Murder jury in third day of deliberations

First published in Cooper: Double murders trial

THE jury in the trial of a Pembrokeshire man accused of killing four people with a shotgun in the 1980s was due to enter a third day of deliberations this morning (Thursday).

The 12-men and women making up the jury in the case of former farm labourer John William Cooper retired to begin considering their verdicts on Tuesday.

Cooper, now aged 66, is accused of shooting dead a brother and sister and a husband and wife in two double murders that had remained unsolved for more than 20 years.

Cooper, now of Letterston, but previously of Jordanston and Milford Haven, faces charges of killing Richard and Helen Thomas at Scoveston Park in December 1985 before the property was almost totally destroyed by fire.

He is also accused of murdering Peter and Gwenda Dixon on the coast path high above Little Haven in July, 1989. The holidaymakers were blasted to death in broad daylight and their bodies hidden from view.

Cooper also denies separate charges of rape, indecent assault and robbery arising from an incident when a group of teenagers were confronted by a man wielding a shotgun in March 1996, near the Mount Estate in Milford Haven.

Previously the jury had heard the closing remarks of the prosecution and Cooper’s defence team.

The prosecution claimed that powerful DNA evidence linked Cooper to all the crimes.

Gerard Elias QC, for the prosecution, said a shotgun Cooper was convicted of using during a robbery in 1996 had later been examined by forensics specialists as technology advanced.

“A speck of Peter Dixon’s blood was found on the gun”, he said.

A pair of shorts discovered at Cooper’s then home were also found to have Mr Dixon’s blood on them, as well as a DNA trace from Julie Dixon, the murdered couple’s daughter.

But Mark Evans QC, for Cooper, said the jury could not rely on DNA evidence because of the way exhibits had been handled over the years. He said there was the possibility of cross contamination of evidence.

Witness descriptions following the murders did not match his client, he added.

Cooper denies all the charges and the trial continues. For the latest see www.milfordmercury.co.uk.

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