South West Wales

John Cooper 'at home during shooting', court told

John Cooper
Image caption John Cooper denies four counts of murder and other separate charges, including rape

A man accused of two 1980s double murders has told a jury he was at home when a brother and sister were shot.

At his defence opening, John Cooper, 66, told Swansea Crown Court he did not kill Richard and Helen Thomas at their Pemrokeshire house in 1985.

He also told the jury he had nothing to do with the 1989 deaths of Peter and Gwenda Dixon on a coastal path.

He looked after his granddaughter on week mornings at that time, he said. He denies all charges. The case continues.

Mrs and Mrs Dixon, from Oxfordshire, were shot while they were walking near Little Haven, on the last day of their holiday.

Richard and Helen Thomas were found dead at their house near Milford Haven four years earlier. They had been shot.

Taking the witness stand, Mr Cooper, of Letterston, told the jury he knew Mr Thomas, a farmer, by sight.

He said that while working for another farmer, he had been to the yard at Scoveston Park where the Thomases lived, but had never been inside their house.

He told the court: "Farmers borrow things off each other. I remembered, on prompting, I had been there twice, three times."

He was then asked by his barrister, Marc Evans QC, if he had ever quarrelled with Mr Thomas.

Mr Cooper replied: "I never said that many words to the man to fall out with him."

He said on the night of 22 December 1985, when the Thomases were shot, he was at home.

The defendant denied having anything to do with their deaths or starting the fire that gutted their home.

Mr Cooper was also asked by his barrister whether he had anything to do with the deaths of the Dixons in late June 1989.

Cash machines

He replied: "Nothing whatsoever."

He said around that time he would look after his one-year-old granddaughter on weekdays while his late wife, Pat, would go to work.

The prosecution say that a bank card that belonged to the Dixons was used to withdraw money from cash machines at Milford Haven and Haverfordwest following their deaths.

The jury has heard from witnesses who gave descriptions of a man seen outside the bank.

Mr Cooper told the jury: "That was not me."

He had told the court that in 1978 he had won £90,000 and a car on a spot the ball competition so was not in any financial difficulty when either the Thomases or Dixons were shot.

Mr Cooper told the court he did sell a wedding ring to a jeweller in Pembrokeshire on 5 July just days after the Dixons were killed.

But he denied it belonged to them and said he had been trading in coins, gold and rings since the 1970s.

Restricted movements

Mr Cooper is also charged with rape, sexual assault and the attempted robbery of five teenagers in a field near the Mount Estate in Milford Haven in March 1996.

He told the jury: "I've not been down that area for 30 to 40 years. I was not there."

He said from 1993 he had suffered from arthritis, which by 1996 restricted his movements.

The jury has heard that in 1998 Mr Cooper was tried and convicted for 30 burglaries and one count of robbery, crimes he still denies.

He told the court his refusal to admit to the charges had cost him early parole.

"I was not prepared to admit to things I did not do whether I wanted parole or not," he said.

Under cross-examination prosecution barrister Gerard Elias accused Mr Cooper of being a "plausible liar".

"You will tell lies to help yourself," he added.

Mr Cooper denies all charges.

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