How telly legend Jim Bowen helped catch shotgun serial killer on Bullseye

Telly legend Jim Bowen unwittingly helped nail a shotgun serial killer by asking him about his hobbies on Bullseye.

Maniac John Cooper appeared on Bowen’s show shortly before executing holidaymakers Peter and Gwenda Dixon in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1989.

The psychopath was nailed by DNA evidence in 2009, but only after detectives realised their chief suspect had incriminated himself in front of 19 million oblivious viewers.

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Cooper had already killed millionaire farmers Richard and Helen Thomas when he appeared on the show on May 28, 1989.

Exactly a month later he would go on to rob and kill the Dixons on a quiet Pembrokeshire coast path.

Detectives realised the murders had been planed with military precision, using a first-hand knowledge of the local terrain.

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Cooper had been dismissed as a suspect in the early 1990s through lack of evidence – but chilling footage from Bullseye showed him calmly discussing his intimate knowledge of the Welsh coast.

“You’ve got an unusual hobby John, haven't you?” Bowen asked.

“Oh yes,” grinned Cooper. “The scuba diving.”

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When Bowen said Pembrokeshire was “the place to do it”, Cooper went into a lengthy monologue about the picturesque scenery and deep water.

DCI Steve Wilkins told Wales on Sunday that the clip was a breakthrough in the decades-old murder case.

He said: “It was Cooper, bold as brass, smiling and joking on national television having almost certainly murdered two people in cold blood.

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“Just a month before the killings, revealing on national television knowledge of the area where the Dixons would be murdered.”

When Cooper took his throws the camera inadvertently caught him in the same pose as an an artists impression of the main suspect – and the resemblance was uncanny.

Wilkins added: “The images were then put side by side. The result was chilling.

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“In my 30 years service I had seen many artist’s impressions and photo-fit efforts, but I had never seen as close a match as this.”

Advances in forensic technology allowed officers to find DNA from Mrs Dixon on a pair of shorts he had kept as a trophy.

More damningly, a drop of Mr Dixon’s dried blood was found on a shotgun Cooper had stashed in a hedge near his home.

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He was convicted at Swansea Crown Court in 2011 after an eight-week trial – 26 years after his first murder.

He was also found guilty of holding five teens at gunpoint in Milford Haven, before raping a 16-year-old girl and indecently assaulting her 15-year-old pal.

He will die behind bars after being slapped with a rare-whole life order.

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