The Pembrokeshire Murders viewers praise ‘gripping’ finale as the serial killer is snared

Viewers of The Pembrokeshire Murders have praised Keith Allen’s ‘phenomenal, chilling and creepy’ performance as the serial killer.

In last night’s episode of the three-part ITV drama, John Cooper (played by Keith Allen) was finally brought to justice and jailed for life for two brutal double murders.

Siblings Richard and Helen Thomas were found dead at their farmhouse in Wales in 1985, and the bodies of Peter and Gwenda Dixon were found by the Pembrokeshire coastal path four years later, but Bullseye killer Cooper was not convicted until 2011. 

The true crime drama followed Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins (played by Hollywood actor Luke Evans), who in 2006 led a review of the then unsolved double murder cases.

Viewers were quick to hail the finale as ‘TV at its best’ after seeing Cooper take to the stand as the evidence mounted against him for his crimes –  which included separate offences of rape, sexual assault, and attempted robbery.

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Viewers of The Pembrokeshire Murders have praised Keith Allen’s (pictured) ‘phenomenal, chilling and creepy’ performance as the serial killer

In last night's episode of the three-part ITV drama, John Cooper (played by Keith Allen, pictured) was finally brought to justice and jailed for life for two brutal double murders

Pictured: John Cooper

In last night’s episode of the three-part ITV drama, John Cooper (played by Keith Allen, pictured left) was finally brought to justice and jailed for life for two brutal double murders. Pictured right: John Cooper

‘An outstanding piece of TV. TV at its best. Keith Allen is a wonderful actor. Watching the #ThePembrokeshireMurders over the last three nights, my skin crawled when he was on screen,’ said one viewer.

Another said: ‘Keith Allen’s acting in The Pembrokeshire Murders was nothing short of phenomenal.’ 

A third said: ‘What a powerful ending to The Pembrokeshire Murders and a great performance by Keith Allen who is chilling and creepy in equal measure.’

A fourth added: ‘Fantastic acting in #ThePembrokeshireMurders, especially Keith Allen. He was genuinely chilling.’ 

In a chilling court scene, viewers watched as the jury revealed whether they found Cooper guilty or not guilty. 

Reaction: Viewers were quick to praise Keith Allen's performance after seeing his character, Cooper, take to the stand as the evidence mounted against him for his crimes

Reaction: Viewers were quick to praise Keith Allen’s performance after seeing his character, Cooper, take to the stand as the evidence mounted against him for his crimes

Viewers (above) were keen to take to Twitter to hail the finale of the ITV drama as ' TV at its best'

Viewers (above) were keen to take to Twitter to hail the finale of the ITV drama as ‘ TV at its best’

The serial killer was found guilty and was seen becoming increasingly agitated before crying out that he was innocent in the programme.

In real life, following an eight-week trial, Cooper was convicted for the double murders and separate offences of rape, sexual assault, and attempted robbery – he will never be released from prison.

Earlier episodes of ITV’s drama showed DS Steve Wilkins building up evidence against Cooper – including blood from one of the victims discovered in the hem of the serial killer’s shorts after it had been sewn up to hide the stain. 

Viewers also saw DS Wilkins unearth footage of Cooper on the game show Bullseye, showing him looking remarkably similar to a police sketch of the killer from a witness’ description following the Dixons’ deaths. 

In a chilling court scene (pictured), viewers watched as the jury revealed whether they found Cooper guilty or not guilty

In a chilling court scene (pictured), viewers watched as the jury revealed whether they found Cooper guilty or not guilty

The true crime drama followed Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins (played by Hollywood actor Luke Evans, pictured), who in 2006 led a review of the then unsolved double murder cases

The true crime drama followed Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins (played by Hollywood actor Luke Evans, pictured), who in 2006 led a review of the then unsolved double murder cases

In an earlier police interrogation, Cooper claimed the sketch of the murderer, created in 1989, looked nothing like him at that time. 

When the detective and his team found the lost footage during the second episode, they appear shocked.

DS Wilkins was seen pausing 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.

‘Pause it there please, rewind a bit. There,’ Luke Evans’ character said. ‘It may not prove he killed the Dixons but it proves what he looked like four weeks before,’ he added.

The serial killer was found guilty and was seen becoming increasingly agitated before crying out that he was innocent in the programme. Pictured, Keith Allen as John Cooper

The serial killer was found guilty and was seen becoming increasingly agitated before crying out that he was innocent in the programme. Pictured, Keith Allen as John Cooper

Detectives, led by Superintendent Steve Wilkins, were able to nail Cooper for the murders through advancements in DNA testing, as well as linking him to the area where the crimes were committed after comments he made on Bullseye.

On the show, the murderer bragged about his extensive geographical knowledge of the Pembrokeshire coastline upon which the Dixons were later killed.

Cooper’s long history of crimes already included 30 robberies and a violent assault – for which he was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in 1998 for burglary and robbery before being released in 2009. 

Using advanced developments in DNA and scientific evidence, detectives were able to link the gun used in a robbery he was convicted of to the murder weapon in the Dixon’s case.

Several items belonging to both sets of victims were also found in his possession.

Although Cooper denied his guilt, he was arrested and convicted of two double murders and jailed for life in May 2011 for the two double murders.

After an eight-week trial the serial killer was also convicted of separate offences of rape, sexual assault, and attempted robbery – he will never be released.

Who was the Bullseye killer?

A diagnosed psychopath, Cooper – who was married to late wife Patricia and had two children – was a prolific thief before he turned killer. 

Richard and Helen Thomas were found murdered at their home, Scoveston Manor, near Milford Haven, in December 1985. They had been killed in an ‘execution style’, with both suffering shotgun wounds.

Police speculated that there may have been an altercation between the two but soon decided a third party was involved. Cooper sprinkled paraffin around the house and set it alight.

It was speculated that Cooper, a local in the area, was jealous of the millionaire farmers and targeted them at the secluded stately home.

He was known to enjoy the Pembrokeshire coast – even mentioning it on Bullseye – where he intercepted the walk of his second set of victims. 

Cooper shot Peter and Gwenda Dixon in the face with a sawn-off shotgun as they enjoyed a coastal walk on the final day of their Welsh summer holiday on the Pembrokeshire coast, in June 1989.

He hid their bodies in nearby bushes. Cooper also stole money from them, using their bank cards to withdraw £300.  

Cooper was sentenced to fourteen years in 1998 for robbery and burglary, enabling the police to collect further evidence against him.

While going over the material from the investigations, Steve hired criminal psychologist Dr Adrian West to build up a profile of the killer. 

He told The Sun: ‘I asked Adrian, “How dangerous is this guy?” and he said, “Steve, I have only come across two people in my professional life who if I found in my bedroom in the middle of the night, I know I would have to kill them to survive. One is Donald Neilson, the so-called Black Panther, and the other is John Cooper.” And I just went cold. I just thought, yes, this is a dangerous guy.’

Cooper (pictured in 2009 as he was led into court) was sentenced to fourteen years in 1998 for robbery and burglary, enabling the police to collect further evidence against him

Cooper (pictured in 2009 as he was led into court) was sentenced to fourteen years in 1998 for robbery and burglary, enabling the police to collect further evidence against him

Cooper was brought in for interviews but denied any guilt, insisting he had not murdered anyone

Cooper was brought in for interviews but denied any guilt, insisting he had not murdered anyone

Pictured: the gun John Cooper used to murder the Dixons and items of clothing found at the time

Pictured: the gun John Cooper used to murder the Dixons and items of clothing found at the time

Steve kept the reopened investigation, codenamed Operation Ottawa, secret before revealing live on ITV Wales News in November 2007 that he was carrying out a cold-case review and made a renewed public appeal for witnesses.

A breakthrough came in 2009 when archive footage from Bullseye, fronted by Jim Bowen, was obtained and officers managed to freeze a frame of Cooper standing in the exact same position as an artist’s impression of the wanted killer sketched at the time of the original investigation. 

Steve said the similarity was such that it looked ‘like a tracing’. Along with the striking similarity to the artist’s sketch, Cooper discussing the area of Pembrokeshire on the show also led detectives to believe he was their killer.

Having noticed the shorts recovered from Cooper’s home were shorter than the artist’s impression, Steve asked forensic experts to unpick the hem – which is when they found the traces of Mr Dixon’s DNA.

Father-of-two Steve, now 61 and living in Cheshire with his second wife Diane, 56, grew up in Pembrokeshire and is played by Welsh-born Hollywood star Luke Evans in the series

Father-of-two Steve, now 61 and living in Cheshire with his second wife Diane, 56, grew up in Pembrokeshire and is played by Welsh-born Hollywood star Luke Evans in the series

He explained: ‘What had happened was Cooper’s wife, who was a seamstress, had shortened the shorts and in doing so she had actually sealed in some of the forensic evidence.’

Cooper had been released from prison on parole in January 2009, but was arrested again four months later for the double murders, a serious ­sexual assault and five attempted ­robberies in Milford Haven in 1996. 

Steve told how when he was arrested, he was found with a map, gloves and a rope in the boot of his car. 

Although Cooper denies his guilt, he was convicted of two double murders and jailed for life in May 2011.  

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