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Luke Evans on his gripping new ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders

Luke Evans Pembrokeshire Murders

Luke Evans - 'It’s been a dream of mine to work back in Wales'

Luke Evans plays a Welsh detective who solved one of the most notorious cold cases in British history with a bit of help from Bullseye in new ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders.

The story...

When DCS Steve Wilkins returned from London to take charge of Dyfed-Powys Police Force in 2005, he was determined to close the file on two unsolved double murders that had haunted the peaceful Pembrokeshire community for almost two decades. 

Peter and Gwenda Dixon were shot dead while walking along a picturesque coastal path on a sunny June afternoon in 1989 – a crime that was eerily similar to a double murder committed at a nearby farmhouse four years earlier. 

The killer was never found, but Steve believed that convicted burglar John Cooper was the culprit and over the course of the next five years, he and his team re-examined every shred of evidence from the two cold cases in the hope that modern forensic science would shed new light on the investigation. 

Meanwhile, Cooper was about to be released from prison after serving time for a string of robberies. Faced wIth the prospect of a dangerous killer walking free, Steve slowly built a case against their prime suspect…

Now, the remarkable story of one of Britain’s most notorious murder cases has been turned into a three-part drama stripped across a week – produced by the team behind Line of Duty and Bodyguard – with Luke Evans, star of The Hobbit and Beauty & The Beast, playing the intrepid detective who sought to bring Cooper to justice.

We caught up with Luke Evans to find out more....

What made you want to play DCS Steve Wilkins?

Luke Evans: "It’s been a dream of mine to work back in Wales for a long time and when this script arrived it just hooked me immediately."

Did you get to meet Steve ahead of filming?

"I did and once you meet him, you understand how his team worked all those hours, through the nights and months away from their friends and families. He brought them together and kept their spirits alive when they were giving up hope. He talked us through the moment when he found the ‘golden nugget’ of evidence after years of searching [when DNA pinpointed a shotgun owned by Cooper as the murder weapon]. It was clearly an emotional moment for him. That was when he realised he had the guy and all his hunches had been correct."

Steve and his team work tirelessly to bring John Cooper to justice in this three-part drama

Steve and his team work tirelessly to bring John Cooper to justice in this three-part drama (Image credit: WARREN ORCHARD)

Aside from the DNA, were there any other breakthroughs?

"Cooper became known as the ‘Bullseye killer’ because of a huge moment in the case. There’d been an artist's impression done of a suspect for the second double murder, but Cooper had cleverly destroyed all photos of himself from that era, so there was no way to match his younger self to the artist's impression. So you can imagine how Steve felt when he discovered Cooper had appeared on [darts gameshow] Bullseye a month before the Dixon murders. The footage meant he could match him to the artist’s impression." 

What was it like filming the interrogation scenes with Keith Allen, who plays Cooper?

"Keith is such an incredible actor and there’s a manipulation and a dark sensibility to his performance that just sends shivers up your spine. it’s extraordinary to see." 

Keith Allen Pembrokeshire Murders

Keith Allen plays John Cooper - aka 'The Bullseye Killer' - in this drama based on real events (Image credit: ITV)

You must have enjoyed working in Wales again. Did any of your family visit during filming?

"We filmed in a wonderful part of Wales and it was great to use my own accent for the first time in years. My mum and dad came down to visit me and because I was living in such a nice house on the edge of a cliff, they stayed the whole time, so I got some good home-cooked food. It was great because I miss being home very much. I've lived in London since I was 17 but I have a very close connection to my family and to Wales."

DCS Steve Wilkins and newsreader Jonathan Hill film an appeal on the Pembrokeshire coastal path

DCS Steve Wilkins and newsreader Jonathan Hill film an appeal on the Pembrokeshire coastal path (Image credit: WARREN ORCHARD)

The Pembrokeshire Murders will air on ITV from Monday 11th January at 9pm on ITV (see our TV Guide for full listings).