13 January 2021 12:30
ITV's latest true-crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders is airing this week, focusing on Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins' race to convict serial killer John Cooper in the '00s and early '10s. Cooper – who is played in the series by Keith Allen – nicknamed 'The Bullseye Killer' by the press during his trial, and was eventually convicted in 2011 for two double murders, receiving a life sentence which is he is currently serving. He killed again four years later, this time murdering married couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon, who had been walking along the Pembrokeshire coast while on holiday, on 26 June 1989. Cooper, who was an accomplished darts player, had been a contestant on the show just weeks before he committed the second double murder in 1989, a fact which Steve Wilkins learned almost by accident when he was tipped off about it by the landlord at the pub the killer used to drink at. The reason the Bullseye appearance was so crucial for the case, was that Cooper had destroyed all photographs of himself from the time when the crime had been committed, such that there was nothing to compare with the sketch of the killer drawn from witness testimony.
John Cooper's wife Pat was a seamstress who lived with him in Pembrokeshire and according to ITV journalist Jonathan Hill, one of the key figures in the race to convict Cooper, she had been the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband throughout their marriage. The unexpected significance of Cooper's Bullseye appearance only became apparent 20 years after the episode was broadcast, and plays an integral role in a new ITV drama series about his crimes. In The Pembrokeshire Murders, Keith Allen stars as Cooper, while Luke Evans portrays the real-life detective trying to track down the killer. In his 2013 book The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer, retired chief superintendent Steve Wilkins, played by Evans in the new show, recalled the moment of truth. Four years later, in May 1989, Cooper appeared on the popular game show Bullseye: Conversing with the show's host Jim Bowen, he told of his "unusual" hobby of scuba diving along the Pembrokeshire coast.
In the second episode of the drama, viewers 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 the second episode of The Pembrokeshire Murders, viewers witness DS Wilkins unearth footage of John Cooper on the game show Bullseye (pictured right), showing him looking remarkably similar to a police sketch (pictured left) of the killer from a witness' description following the Dixons' deaths The three-part ITV drama sees Hollywood actor Luke Evans (pictured) play Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins, who in 2006 led a review of two brutal unsolved double murder cases from two decades earlier 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. Keith Allen (pictured) plays the arrogant John Cooper, who was given a life sentence after becoming Wales's worst serial killer 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. Detectives, led by Superintendent Steve Wilkins, were able to nail Cooper (played by Keith Allen in the drama, pictured right) 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 Detective Steve Wilkins (pictured), 61, is now living in Cheshire with his second wife Diane, 56, and penned the 2012 book The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer, on which the drama is based The episode saw the serial killer John Cooper return home from prison to his loving, but fearful, wife Pat Cooper.