'The Pembrokeshire Murders': How the U.K. game show serial killer was caught 20 years later

·3 min read
Luke Evans and Alexandria Riley in 'The Pembrokeshire Murders' (Hollywood Suite)

Luke Evans guides you through the investigation into a U.K. game show winner turned serial killer, John Cooper (Keith Allen), in the crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders on Hollywood Suite and its On Demand platform.

Based on real events, Evans plays a stoic, put together Det. Superintendent Steve Wilkins who leads a team that goes back through murder cases from in Wales in the 1980s that were never solved (codenamed Operation Ottawa), with a potential link to a number of burglaries that occurred throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The series showcases beautiful views from the Welsh coastline, a holiday destination seemingly free of much trouble, but it is more chaotic than you would expect.

While Evans has a strong, foundational performance as the cornerstone of the series, Keith Allen’s powerful portrayal of the infamous serial killer, and performances from Oliver Ryan, Alexandria Riley and Caroline Berry, leaves you rattled and uncomfortable, despite the relatively formulaic and predictable approach to telling this story.

Filled with dramatic music and serious looks amongst actors, the series really epitomizes the concept of drama in a very buttoned up, put together fashion.

The first hour of the three-part miniseries has the burden of setting up the information needed to understand what is happening in this case, leading to Cooper being questioned by officials and ultimately going to trial. If you’re not particularly knowledgeable on the Cooper case, learning a little bit more before you watch will be helpful to understand the crux of the investigation launched in 2006.

Game show killer John Cooper’s history of crimes

Cooper was found guilty of a number of burglaries and robberies in the 1980s and 1990s, and was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

In December 1985, emergency services responded to a house fire and found Richard Thomas and his sister Helen were shot in their home, Helen was found with a black rope around her neck. At the time Cooper was questioned as a suspect, he had a strong alibi by his family, who said he never left his home that night.

In 1989, couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon were shot dead, with Gwenda’s body found partially unclothed. It was later discovered that Peter Dixon’s credit cards were used at cash card machines in the area following their deaths. This resulted in the creation of a sketch of the suspect in a pair of shorts and curly hair that went down his neck.

In 1996, a man confronted five teens, threatening them with a gun, raping one girl and sexually assaulting another. Cooper maintained that he was not responsible for any of these deaths.

As the story unfolds and Operation Ottawa reopens these cases, its footage of Cooper on the game show Bullseye, a darts game show, in 1989 that proved a match to the sketch from the Dixon deaths.

There is also a “golden nugget” piece of evidence when enhanced forensics led to the discovery of traces of blood from one of his victims on his shorts. Cooper is serving life in prison.

The Pembrokeshire Murders will premiere in Canada on May 20 at 9:00pm ET, available on Hollywood Suite On Demand beginning May 21.

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