Pembrokeshire Murders: John Cooper ‘completely controlled wife’s life and destiny’

John Cooper: Detective looks back on Bullseye appearance

John Cooper committed a string of heinous crimes, evading the police’s suspect list for almost 20 years. With a history of burglary and violent assault, Cooper was already known to the police. However, they didn’t suspect him of being the man who carried out two double murders in the Eighties; nor did they think he was the person who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, and raped a 16-year-old in the Nineties.

It wasn’t until 2006 that the ball got rolling, and Cooper’s evading the police drew to a close.

He had been arrested in 1998 for a botched robbery, and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Eight years later, Cooper, after proving himself to the authorities, was granted parole.

At the same time, Detective Steve Wilkins founded a covert group in the Dyfed Powys police force, known as “Operation Ottawa”, reopening the cold case.

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They spoke to Cooper’s wife, Pat, as seen in ITV’s new drama, ‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’, but she was unwilling to talk – for fear, it has been suggested, that Cooper might somehow find out.

Dylan Rhys Jones, the former defence solicitor of the notorious North Wales serial killer, Peter Moore, told Express.co.uk that Cooper exhibited the classic personality traits of any serial killer and indeed psychopath.

Control is the biggest one.

Pat was completely under Cooper’s power, having disowned her son, Andrew, who rebelled against his father and would not accept his “evil” ways.

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As a result, Pat’s “life and destiny” had already been drawn out in front of her by Cooper.

Mr Rhys Jones explained: “Control is a very important part of a serial killer’s psyche: The ability to control others, to control the situation, as is the case with Pat and the rest of the family.

“Even when they are in prison it seems that element of their character does not diminish – Pat is seen doing his bidding while he’s behind bars.

“Controlling their victims and their destiny is part of the pleasure of killing as far as a serial killer is concerned.

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“That element of control clearly did at one time include Cooper’s son, but it appears that Andrew may have rebelled against this and so Cooper washed his hands of any involvement with his son, even to the extent of blaming him for the murders.”

Before Operation Ottawa came into being, police believed that the three crimes were separate affairs.

It took Detective Wilkins to join the dots, cross-referencing the locations of the crimes with the area in which Cooper committed his burglaries to probe further.

He found similarities in the two murders: Both victims were tied up, had their items stolen, were beaten before they died, and were shot at point-blank range.

The sexual assault and rape had elements of the two murders – all hallmarks of a person who likes to be in control.

Shortly before Cooper was released in 2006, the group held a series of interviews with him.

In one, the labourer attempts to pin the blame on his son.

When presented with the blood found on a pair of his shorts from his home, Cooper said: “I really do not know – more worryingly is my son used to take my clothes whenever he wanted, and that would be more of a worry for a father.”

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.

By 2009, the group raced against the clock as Cooper was released early in January of that year.

Enough evidence had been gathered, and less than three months into his release, detectives re-arrested him in a dramatic street-side sting as officers bundled Cooper into a car and took him into custody.

Despite pleading his innocence, Cooper was found guilty of the two double murders.

He was convicted on May 26, 2011.

The Pembrokeshire Murders concludes tonight at 9pm on ITV.

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