wilkins about how their two different worlds came together to uncover who committed the heinous murders.

However, the pair weren’t always on the same terms when the journalist wanted to produce a documentary about the killings when the detective was just about to relaunch the investigation.

It was when the newscaster asked Dyfed–Powys Police force about the case he was told to stop his work as the murderer could be spooked and make a run for it.

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Speaking ahead of the series airing on television, Hill explained: “So we kept the deal and I agreed to shelve my programme in return for getting the inside story when they were ready.

“Steve [Wilkins] also realised he needed the media because he wanted to make a broadcast, that would send a message to Cooper, who was in prison and they knew that he watched the ITV news.

“So it was slightly stage-managed that we revealed that the cases were being investigated. They wanted to see what Cooper’s reaction would be.

“It was very much a coded message directly to the killer, who they believed was Cooper,” the journalist added.

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Steve [Wilkins] also realised he needed the media

Jonathan Hill

Hill said: “The next day, Cooper went into the prison library and took out books on cold cases and DNA so it clearly did have an impact.”

The journalist also supplied the police force with one of the most fundamental pieces of evidence they needed to blow the case wide open.

Having appeared as a contestant on TV game show Bullseye, the killer had told the late Jim Bowen the location where he would murder two of his victims just weeks after his participation on the programme.

Eventually, Cooper was caught by the authorities some five years after the investigation was relaunched as he was given a life sentence.

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There was something about this case, in particular, which drew Hill to research the murders with a bit more intent, as he explains.

“I’d always been fascinated by the murders since I was a young teenager. I went camping with friends in the area after the murders and the place was still crawling with police officers.

“My in-laws lived near the coastal path in Pembrokeshire and thoughts would always turn to what happened there.

“The murders really did haunt the county because it’s such a peaceful place,” the journalist continued.

Hill then added: “Fast forward 15 years, I was working at ITV as a journalist and I was still always interested in this case that remained unsolved.

“I had an opportunity to make a programme looking at unsolved murders,” the avid broadcaster continued to explain.

“I was determined that we would look at both the Dixon’s murders and the murders at Scoveston, Helen and Richard Thomas and we had enough in the archives to make this programme.”

The series will air over the next three nights, detailing the lengths police went to in order to catch Cooper once and for all.

The Pembrokeshire Murders begins tonight at 9pm on ITV.

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