The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Gameshow Killer (2021) Movie Script

He is the most dangerous human being
that I've ever
come into contact with.
This was about excessive violence.
For him, taking somebody's life in
order to take property off them
is totally justifiable.
SUZANNE PACKER: This is the story
of the extraordinary hunt
for a serial killer
who evaded justice
for almost a quarter of a century.
If you can look at the sea for me...
The case is at the heart
of the major ITV drama
The Pembrokeshire Murders.
This actually happens to people.
It's not a made-up story.
It's not fantasy.
This is reality.
Now we bring together
the real people
who brought this killer to justice.
A specialist team determined
to unlock forensic secrets
which had remained undiscovered
for decades...
Every contact leaves a trace.
It's just whether or not
we're clever enough to find it.
...and who turned to a TV game show
for the final crucial evidence.
This was a race against time...
I am not a murderer!
I am not a murderer! catch a killer.
This was a guy
that was never gonna stop.
Pembrokeshire is an area
of outstanding natural beauty.
Beautiful coastline.
And it is a place where people
come and spend their holidays.
It's an area which is
very, very close to my heart,
an area that I love,
an area which I lived in.
If you've got to choose
somewhere to live in the UK,
then Pembrokeshire
should be top of the list.
Beautiful countryside
with a terrible secret.
was a quiet little place...
...and yet we had someone
that had been capable of,
er, such horrendous crimes.
Somewhere in this rural idle,
a serial killer stalked.
In the 1980s, four innocent people
were blasted to death
with a shotgun.
For more than 20 years,
the crimes remained unsolved.
'Those crimes cast a shadow
over Pembrokeshire...'
...and two big double murders
were a cloud over the force.
In here, we've got
the main bulk of the stuff...
Encouraged by developments
in forensic science,
Dyfed-Powys Police brought together
a small, hand-picked team
of detectives
to take a fresh look at the murders.
What we'll do today is just
to give you a brief background,
and then, later on...
The top-secret operation
was code-named Ottawa.
I am Steven Wilkins.
I was the senior investigating
officer for Operation Ottawa.
Cold-case reviews nationally
had moved on,
particularly with...
with forensic science.
There'd been a considerable
amount of success,
so it's very, very important
that serious cases are reviewed.
The Ottawa team had to go back
to the very beginning,
when the murders began.
In December 1985, fire ripped
through a secluded manor house
belonging to Richard Thomas
and his sister Helen.
My name is Don Evans, former
detective chief superintendent
of Dyfed-Powys Police.
Three days before Christmas,
on a Sunday night,
I was at my home
when my control room telephoned me
to say that there was
a large fire at Scoveston Park,
near Steynton, Milford Haven.
When I arrived,
the fire was so extensive
that everything had fallen through
from the roof
onto an area where I saw
the body of Richard Thomas burning,
partly burnt clothes round him
There was an area on the abdomen
which had not been burnt
in the fire.
That's where I saw
this circular wound.
I thought at that time
that it was a shotgun wound.
The body of Richard's sister Helen
was eventually found in debris
from an upper floor
which had come crashing down
through the burnt-out manor house.
The remains of Helen's body
had gunshot wounds,
and she had black rope
round her neck.
Initial enquiries began to reveal
a terrifying scenario.
Police were to discover
that Helen Thomas had been alone
when the killer arrived.
She had been tied up,
possibly sexually assaulted,
and then shot.
When Richard returned,
he too had been shot.
The intruder then started a fire
to cover their tracks,
and it worked.
Scenes of crime officers spent weeks
sieving through
the wreck of the house,
but found nothing
to lead them to the killer.
It went on for a long time, er,
without success.
I thought possibly
it was committed by someone
quite close to the locality.
Every house in the rural villages
around Scoveston Park
was called on by the police.
One man interviewed
was 41-year-old John Cooper,
a handyman with convictions
for violence in his youth.
Cooper was interviewed.
He was strongly alibied
by his family,
er, who, it would appear,
was terrified of him.
Said that he was home all night,
as it was a wet night,
and that he hadn't gone out.
And officers took him
out of the inquiry.
At that time, we were nowhere near
close to solving it.
It was alarming for everyone.
Their main questions were,
"Do you think it'll happen again?"
And I obviously was trying
to instil in the public that,
no, it won't happen again.
But I was keeping my fingers
crossed, everything crossed.
I had gone away on a week's holiday,
returned on the Monday morning
to be informed, quite coolly,
that a couple at Little Haven,
they are missing.
I heard, "Boss, boss! Come quickly!"
My heart jumped.
And I ran along the coastal path
to the two dog handlers,
through the undergrowth,
right down to the cliff edge,
and there,
I saw this horrible scene -
Peter and Gwenda Dixon.
Peter shot, tied...
...and his dear lady,
partly unclothed...
Five shots.
The most horrific sight
you'd ever see.
The worst I've ever seen.
It was an assassination.
And here we had
another major incident.
A double murder
in the county of Pembrokeshire.
Why don't you just
give yourselves up to the police?
How can you live with yourselves
with what you've done to my parents?
While officers had no idea
about who might be responsible,
there was one lead.
A witness came forward,
and this sketch was produced
of the man seen using Peter Dixon's
cash card at a local bank.
The figure in the sketch
became known as "The Wild Man"
due to his unkempt appearance.
The man was almost certainly
the killer,
but despite widespread appeals,
there were no new leads.
Thousands of people
were interviewed,
significant enquiries were made
in relation to that.
Unfortunately, without a result.
The killer had slipped
through the net again.
But the murders were not
the only unsolved serious crimes
worrying detectives.
I'm Glenn Johnson,
detective inspector
from the Operation Ottawa
For more than a decade,
this rural area of Wales
had been dogged
by a series of burglaries.
The burglaries were of property
always in the Pembrokeshire area,
backing onto fields.
Jewellery, items of value
were stolen.
These continued into the 1990s,
when police set up a major operation
to catch the culprit.
During a house-to-house enquiry,
a number of exhibits were recovered
that were identified, er,
stolen from these burglaries.
The house belonged to John Cooper,
the handyman who had been questioned
about the murders of Richard
and Helen Thomas in Scoveston
13 years earlier.
A detailed search of his house,
grounds and a nearby lake
uncovered a buried shotgun, more
than 50 ropes and stolen jewellery.
In December 1998,
Cooper was jailed for 16 years,
having been found guilty
of 30 burglaries and one robbery.
The press dubbed him
"The Super Burglar".
During the trial,
there had been suspicion
that he might also have been
involved in the shotgun murders...
...and Cooper
got away with the killings.
Cooper was eight years
into his sentence
when the Ottawa team
was brought together.
It was kept very, very tight.
Positioned in an office
in Fishguard Port.
Cooper was in prison at the time,
and we certainly didn't want him...
make him aware that
we were reviewing the two murders.
The sheer scale of an investigation
which covered evidence
from four murders and
a number of burglaries was daunting.
There was five
computerised incident rooms.
There was one old-fashioned
paper-based incident room.
11,000 exhibits
and over a million documents
that we had to review
before we could even think about
whether that was gonna end up
in a trial or not.
But, from day one, I felt that we
would find the person responsible,
that we would find the truth.
Evidence is always there,
but you've just got to find it.
But could they link Cooper,
"The Super Burglar",
to the murders?
It now seemed
that another terrible crime
which took place about three miles
away from Cooper's home
might hold fresh clues.
That night, their childhood
was taken from them.
It was a...
a really terrible attack.
GUNSHO In 2006, a small team of detectives
was on the trail of a serial killer
who had evaded justice for 20 years,
and they had a prime suspect.
John Cooper was in jail
for burglary,
but detectives believe
clues to the murders
might lie in another terrible crime
which had taken place close
to his home while he was still free.
In 1996, a man wearing a balaclava
and armed with a shotgun
confronted five teenagers in a field
near Milford Haven.
The Milford Haven attack was...
for me, was very, very important.
It took place in March 1996.
Five children went out into a field.
A nice, sunny evening.
And then they're confronted by a
masked man with a sawn-off shotgun.
Then he takes one of the
young females away from the group,
where he rapes her,
and then indecently assaults
a second female.
They were in a position where,
if they'd made the wrong movement
or tried to get away,
had he have shot one,
he could have potentially have shot
all them then.
They were terrified
and feared for their safety,
feared for their... for their lives.
That night,
their childhood was taken from them.
It was a...
a really terrible attack.
Steve Wilkins believed the rapist
with the balaclava and shotgun
was also the man behind the
Scoveston and coast path murders.
He was convinced
that man was John Cooper.
For me, the attack at Milford Haven
actually tied
those two murders together.
When you looked at it
proximity to Scoveston Park,
you could actually see
Scoveston Park from the scene
where the five children
were attacked.
Within five miles,
we'd also had the murders
of Peter and Gwenda Dixon
on the coastal path,
again, where robbery,
a sexual element,
the use of rope and shotgun
was used.
To me, that was beyond coincidental.
With the circumstantial case
against Cooper building,
Steve Wilkins decided to go public
with an appeal for information.
Cooper, who, at that stage,
was in prison,
was an avid watcher
of ITV Wales for the news.
Therefore, there was a good chance
that he would see a public appeal,
and I wanted to know
what reaction that had.
Steve Wilkins contacted a journalist
who was fascinated by the case.
Jonathan Hill had been on holiday in
the Little Haven area as a teenager
in 1989, during the search
for the Dixons' killer.
As a team, we feel that
there is a very real chance
that somebody
watching this programme tonight
may have significant information,
or, indeed, know who is responsible.
I want to unnerve him.
I want him to sit there and think,
"What have they got?
"Have they got evidence already
that ties me to it?"
The objectives and focus
of Operation Ottawa
is to, erm, carry out
a comprehensive review
of all the forensic material
recovered in both cases.
The day after we made the appeal,
Cooper's chosen reading
was failed cases on DNA,
so it did have an impact on Cooper.
Over that way there, and again,
where it elevates, you'll see...
But despite all their suspicions
about Cooper,
detectives had no forensic evidence
to put him
at the scene of the murders.
The Ottawa team wondered
if they may already be sitting
on the evidence they needed.
A large number of items had been
recovered from Cooper's house
in Operation Huntsmen, when he was
arrested for the burglaries in 1998.
He kept mementos of his offending,
and I felt that was part of his...
his MO, is that reminded him
of that moment
when he held the person's life
in his hands.
Could it be that
the forensic answers lay in items
Cooper hoarded from his crimes?
Steve Wilkins called on
one of Britain's foremost
forensic scientists.
I'm Dr Angela Gallop,
and I led the forensic science team.
It is such an interesting case.
It's right up there.
It's like Rachel Nickell,
Damilola Taylor, Stephen Lawrence -
all of these cases that I think
people had given up on, really,
in terms of being able to solve.
Steve Wilkins said at
the beginning of our investigation,
"All I need is a golden nugget,
it's a golden...
"That's all I need, of DNA,"
and I think I and
the rest of the team thought,
"Yeah, yeah," you know?
"Yeah, you prob... You do, you do.
Let's see what we can find."
While Angela Gallop
began the painstaking work
of examining the items
seized from Cooper's home,
there was worrying news
for the Ottawa team.
He'd served almost ten years
of his prison sentence.
He was about to be released
on parole...
and I'd got no doubt
he would start his offending again.
And there would only be one end
to that - Cooper would kill again.
Welcome home, love.
Cooper goes back on his first night
back at, erm... at home.
Erm, I was actually the senior
investigating officer on call,
and I received a call
from our control room
at around about
three thirty in the morning.
And I can remember the exact words.
"Boss, we think
he's murdered his wife."
And I can tell you that, er...
that sent a cold shiver
down my spine.
It is a very sad story
with Pat Cooper,
because she'd suffered
years and years
of physical and mental abuse.
Pat probably was aware of issues
which would have assisted us,
but I think her fear -
and well-placed fear - of Cooper,
er, stopped her ever imparting
that information to us,
so she was terrified of the man.
But the cause of Pat's death
on the night of Cooper's release
was not what police first feared.
Pat had chronic heart disease,
and she actually died
of natural causes.
That is the medical explanation.
I believe that Pat Cooper
just gave up.
Cooper's release
increased the pressure
to secure forensic evidence
against him.
Experts started to make
a detailed analysis
of the items recovered
from his home in 1998,
when he was arrested for the
burglaries in Operation Huntsmen.
So, we were examining the shorts
for fibres
when we noticed that
there was a tiny flake of blood,
or what looked like
a tiny flake of blood on it.
And we DNA-profiled it...
...and we got a result.
After double-checking
the test result,
it was time to break the news
to Steve Wilkins.
And I remember, I rang him, and
he was driving his car at the time,
and I thought, "This is going
to come as a shock to him."
I said, "just pull in somewhere,
and then I'll...
"then I'll talk you through where,
you know... where we've got to."
OK. What is it?
Right, so, we unpicked the hem
of the shorts, like you asked.
And she said, "Steve...
"We've found a small stain.
"We've tested that stain..."
"and it's tested positive
for the blood of Peter Dixon."
"And its discriminating value
is one in one billion."
We were pretty sure that that could
be classed as a golden nugget.
Through further forensic analysis
of the Huntsmen exhibits,
the team discovered that the shorts
also linked Cooper
to the Scoveston double murder
of Richard and Helen Thomas in 1985.
A lot of Richard Thomas's clothing
had been destroyed.
There was one sock
that hadn't been destroyed,
and it was extraordinary.
We managed two find
two different kinds of fibres
linking the sock with the pocket
of, er, john Cooper's shorts.
Finally, the team
had some forensic evidence
to link Cooper to all four murders.
But could they also prove
that Cooper was the masked man
who raped a teenage girl
in Milford Haven?
During his spree of burglaries,
Cooper had attacked a woman
at her home
in the small village of Sardis.
The robbery did not go to plan.
During that armed robbery, he
attacked a lone female in a house,
and as he moved around the house
searching for property,
cash and jewellery, she managed to,
er, set an alarm off.
Cooper fled the scene.
In an attempt to avoid capture,
he threw items of his crime kit
into the hedgerows.
The discarded glove
was to be a forensic treasure trove.
Its fibres were recovered
from items in Cooper's workshop,
proving it was his.
They were also found on branches
used to cover the bodies
of Peter and Gwenda Dixon,
and on evidence from the scene
of the Milford Haven rape.
This muddy glove that
had been recovered from a hedgerow
that links with the Dixons,
with Cooper's home address,
with the Milford Haven crime,
That is the central item,
I think, of the whole case.
So we now connected him
to four murders,
a rape and indecent assault.
Beyond our wildest dreams.
Finally, the Ottawa detectives
believed they had unravelled
the 20-year-old mystery
of the Pembrokeshire serial killer.
But they knew Cooper
would do everything he could
to continue to evade justice.
You're making things
try to fit to john Cooper,
and it's bloody annoying!
John Cooper
believed he had got away
with four cold-blooded murders
in rural Pembrokeshire.
But police were closing in
and ready to make an arrest.
He will be arrested this morning
on suspicion of four murders,
the armed robbery
and the... the rape offence.
More than 20 years
after the murders at Scoveston Park,
detectives believed
they finally had the evidence
to bring Cooper to justice.
WOMAN: He's kicked off!
He's kicked off.
Now, detectives had to
go face to face with Cooper
and break down his lies.
Will you tell me what happened
on June 29th, 1989 in Little Haven?
My name is Gareth Rees,
a former detective sergeant
in the Dyfed-Powys police force.
I was one of the officers
who interviewed john Cooper.
He was a nasty individual,
even in the family environment.
They all lived in fear of him.
When he was on a farm,
he killed a pig with a hammer.
And that when his children
were small,
they reared, erm, some chicks,
and he shot them with a shotgun
in front of them.
Detectives focussed their questions
on a pair of khaki shorts
recovered from Cooper's home.
These were shorter than those
in the artist's impression
of the man seen using the Dixon's
bank cards after the murders.
But Peter Dixon's DNA
had been found on them.
During the interviews,
we were given the task,
try and get him to admit
they're his own shorts.
Would you accept that those shorts
resemble the shorts
in the artist's impression?
Not a bit, no.
He said that the shorts
worn by the person
in the artist's impression
were long-legged shorts,
but that his bathers
were short-legged shorts.
Have you ever seen the shorts
in this photograph, TWB1, before?
I believe those are my bathers,
actually. OK.
And he's shown the photograph,
I asked, "Have you
seen those before, john?"
and he said,
"They look like my bathers."
OK, so, do you accept
that those shorts were yours?
Yes, those might be my bathers.
Oh, you're bathers.
I knew then
that he'd associated himself
with one of the most crucial pieces
of evidence we had.
The shorts were sent away
for forensic examination,
and the reply we had back
were that they had been shortened
post-manufacture by an amateur.
During yesterday's interview,
Yes. mentioned that,
during the trial,
you handled a shotgun.
Oh, a shotgun was in the court,
yes, I believe it was, yes.
The shotgun used in the robbery that
I was convicted of.
In Sardis? Yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Cooper seemed preoccupied
with the shotgun he used
during the Sardis robbery in 1996.
It had been part
of evidence against him
at his trial two years later.
I believe I handled the gun in the
court case that I was in court for.
As we looked at the packaging
and got the gun out of the packaging
and so on, we noticed that,
in the bottom of the packaging,
there were all these, erm,
little flakes, black flakes,
and so, obviously,
the paint was flaking off.
I seem to remember we had
a low-power microscope with a...
with a strong light,
and you could see that
there was a reddish cast on them,
on the inner surface,
and, of course,
quick as a flash,
we get our blood reagents out,
and we discover
that it's actually blood.
Every contact, absolutely,
I'm sure leaves a trace.
It's just whether or not
we're clever enough to find it.
GARETH: The fact is, john,
that the net has been
slowly closing in around you,
and, with the latest
forensic results,
it's provided us
with strong evidence.
I think he could see then
that the cards
were stacking up against him
and he was in trouble.
No, because that's your outlook
of every damn thing.
"Oh, yes, put 'em all
onto john Cooper,
"because that's good and proper."
And at that stage, we could start to
see the realjohn Cooper come out.
He starts to become angry.
You're making things
try to fit to john Cooper,
and it's bloody annoying!
He starts to become agitated.
He starts to point to the camera
and says,
"l know all of you in there..."
You two, you all... and
your colleagues and them in there,
choose not to believe it.
To look elsewhere.
Through years of painstaking work,
detectives had built up
a compelling case
against John Cooper,
but Steve Wilkins felt
there was still one missing piece
to connect Cooper to the murders.
The answer lay in an unlikely place.
...on Bullseye.
It was this legendary game show
hosted byjim Bowen,
and hugely popular,
and the contestants had to answer
general knowledge questions
and then also play darts
to win the prizes.
And Steve said,
"Look, any chance you can see
if you can find this?"
It was like looking
for a needle in a haystack,
because they made
countless episodes of Bullseye.
They're still running
on channels now.
Who would you like to be
if you weren't you?
I had to get hold of an archivist
who was looking after the, er...
the shows.
They were all stored
in a basement in Leeds,
and it required a bit of sweet
talking and a bit of arm bending
to get him to go through
all the episodes
and look for a contestant
that was from Pembrokeshire.
There was no list of the contestants
on ITV records.
The archivist
hunted through videotapes
of hundreds of programmes.
I got a call from the archivist,
who said, erm...
"l think I've found him."
john and Harvey, with 220, please.
He said, "There's a guy here,
and he's with a friend,
"and they're from Pembrokeshire."
And I can remember thinking...
Well, it was an amazing moment,
to think we'd found it.
You've got an unusual hobby,
john, haven't you?
The scuba diving.
Apparently, it's the place
to do it down there, isn't it?
Yeah, because...
I get a call from...
from a very excited Jonathan Hill,
and they've actually identified,
er, the particular programme
and the recording,
and, significantly,
it is three weeks
before the Dixons are murdered.
There it is. I'll keep...
We took the artist's impression,
and then we took a freeze frame,
just like you'd do at home on a...
on a DVD player, you know,
you press pause
at the most likely moment...
You get the 220 back. It's... We
know you're a good player, I just...
...and suddenly,
those two images came together.
There he was, on Bullseye,
just a month
before he killed the Dixons.
The Ottawa detectives
were ready to charge Cooper
with four murders and a rape.
Judge me AFTER the trial,
not before.
But now everything rested
with a jury.
I am not a murderer.
I am not a rapist.
Do you find the defendant,
john William Cooper,
guiltY 0F not guilty?
The atmosphere in the court was...
You could have cut it with a knife.
After more than 20 years
of evading justice,
John Cooper was finally facing trial
for murder.
You must judge me AFTER the trial,
not before.
Judge me AFTER the trial.
Over the years, I have had
total control of the investigation,
so it's a real strange feeling
that you're then...
you're handing over
that investigation to people
that you've never, ever met before.
I believed that, if we didn't
secure a conviction against him,
then he would kill again.
One of the country's top barristers
took on the task
of leading the prosecution
against Cooper.
This man in the photograph
is the realjohn Cooper.
A loving husband who was married
to his wife for 42 years.
I am not a murderer.
I am not a rapist.
I am an innocent man who has
been wronged. Thank you.
Cooper gave his evidence, and then
we normally concluded the day
around about four thirty, and the
trialjudge asked Gerard Elias QC
as to whether he wanted to wait and
start his interview in the morning.
Mr Elias... it's quarter to four.
Are you content to begin
your cross-examination
of Mr Cooper tomorrow?
Very well, Mr Elias.
Yes, but...
'The atmosphere in the court,
you could have cut it with a knife.'
The next morning, Mr Elias said,
"We've now established
you're a liar,"
and the impact that must have had
on the jury was significant.
It was something
that will remain with me forever.
I'm not a murderer.
I am not a murderer!
REPORTER: The jury in the trial
ofjohn Cooper has retired
to begin considering its verdict
after weeks of evidence.
Now begins the tense wait
for a verdict.
Tense for all the relatives that
have been coming to court every day
and, of course, for the defendant
himself, john William Cooper.
Let's have the jury in, please.
On count one of the indictment,
the murder of Helen Thomas,
do you find the defendant,
john William Cooper,
guiltY 0F not guilty?
On count two of the indictment,
the murder of Richard Thomas,
guiltY 0F not guilty?
On count three of the indictment,
the murder of Gwenda Dixon,
guiltY 0F not guilty?
It's a cold, controlled evil
that I think I saw in Cooper
which I don't remember in anyone
else that I've been involved with.
It's a bittersweet sort of feeling.
Yes, we did have success,
but it was on the success of...
of a lot of pain and trauma
from victims and victims' families.
We were always left
asking the question, you know,
were there other victims?
With a killer like Cooper,
who was so prolific,
why would he stop?
REPORTER: 'Flo Evans lived here,
on a small holding...'
And I remember Steve saying to me
he believed that
there was another victim.
And when I trawled through
the archive,
I came across
a rather curious story.
'Flo Evans lived here,
'on a small holding less than
two miles from Scoveston.'
Flo Evans lived here,
on a small holding less than
two miles from Scoveston Park.
The 72-year-old,
who was still fit and active,
was found dead, fully clothed
in a bath full of water.
Flo Evans. Cooper knew her.
Cooper was her sort of handyman,
erm, and yet she died
in a very mysterious way.
The reporter at the time
had speculated
that Flo Evans lived
just a short distance
from Scoveston Park, where two
people had been brutally murdered.
An inquest decided that
the death must have been accidental,
because there was no sign
of forced entry at the house.
But friends and neighbours
Normally, Mrs Evans
only locked her inner back door,
but when her body was found,
the outer door was locked instead.
The bath had been filled with water,
even though
it would have been stone cold,
because the fire heating
the back boiler was not lit.
The widow herself was buried
alongside her husband
in the local cemetery,
her death destined
always to be a mystery.