John Cooper (serial killer)
John William Cooper
3 September 1944
|Other names||The Bullseye Killer|
|Conviction(s)||4 murders, rape, sexual assault, and attempted robbery|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment (whole life order)|
|Victims||4 murder victims, others raped or burlged|
Span of crimes
|Country||Wales, United Kingdom|
John William Cooper (born 3 September 1944) is a Welsh serial killer and diagnosed psychopath. On 26 May 2011, Cooper was given a whole life order for the 1985 double murder of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas, and the 1989 double murder of Peter and Gwenda Dixon.
The murders were known as the Pembrokeshire murders or the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path murders.
Cooper was also sentenced for the rape of a 16-year-old girl and a sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl, both carried out at gunpoint, in March 1996, in woodland behind the Mount Estate, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire.
Cooper had a history of crime, including 30 robberies and violent assault. Footage from the TV game show Bullseye, in which he appeared as a contestant in May 1989, was later used as evidence against him, comparing his image with a sketch of a suspect in the Dixons' murder. Cooper was sentenced to fourteen years in 1998 for robbery and burglary, enabling the police to collect further evidence against him. He was released from prison in January 2009.
Through a cold case review, and subsequent developments in DNA and forensic science, the police were able to identify Cooper's shotgun as the murder weapon in April 2009. Cooper was arrested in May 2009 and was convicted in May 2011 for the double murders and sexual assaults and sentenced to a whole life order, which means he will never be released from prison. In September 2011, he launched an appeal against his convictions. His appeal was rejected in November 2012.
History of crimes
Between the ages of 17 and 21 Cooper was charged with theft of a vehicle, assaulting a police officer, being drunk and disorderly, and ABH.
On 22 December 1985, Cooper targeted a three-story farmhouse at Scoveston Park, killing brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas, and later burning down the house.
On 28 May 1989, Cooper participated in a recording of the ITV gameshow Bullseye. Footage from the show was later used to match him to witness descriptions. Cooper remarked to host Jim Bowen that he had an unusual hobby of scuba diving, with Bowen remarking that Pembrokeshire was the ideal location.
On 29 June 1989, Peter and Gwenda Dixon were on holiday in Pembrokeshire and were due to take their last walk along the coastal path when they failed to return. Their bodies were later found along the coastal path. Cooper tied the couple up, demanded they hand out their bank card and then forced them to disclose their personal identification number (PIN). Cooper, carrying a sawn-off shotgun, robbed Peter Dixon of £300 and shot the couple in the face at point blank range.
In 1996 he attacked five youngsters, threatening them with a gun, sexually assaulting one girl and raping another.
By 1998 Cooper had committed 30 burglaries and an armed robbery.
Documentaries and television
The UK television series Real Crime broadcast a documentary about Cooper, in November 2011. On 24 May 2016, the Welsh language television channel S4C broadcast a documentary in the series Y Ditectif (The Detective) about the way in which evidence against Cooper was gathered using the latest forensic techniques available at the time, the strategy used by Dyfed-Powys Police in interviewing him and his eventual conviction. On 27 September 2016, the ITV Cymru Wales television channel broadcast a documentary in the series Crime Files which examined how police solved the two double murder cases in Pembrokeshire including an interview with the detective who was tasked with interviewing Cooper. On 12 July 2018, a documentary about Cooper named 'The Gameshow Serial Killer: Police Tapes' aired on ITV as part of the channel's 'Crime and Punishment' season. On 29 January 2019, the UK version of digital channel CBS Reality premiered a further documentary about Cooper's crimes in an episode of its Murder by the Sea true crime series. In January 2020 ITV announced a new three-part TV Mini-series entitled:The Pembrokeshire Murders
- "John Cooper: Timeline - Wales News - News - WalesOnline". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- John William Cooper Gets Four Life Sentences For Double Murders After Cops Use Bullseye Footage Archived 29 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine Sky News Article, 26 May 2011
- Morris, Steven (26 May 2011). "Four brutal murders that took two decades to solve" – via The Guardian.
- Professor Angela Gallop (2019). When the Dogs Bark: A Forensic Scientist's Search for the Truth. Hodder. pp. 339–350.
- John Cooper Guilty Of Two Pembrokeshire Double Murders Archived 28 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News Article, 26 May 2011
- John Cooper loses murder legal challenge Archived 28 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News Article, 1 November 2012
- Professor Angela Gallop (2019). When the Dogs Bark: A Forensic Scientist's Search for the Truth. Hodder. p. 339.
- McCarthy, James (16 September 2013). "'The moment Bullseye revealed the killer': How shotgun killer John Cooper was caught". Wales Online. Archived from the original on 27 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- John Cooper: Couple's Holiday Ended By Serial Killer Archived 19 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 26 May 2011
- Real Crime: The Game Show Killer (Television). ITV. November 2011.
- Professor Angela Gallop (2019). When the Dogs Bark: A Forensic Scientist's Search for the Truth. Hodder. p. 342.
- Professor Angela Gallop (2019). When the Dogs Bark: A Forensic Scientist's Search for the Truth. Hodder. p. 350.
- "John Cooper guilty of two Pembrokeshire double murders". 26 May 2011 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- "Crime Files, Episode 5". ITV Cymru Wales. Archived from the original on 26 August 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
- The Gameshow Serial Killer: Police Tapes is praised as a "gripping" examination of John Cooper case Archived 13 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine Digital Spy, 12 July 2018
- "CBS Reality TV Guide". Archived from the original on 23 January 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
- "ITV commissions true crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders (w/t) starring Luke Evans". ITV Press Center. 20 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
- Eames, Tom (27 January 2017). "The 7 craziest game show scandals, from the Bullseye killer to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire cheat". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 1 June 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.