John Cooper was a man with a powerful streak of badness in him. A bully, a psychopath and a vicious killer, he terrorised an area of Pembrokeshire for two decades.
He is the subject of a forthcoming episode of CBS Reality’s Murder by the Sea (Tuesday, 29 January, 10pm). As a contributor to the series, I must say Cooper made the biggest impression on me for the heartless, chilling nature of his crimes.
He was jailed for 30 counts of burglary in 1998. By this time, however, he had also committed two double murders.
Murdered two couples
While raiding the country home of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas in 1985 to rob the place, he killed both with a shotgun. He then burned the house down.
Four years later he ambushed holidaying Oxfordshire couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon as they strolled along the coastal path. He bound and terrorised the couple, then shot them both in the face. Cooper took £300 from a cash dispenser using Mr Dixon’s PIN number.
He had a lust for terrorising and abusing people. In 1996 he pulled his shotgun on a group of teenagers walking through fields. He raped one of the girls and assaulted another.
You can see the near incredulity on the faces of the experts on Murder by the Sea who describe his vile crimes. I found myself talking about his bizarre appearance as a contestant on Bullseye, at a time when he was wanted for the murder of the Thomases.
Did Cooper commit more unknown crimes?
This was a reckless, ruthless man who loved flaunting his ability to cheat the law and his victims.
Perhaps most disconcerting are the comments by psychologist Dr David Holmes, who speculates that Cooper may have committed many more crimes than he was credited with.
It’s one of the most indelible episodes in the series and an unforgettable glimpse at a remorseless, rage-filled psychopath.