Cooper's Barrister Tries to Play Down Fibres Evidence; BUT EXPERT SAYS GLOVES SOON DEVELOP OWN CHARACTER

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Byline: ROBIN TURNER

A DEFENCE barrister yesterday attempted to play down the significance of microscopic fibres said to link farm labourer John Cooper to two notorious double murders in Pembrokeshire.

Mark Evans QC, for 66-yearold Cooper, said gloves from which some of the fibres are said to have come, were probably mass produced.

He told a jury at Swansea Crown Court they could easily have been widely available in market stalls across a rural area like Pembrokeshire to a large number of people.

Grandfather Cooper of Letterston, near Fishguard, denies the 1985 shotgun murders of millionaire farmer Richard Thomas and his sister Helen at their Scoveston Manor home near Milford Haven.

He is also pleading not guilty to the 1989 murders of Oxfordshire holidaymakers Peter and Gwenda Dixon, shot dead as they strolled along the picturesque coastal path near Little Haven.

And Cooper denies being the shotgun-wielding masked man who held up five teenagers in woods near the Mount Estate, Milford Haven, in 1996, raping one girl and indecently touching another.

Gerard Elias QC, prosecuting, alleges fibres invisible to the naked eye link Cooper to all three crimes.

Fibres identical to those in padded gloves found in Cooper's home are said to match fibres found on a shotgun and a rope lanyard the prosecution claims was used to kill the Dixons.

And fibres from another glove identical to those in a glove found near Cooper's home were found inside the clothing of the teenage rape and indecent assault victims.

Forensic biologist Roger Robson, an expert in textile analysis, said tiny fibres said to be indistinguishable from each other were also discovered on a sock taken from murder victim Richard Thomas' body and a pair of shorts found in Cooper's home, suggesting a link between the garments.

Mr Evans suggested yesterday the garments from which the fibres came were so common it lessened their significance as evidence.

However, Mr Robson, a forensic scientist for more than 30 years, said the chemical make-up and colour dye of fibres making up garments such as gloves would often differ from batch to batch. …