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Man guilty of four shotgun killings

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Court artist sketch of John Cooper in the dock flanked by two security guards at Swansea Crown Court

Court artist sketch of John Cooper in the dock flanked by two security guards at Swansea Crown Court

Court artist sketch of John Cooper in the dock flanked by two security guards at Swansea Crown Court

A farm labourer has been found guilty of four brutal shootings in which couples were murdered by point-blank blasts from a sawn-off shotgun.

John Cooper, 66, of Letterston, near Fishguard, west Wales, carried out both notorious double-murders.

A Swansea Crown Court jury unanimously found him guilty of the four merciless killings, which go back more than 25 years.

He was also found guilty of raping a teenage schoolgirl, sexually assaulting another, and five separate attempted robberies, all in March 1996.

Cooper murdered millionaire farmer Richard Thomas, 58, and his sister Helen, 54, at their burnt-out Pembrokeshire mansion in December 1985.

He murdered tourists Peter Dixon, 51, and wife Gwenda, 52, on the final day of their holiday four years later as they walked along a coastal path near Little Haven, Pembrokeshire, in June 1989. At one point there was speculation the Dixons died because they stumbled on a cache of IRA weapons.

Judge John Griffith Williams passed directly to sentencing Cooper after the verdict. He gave him four life sentences for the killings, telling him: "The murders were of such evil wickedness that the mandatory sentence of life will mean just that."

But Cooper refused to listen and repeatedly interrupted the judge, claiming evidence had been kept from the jury.

Moments after the verdict was announced, members of Cooper's family stormed out of court, shouting: "We will be there for you, John."

Judge Williams told Cooper: "I am confident that you will never express any remorse and so help the victims come to terms with their loss. Each of your offences were well planned and so it was that you evaded arrest for so long. Indeed, but for the advances of forensic science, you may well have never been brought to justice."

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