Catching a Serial Killer

If you live in Pembrokeshire, read this book. If you’re interested in rural crime, read this book. If you want to know how the police catch the most dangerous criminals, read this book.

The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer covers the investigation into a series of unsolved murders and the conviction of John William Cooper. The author, Steve Wilkins, led the investigation for Dyfed Powys Police. He takes you through the process of reviewing the crimes, linking them, assessing them and preparing for court.

He includes extensive transcripts from Cooper’s police interviews. They give you a fascinating insight into the tricks and deceit of a serial killer. He shows the painstaking detail – and luck – required to catch a determined, evil man.

What you learn – at least what I learnt – is the extraordinary infrastructure behind a conviction. From the start the team are thinking about the courtroom. Before they even know their suspect they are considering the defence case.

Success hinges on meticulous cataloguing of evidence, spreadsheets to link items, analysis of behaviour as well as fibres and DNA. It requires a strategy that plays on the suspect’s psychology, using both the broadcast media and the quiet of an interview room.

For all the drama of a courtroom, it’s the methodical slog of the investigation that makes the case.

I learnt a little more about the police force I have the privilege to oversee. And I learnt more about the characters – both good and bad – they deal with.

What you do not learn is, why? Why did this man kill so brutally for so little gain? What created the monster?

We will never know. Nor will we know what motivates the handful of others who do the same. Like the author, I suspect some people are just evil, a corruption of humanity. All we can do is isolate them.

So long as there are people like that, we will need officers like ours.

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