Real Crime: The Gameshow Killer

Monday, 7 November 2011, 10:35PM – 11:35PM

Real Crime: The Gameshow Killer: 

The new series of ITV1’s Real Crime strand begins with a documentary about the crimes, capture and prosecution of John William Cooper, who killed four people in his peaceful rural community in the 1980s, but evaded justice for more than 20 years before his conviction last May. 

Presented by Mark Austin, the programme features interviews with Cooper’s son, interviews with victims’ relatives, and the key investigating officers who finally succeeded in convicting Cooper after a 25 year murder investigation. 

Real Crime tells how Pembrokeshire, West Wales, was devastated in the 1980s by four brutal shot gun murders. In 1984 brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas were robbed and murdered in their home, which was then set on fire. Then in 1989 two holidaymakers – Peter and Gwenda Dixon – were robbed and killed on the coastal path just seven miles away. For twenty years these crimes remained unsolved – casting a long, dark shadow over the community and remaining a source of frustration for Dyfed Powys Police Force, who had a suspect, but no proof. They believed the killer was a local farm labourer – John William Cooper – who was convicted of burglary and robbery in 1998, and had a history of violence, including the abuse of his own son, Andrew. Cooper was a darts player and a gambler and had been filmed for ITV game show, Bullseye, three weeks before the Dixon murders. 

In 2006 Dyfed Powys police launched a cold case review, hoping that advances in forensic science would connect Cooper to the murders, and a horrific sexual attack on teenagers in 1996. After three years of painstaking research and expert forensic analysis, the team had constructed a complex web of forensic evidence that complemented a strong circumstantial case and Cooper was convicted of all the crimes in May 2011 and given a life sentence.

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