The Pembrokeshire Murders finished last night and the story was brought to an emotional conclusion as courtroom scenes saw two of the teens attacked by John Cooper in 1996 give their story.
Actors Amy Morgan and Sara Gregory played Erin Davies and Leanne Dauncey [not their real names] in the three-part ITV drama and it was their testimony that had a decisive impact on the outcome of the trial.
The Pembrokeshire Murders writer, Nick Stevens, emotionally paid tribute to the real-life women who were willing to have their part of the story dramatised.
Nick said: “I will always be grateful to these two brave women for allowing us to dramatise their time in court. For me, their scenes are so true and moving that they become a tribute to all the victims and their families – and a powerful condemnation of the man responsible for so much wasted life and suffering.”
Nick also added that investigating officer Steve Wilkins noted how life-changing the guilty verdict was for the two women and their families.
Nick explained the importance of getting this element into the story.
He said: “There was still one component I felt was missing.
“I wanted the drama to end on a note of redemption. I wanted to find some way of dramatising the positive impact of the trial and verdict not just on Steve and his team, but on the victims.”
He said the families of both Richard and Helen Thomas, and Peter and Gwenda Dixon – Cooper’s murder victims – were off-limits.
“While they did not object to the drama I was writing, they had no wish to be featured in it. However, there were other victims who were still alive. Operation Ottawa had investigated a third crime which Cooper had committed: the so-called Milford Haven Attack. One evening in March 1996, in a field near an estate, a masked man – Cooper – had robbed five teenagers – three girls and two boys – at gunpoint.
“He sexually assaulted one of the girls and raped another.
“In 2010, in the run-up to the trial, Steve persuaded the two female victims (now young women) to testify via videolink. He knew their testimonies would have a strong effect on the jury. However, on the day of the trial, the two young women announced that they wanted to give their evidence in court – in the presence of John William Cooper; the man who had stolen their childhood.
“Every police officer and lawyer I interviewed confirmed that the testimonies of the two women had a decisive impact on the outcome of the trial. Furthermore, Steve confirmed that the impact of the eventual guilty verdict on the two women and their families was life-changing. The moment the foreman read out the verdict, they stopped being victims.
Here was the redemption I’d been looking for.”
Nick has also spoken about his time with John and Pat Cooper’s son, Andrew. You can read more on that, here.
Who are the actors who played Erin and Leanne?
Amy Morgan and Sara Gregory portrayed the two brave women on screen and conveyed the trauma and bravery of the situation brilliantly.
You’ll have seen both actresses in many dramas over the past decade and the pair are seasoned stage performers, too.
Amy is best known for her role as Grace Calthorpe in ITV drama Mr Selfridge. She’s also been in Baker Boys, Sky comedy, Breeders and is a frequent face at the Royal Court Theatre. From Pencoed, Amy is a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Ammanford native Sara has recently starred in BBC Wales mockumentary, Tourist Trap, and you may recognise her from S4C series, Alys, for which she won a Bafta Cymru award.
Sara had a memorable role in Torchwood as a women possessed by an alien that feeds off orgasmic energy.