Updated on 11 January: It seems as if truly good true crime series are a bit like buses; you wait forever for one, and then three show up at once.
Over on the BBC, we have slowly become obsessed with serial killer drama The Serpent. Netflix, meanwhile, just dropped a trailer for its disturbing docuseries, Night Stalker, which tells “the spellbinding true story of how one of the most notorious serial killers in American history was hunted down and brought to justice.”
And now ITV is getting in on the action with its own star-studded miniseries, too.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Pembrokeshire Murders, which starts tonight at 9pm.
What is The Pembrokeshire Murders about?
Adapted from the true-crime book Catching The Bullseye Killer, the three-part mini-series sees newly-promoted Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins take it upon himself to reopen two unsolved double murders from the 1980s.
Employing pioneering forensic methods, Wilkins and his handpicked team soon uncover microscopic DNA and fibres that potentially link the murders to a string of burglaries committed in the 80s and 90s.
The perpetrator of these crimes, though, is already in prison and nearing the end of his sentence. It’s up to DS Wilkins and his team to find the evidence that will keep the killer behind bars, and stop him from striking again.
It’s worth noting that the series also includes a stranger-than-fiction twist involving the ITV quiz show Bullseye.
We won’t share too much here, because… well, because of spoilers. Rest assured, though, it’s the sort of story that’s going to have everyone talking (and googling what really happened) long after the credits roll.
Is there a trailer for The Pembrokeshire Murders?
ITV has released a trailer for The Pembrokeshire Murders, and it’s certainly piqued our attention.
Check it out:
Who stars in the cast of The Pembrokeshire Murders?
The series also features Keith Allen as John Cooper, Owen Teale as Gerard Elias, Alexandria Riley as Ella Richards, Caroline Berry as Pat Cooper, Oliver Ryan as Andrew Cooper and David Fynn as ITV News journalist Jonathan Hill.
The full cast list includes:
- DS Steve Wilkins - Luke Evans
- John William Cooper - Keith Allen
- DC Nigel Rowe - Kyle Lima
- DI Lynne Harries - Steven Meo
- DS Gareth Rees - Charles Dale
- DS Glyn Johnson - Richard Corgan
- DI Ella Richards - Alexandria Riley
- Pat Cooper - Caroline Berry
- Andrew Cooper - Oliver Ryan
- Jack Wilkins - Steffan Cennydd
- Amy Wilkins - Mabli Jên Eustace
- DCS Coles - Rhodri Evan
- DCI Jim Morris - Roger Evans
- DCI George Jones - William Thomas
- Jonathan Hill - David Fynn
- Gerard Elias - Owen Teale
What is the true story behind The Pembrokeshire Murders?
Warning: this section contains spoilers, so scroll ahead now if you want to avoid them.
In 1985, a double murder by shotgun was committed in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The victims were local residents, brother and sister, Richard and Helen Thomas.
In 1989, Pembrokeshire was rocked when husband and wife, Peter and Gwenda Dixon, were also murdered by shotgun.
While both crimes were thoroughly investigated, no-one was charged. Then, in 2006, DCI Steve Wilkins returned to Wales after a stint at Scotland Yard and began a new job as Deputy Head of Dyfed Powys CID.
Inspired by the success DNA forensic science was having on solving rates in serious crime, Wilkins decided to reinvestigate the two double murders. And so, with a carefully handpicked team, he set to work.
The evidence they gathered suggested that one man was responsible for all four murders: John William Cooper, a local man already in prison for a series of burglaries and robberies.
Knowing Cooper would soon be up for parole, Wilkins and his team worked around the clock to find the concrete evidence they needed to charge him for the murders. Their surprise breakthrough came, though, in the form of Bullseye.
That’s right: Cooper had appeared on the TV quiz show, just one month before the murder of Peter and Gwenda Dixon. And it was this archive footage that helped match Cooper to an artist’s impression based on a witness sighting.
What are people saying about The Pembrokeshire Murders?
As reported on 6 January: Luke Evans has described it as a “privilege” to be playing the role in the TV drama.
“It is a privilege to be playing the role of Steve Wilkins in The Pembrokeshire Murders and working again with Simon Heath, his team at World Productions and ITV,” he said in a press release.
“It’s a huge responsibility for me as the drama depicts a true crime which to this day still affects the families of those whose lives were tragically taken.”
Director Marc Evans, meanwhile, said: “You have to be as authentic and as realistic as you can be, and accurate in terms of getting the story properly represented, in terms of everybody who is involved. And then you also have to be very respectful of victims and victims’ families and understand the possible effects of the scenes you are depicting. There’s a feeling of responsibility.”
He added: “It’s always tricky to cast a real life criminal. Let’s not forget he’s there and he did these things for real. Keith Allen was quite brilliant at absorbing the traits of Cooper and portraying a kind of strange dynamism that the man obviously had.”
When is The Pembrokeshire Murders on TV?
The Pembrokeshire Murders airs at 9pm on ITV on 11, 12, and 13 January 2021.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.