The Pembrokeshire Murders: How killer John Cooper’s wife preserved vital evidence

The Pembrokeshire Murders: ITV release thrilling trailer

John Cooper was sentenced to life imprisonment for the double murders of Richard and Helen Thomas, Peter and Gwenda Dixon and for the Milford Haven attack in 2011. This week, ITV tells the story of how DCS Wilkins (played by Luke Evans) opened up Operation Ottawa, determined to catch Cooper and see him convicted for his crimes. He worked closely with journalist Jonathan Hill, who was planning a programme on the double murders.

DCS Wilkins spent months trawling through over 3000 exhibits, submitting them for forensic analysis and waiting for the results.

The process of investigating the cold cases took DCS Wilkins and his team years but they finally uncovered enough forensic evidence to convict Cooper of the murders.

Recalling his involvement in the investigation, Hill noted how Cooper’s wife actually preserved evidence which helped to convict him.

He explained: “I started getting involved in 2006 and then we did the broadcast on the coast path 2007 and then Cooper was arrested in 2009 and found guilty in 2011 so it was a five year process.

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“The police team had a bit of luck towards the end but they didn’t get much luck to start with.

“There really was doubt whether they would get enough to get him.

“That did start coming through at the end when forensics started turning things up but that was right at the end.”

Hill continued: “We see these things on the television and think it’s easy to get forensic evidence, but you’ve got to know where to look and understand the suspect to know where to look.

“When they realised Cooper’s wife was a seamstress and there was this discrepancy between the long legged shorts and the short shorts, they thought maybe she had shortened them.

“Unbeknown to Pat Cooper, when she had rolled up the hem and stitched it, she had sealed in the blood evidence that would ultimately convict her husband.”

On how he came to work with DCS Wilkins, Hill explained: “I was making a Crime Secrets in 2006 about the unsolved cases and I put a call in with the Dyfed–Powys Police force.

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“I was shown into a room and Steve Wilkins came in, who I’d never met before. He was quite forceful and told me that he didn’t want the film to be made.”

Hill continued: “He said, ‘What I’m about to tell you must never leave this room and if it does I’ll never speak to you again’. “He told me that this case was being investigated and by making a programme, it would really cause a problem for him because it would alert Cooper to the fact that they were looking at it and they weren’t ready yet.

“So we kept the deal and I agreed to shelve my programme in return for getting the inside story when they were ready.

“Steve also realised he needed the media because he wanted to make a broadcast, that would send a message to Cooper, who was in prison and they knew that he watched the ITV news.

“So it was slightly stage-managed that we revealed that the cases were being investigated. They wanted to see what Cooper’s reaction would be.

“It was very much a coded message directly to the killer, who they believed was Cooper.”

The Pembrokeshire Murders airs Monday-Wednesday on ITV at 9pm.

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