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Pensioner accused of horror spree of murder, robbery and sex crimes

Pensioner accused of carrying out four murders was a prolific burglar, a jury has heard.

John Cooper (66), of Letterston, near Fishguard, west Wales, was jailed for 16 years in 1998 for 30 burglaries and a violent robbery.

A jury at Swansea Crown Court was given graphic accounts yesterday of Cooper's violent past.

The pensioner was freed on licence after 10 years in prison but was charged with a double murders within months of his release.

Gerard Elias QC, prosecuting, described Cooper as a “cold and calculating killer”.

He outlined 11 charges and went on to show they were all offences committed within seven miles of Cooper's home.

Cooper is accused of killing millionaire farmer Richard Thomas (58) and his sister Helen (54), at their burnt-out Pembrokeshire mansion in December 1985.

He is also accused of murdering tourists Peter Dixon (51) and his wife Gwenda (52) on the final day of their holiday four years later in Pembrokeshire.

The Dixons had set out from a caravan park where they were camping for one last walk, after a two-week holiday, before returning to Oxfordshire.

He lived less than a mile away from the Thomas’s “as the crow flies”, Mr Elias said. The prosecution case is that, in all probability, the killer targeted that house knowing that Ms Thomas was there alone but was disturbed during the robbery by Richard Thomas returning.

He said Cooper then decided to carry out the double murder “as a way out”. He dragged Mr Cooper away to an outhouse and killed him, having either killed his sister before or afterwards.

Cooper denies the four murders. He is also accused of rape, indecent assault and the attempted robbery of a group of teenagers in Milford Haven, in 1996, all of which he denies.

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