John Pope and John Cooper lose murder legal challenges

John Pope, left, and John Cooper
Image caption John Pope, left, and John Cooper, had their cases dismissed at the Court of Appeal

Two men who were challenging their convictions for separate murders in Cardiff and Pembrokeshire have had their appeals dismissed.

John Pope, who was jailed for the 1996 Cardiff murder of Karen Skipper, had appealed against his conviction.

John Cooper, who was convicted of two 1980s double murders in Pembrokeshire, had applied to be able to appeal.

Mrs Skipper's three sisters spoke of their relief after the Court of Appeal dismissed both their cases.

Heidi Mathison, 45, said: "Our lives have been on hold for the past 16 years ever since Karen was killed.

"It has been an emotional rollercoaster but we can now get on with our lives, although we will never forget our loving sister.

"We have been told there will be no more appeals and now Karen can rest in peace."

Mrs Skipper's partially clothed body was found in the River Ely in Fairwater, Cardiff, in 1996 with her hands tied behind her back.

Her former husband Phillip stood trial for her murder in 1997, but was cleared. He died of cancer in 2004, aged 48.

Pope was later convicted of the murder but his conviction was quashed in 2009 by the Court of Appeal. He was found guilty after a retrial two years later at Newport Crown Court.

'Close encounter'

The court heard that the murder investigation was reopened with Pope as the suspect after improvements in forensic science.

One doubt at Mr Skipper's trial was a blood stain found on the lining of of Mrs Skipper's pocket, the jury was told. The blood stain's DNA did not match either her or her husband.

In 2006, Pope gave a sample of DNA after he was arrested for another offence. In 2007, a review of unsolved cases found that sample matched the DNA on the blood stain.

Image caption Karen Skipper's body was found tied up and dumped in the River Ely in Fairwater, Cardiff

Pope claimed he and Mrs Skipper had a "chance encounter" three weeks before her death, when he helped get a thorn from one of her dog's paws.

He claimed he was bitten and started bleeding heavily with the blood getting onto her clothes.

But Pope had his appeal against his conviction dismissed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting at Cardiff Crown Court.

In an 11-page document outlining the case and his reasons for refusal, Lord Judge said: "The case presented to the jury was that blood found on Mrs Skipper's clothes could not get on to (them) by the way suggested by the appellant.

"The blood was deposited when the jeans were open and in the process of being taken down. That occurred when Mrs Skipper was being attacked by her killer."

Evaded justice

In the other case, farm labourer Cooper from Letterston, Pembrokeshire, was given a whole life jail term for the two double murders.

Image caption John Cooper's victims: Peter and Gwenda Dixon [both left] and Richard and Helen Thomas

He had evaded justice for decades, and was finally caught using modern DNA and fibre examination techniques and was jailed in May last year.

Cooper was found guilty of the 1985 murder of brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas, and Oxfordshire couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon in 1989.

He was also convicted of separate charges of rape, sexual assault and attempted robbery.

He was sentenced after an eight-week trial at Swansea Crown Court in May 2011.

Cooper, who police linked with the double murderers in Pembrokeshire following a string of robberies referred to as "the Huntsman offences," had his application for an appeal thrown out by Lord Judge.

The Lord Chief Justice said: "The defence case was the applicant had been wrongly convicted of the Huntsman offences and that he was not guilty of the present offences.

"The jury no doubt considered his [Cooper's] evidence carefully before deciding his guilt was proved.

"The application for leave to appeal against conviction was refused by a single judge. We agree with him. This renewed application will similarly be refused."

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