Farm labourer John William Cooper was being linked to a double murder more than 11 years before he was arrested, a jury heard yesterday (Wednesday).

Cooper, now 66, was arrested in January 1998 suspected of carrying out a robbery and a string of burglaries.

Swansea crown court heard that his then home at 34 St Mary’s Park, Jordanston, was searched from top to bottom in police operation Wishing Well.

Mark Evans, the barrister representing Cooper, said items found in that search were being linked by detectives to the murders of holidaymakers Peter and Gwenda Dixon, who had been shot dead as they walked the Pembrokeshire coastal footpath nine years earlier.

Retired detective sergeant Barry Harris Jones said a shotgun had been among numerous items found at the house, in the garden and in a shed.

It was automatic, he said, for police to consider the gun in relation to earlier crimes.

He said the discovery did not resurrect the Dixons murder inquiry – that inquiry was still on-going.

Gerard Elias QC, prosecuting, has told the court that the gun discovered at the house had not, in fact, been used to kill the Dixons—but one found in a nearby hedgerow was the murder weapon. Many years later scientists were able to find a spot of Mr Dixon’s blood underneath black paint on one of the barrels.

Cooper was later jailed for 16 years for a violent robbery and 30 burglaries, but he was not charged in 1998 with the murders of the Dixons, nor with the murders of brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas at their home in Scoveston Park in 1985.

The former detective said he had worked on both sets of murders and the robbery at Sardis in 1996.

He said he had been given the task of recovering the body of Peter Dixon, aged 51. It was found in undergrowth a few yards away from the path and towards the sea.

The body was actually lying partly over the lip of the 200 feet high cliff and retrieving the body was so dangerous he had to be tied to a rope and lowered down, with a coastguard holding the other end.

Mr Dixon had been shot three times with a 12 bore shotgun, including a fatal shot to the head. His wife was found nearby. She had been shot twice and had been sexually assaulted.

Cooper, now of Spring Gardens, Letterston, denies the four murders. He also denied the rape of a 16-year-old girl, indecent assaulting her friend and trying to rob five teenagers, all in a field close to the Mount Estate, Milford Haven, in March, 1996.

The trial continues.