The Pembrokeshire Murders – Reopening a Cold Case to Nab a Serial Killer

Unsolved murders continue to frustrate police officers and fascinate the public. The American drama, Cold Case, ran for seven years on CBS, and is available for streaming on HBO Max. Kathryn Morris stars as Philadelphia Detective Lily Rush who tackles investigations that are dormant, others having given up on finding closure for families of the victims. 

While Cold Case is fictional, the BritBox offering, The Pembrokeshire Murders, is based on the true story of a serial killer in Wales responsible for the 1989 deaths of a couple, Peter and Gwenda Dixon, who were shot dead while walking on a coastal path in Pembrokeshire. Luke Evans, known for his more swashbuckling roles in films like The Three Musketeers, is serious and focused as Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins. In 2006 Wilkins decides to reopen Wales’ notorious crime case dubbed the Coastal Path Murders. (The real life Wilkins wrote a book about the case which inspires this three-part series.)

Luke Evans as Steve Wilkins

The suspect Wilkins has in his sights is John Copper (Keith Allen), who was convicted of several burglaries and may soon be released on parole. Besides the Dixon murders, Wilkins believes that Cooper is responsible for another murder, two siblings killed in 1985, as well as the vicious sexual attack in 1996 on a group of teens. Wilkins, concerned that once Cooper gets out he will continue his killing spree – “Men like him? They always kill again” – is working against the clock. While new advances in DNA technology will be critical in tying Cooper to the murders, finding that evidence proves a challenge. 

Wilkins wants to keep his investigation under the radar, not wanting to alert Cooper. When Jonathan Hill (David Fynn) approaches Wilkins about a documentary he is putting together on the Coastal Path Murders, the detective convinces the reporter to wait. When Wilkins is ready to go public, hoping not only to bring forth new witnesses, but also to rattle Cooper, he gives Hill an interview, knowing from inside sources that Cooper never misses the evening news program. 

Cooper’s wife, Pat (Caroline Berry), faithfully visits her husband each week, even though he psychologically abuses her, disparaging her looks and clothing. She continues to give Cooper an alibi, while their son, Andrew (Oliver Ryan), is estranged from his parents and blames his father for an injury that has left him disabled. Wilkins will interview mother and son repeatedly, hoping to shake something loose. 

Alexandria Riley as DI Jackie Richards and Luke Evans as Steve Wilkins

Cooper, however, proves to be an elusive prey. During interviews he seems to enjoy the cat and mouse game, giving away little and taunting the officers. Knowing Cooper’s misogynistic attitude, Wilkins taps Detective Inspector Ella Richards (Ella Richard), to interrogate Cooper. Even that move, however, fails to yield results.

The task force put together to investigate finally comes up with the “golden nugget,” the one piece of clothing that Cooper thought would never be found. When Dr. Angela Galop (Anastasia Hille), the forensic scientist doing the analysis, calls Wilkins with the news, he says, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I love you.”

The Pembrokeshire Murders cane be streamed on BritBox.

Photos courtesy of BritBox

About Charlene Giannetti (490 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.