What is The Pembrokeshire Murders based on?

The truth behind the ITV drama is seriously horrifying

Cast of ITV's The Pembrokeshire Murders
(Image credit: ITV)

ITV's hit miniseries The Pembrokeshire Murders made for emotional viewing, but it also had many viewers wondering - what is the true-crime show based on? Starring Luke Evans as Senior Investigating Officer Steve Wilkins and Keith Allen as serial killer John Cooper, the ITV show focuses on a series of murders that took place in Wales in the late 1980s. 

The first episode saw over 6.3 million viewers tune in, making it ITV’s largest audience for a new drama series since 2016 when The Durrells aired. But whilst we were instantly drawn in by the sinister storyline and a desire to see justice prevail, many viewers might have been even more chilled upon reading what the show states at the beginning of the series. 

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“This drama is based on the true story of a police investigation that took place in Pembrokeshire, Wales between 2006 and 2011. Some of the characters and events portrayed have been altered for the purpose of dramatization and to protect anonymity where appropriate" the show's message reads.

Fans of the show might be horrified to realise that the shocking events featured are based on a true story.

Is The Pembrokeshire Murders based on a true story and what happened?

The series is based on real-life events that took place a decade ago and the show's creators also used the true-crime book released by those investigating the crimes when it came to putting the narrative together. 

Officer Steve Wilkins (Luke Evan’s character’s real-life counterpart) and Jonathan Hill released a book in 2013 titled: The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer The authors of this book played pivotal roles in the real-life identification of the serial killer. Jonathan Hill, a Welsh journalist, and Steve Wilkins coordinated their efforts in order to lead the murderer to justice - as shown in the ITV miniseries. 

This true-crime book discusses how modern forensic testing and bizarrely the television show Bullseye assisted in the crucial identification of the murderer. 

Keith Allen in ITV's The Pembrokeshire Murders

(Image credit: ITV)

The killer, John Cooper, starred in an episode of Bullseye, a popular darts show in the 1980s and this episode allowed the police to be able to identify Cooper as the serial killer they were looking for. 

By sheer luck, Cooper discussed his hobby of scuba diving and unwittingly admitted to knowing the coastal area where he would later murder two of his victims. He also sported a classic 80’s hairstyle that was mentioned by an eye-witness to one of his crimes that took place shortly after the TV appearance. 

Many fans of the show are also questioning, Is John Cooper, the serial killer, still alive? The answer is yes, he is currently serving a life sentence in prison. 

Whilst after watching the dramatic events unfold, some might be wondering what happened to John Cooper's wife? The truth is that she died from natural causes after her husband returned home from his first prison stint. 

The Pembrokeshire Murders

(Image credit: ITV)

Where was The Pembrokeshire Murders filmed?

Most of the filming for The Pembrokeshire Murders took place in Wales, however, there were exceptions. John Cooper’s prison scenes took place in Gloucester prison which closed in 2013 and has since been used as a filming location for various television shows. 

Other filming locations include; Port Talbot, Trefin, Cardiff Crown Court, Rhondda, Little Haven, Pembroke Dock, and Hakin Point. The series wrapped filming just two days before the COVID-19 Welsh lockdown. 

If you haven't yet settled down to watch The Pembrokeshire Murders, you can still catch up on the hit true-crime miniseries on the ITV Hub.