ITV’s latest true-crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders is airing this week, focusing on Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins’ race to convict serial killer John Cooper in the ’00s and early ’10s.
Cooper – who is played in the series by Keith Allen – nicknamed ‘The Bullseye Killer’ by the press during his trial, and was eventually convicted in 2011 for two double murders, receiving a life sentence which is he is currently serving.
Read on for everything you need to know.
When were the Pembrokeshire Murders?
Although the ITV miniseries is set in the ’00s and early ’10s, the murders themselves took place two decades earlier.
The first double murder for which Cooper was convicted was committed in 1985, with Cooper killing siblings Richard and Helen Thomas at a three-story farmhouse at Scoveston Park, burning down the house afterwards.
He killed again four years later, this time murdering married couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon, who had been walking along the Pembrokeshire coast while on holiday, on 26 June 1989.
While Cooper was not convicted close to the time of the crimes, he became the chief suspect when Steve Wilkins reopened the investigation, with Wilkins and his team finding enough evidence to convict him.
Why was John Cooper called “the Bullseye killer”?
One of the key pieces of evidence which led to Cooper’s conviction pertained to an appearance he had made on the popular ITV game show Bullseye.
Cooper, who was an accomplished darts player, had been a contestant on the show just weeks before he committed the second double murder in 1989, a fact which Steve Wilkins learned almost by accident when he was tipped off about it by the landlord at the pub the killer used to drink at.
The reason the Bullseye appearance was so crucial for the case, was that Cooper had destroyed all photographs of himself from the time when the crime had been committed, such that there was nothing to compare with the sketch of the killer drawn from witness testimony.
When Wilkins and his team got hold of the footage, they were able to see that Cooper was a very close match to the suspect sketch.
Who was John Cooper’s wife?
John Cooper’s wife Pat was a seamstress who lived with him in Pembrokeshire and according to ITV journalist Jonathan Hill, one of the key figures in the race to convict Cooper, she had been the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband throughout their marriage.
Pat unwittingly played a major part in helping to convict her husband – when altering a pair of shorts he had taken from one of the victims, she accidentally sealed some of the victim’s blood in the hem, which was later used as DNA evidence in the case.
She passed away in 2009, shortly after Cooper had been released from prison for a separate series of offences.
What happened to John Cooper?
Cooper was arrested in May 2009 and convicted in May 2011 – sentenced to a whole life order, meaning he will never be released from prison.
Shortly after his sentencing he launched an appeal, which was thrown out in 2012, and he remains in prison today.
The Pembrokeshire Murders airs at 9pm on ITV. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.