John Cooper: Detective looks back on Bullseye appearanceIn 1989, just weeks before he was to commit his second round of double murders, John Cooper
John Cooper: Detective looks back on Bullseye appearance
In 1989, just weeks before he was to commit his second round of double murders, John Cooper appeared on the popular game show, Bullseye. He did well: The labourer from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, got to the final with another contestant, gambling their £200 winnings for a final go at the dart board. Cooper lost the gamble, in the process unwittingly putting himself up to be identified as the main suspect for the murders and other crimes over 20 years later when the cold case was reopened in 2006.
It wasn’t the only game Cooper had attempted to make money on; he became known for his ability to win – and lose – large amounts of cash.
His son, Andrew, later told of how Cooper refused to share-out his £70,000 of prize-money which quickly ran-out.
Four years before Cooper appeared on Bullseye, he had tied-up brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas in their manor home, shot them at point-blank range and burned down their house.
His stint on the show occurred in May 1989, and by June 1989, Cooper had tied-up husband and wife Peter and Gwenda Dixon, demanded they hand over their bank cards, PINs and cash, and shot them in the face with his sawn-off shotgun.
John Cooper: The serial killer appeared on Bullseye just weeks before his second double murder
UK crime: Peter and Gwenda Dixon were murdered by Cooper in broad daylight
He escaped once again.
Many have questioned what would have led to Cooper appearing on Bullseye considering he had already murdered two people – and had committed various other burglaries and violent assaults – by that time.
Dylan Rhys Jones, the former defence solicitor of the notorious North Wales serial killer, Peter Moore, told Express.co.uk that it “didn’t surprise him” Cooper should have felt no paranoia in going on the show because “he loved himself” – a common trait among serial killers.
Mr Rhys Jones said: “Linking the event with Peter Moore and other murderers who you could classify as serial killers, they like attention, it’s something very important to them, no matter what that attention is for.
“In Moore’s case it was getting attention from local media as he opened in a series of cinemas across North Wales, he thrived on that.
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Bullseye: Cooper’s appearance on the show would later prove vital to Operation Ottawa
“And I think with John Cooper, the fact he was going on TV and getting attention didn’t once cross his mind that it might later lead to him being caught in the future.
“It was just his behaviour.
“He simply thrived on the attention – he loved himself.
“It’s something that is within many serial killers’ personality.”
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Serial killer: Cooper attempted to pin the murders on his son, Andrew
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Cooper was arrested in 1998.
A botched robbery saw him throw away his balaclava and gloves in a nearby hedgerow while fleeing the scene, both of which police later recovered.
He was handed a 14-year sentence for armed robbery but in 2006 qualified for parole.
It was here that “Operation Ottawa” under Dyfed-Powys police came into being, led by Detective Steve Wilkins.
From this point, it took two years of collating witness statements and scrutinising thousands of old exhibits before the Ottawa team were convinced that the same person was responsible for all three crimes.
Pembrokeshire Murders: Detective Steve Wilkins is played by Hollywood actor Luke Evans in the drama
Detectives were under the cosh by 2009 as Cooper neared his release date from prison.
In January of that year, after serving 11 years of his sentence, Cooper was released.
The covert group had gathered enough evidence to stop Cooper from staying a free man for long.
Less than three months into his release he was re-arrested in a dramatic street-side sting as officers bundled Cooper into a car and took him into custody.
Convicted: A still of Cooper and an artist’s impression together cemented him as the group’s man
Shockingly, after searching Cooper’s private car police found newly bought rope and gloves, pointing towards his potential plan to commit yet more murders.
Despite pleading his innocence, he was found guilty of the two double murders.
He was convicted on May 26, 2011.
Cooper remains in prison in an “undisclosed” location.
The Pembrokeshire Murders begins on Monday January 11 at 9pm on ITV.