Two of Wales's most notorious murderers John Cooper and John Pope have appeals rejected

 

Two of Wales's most notorious murderers had their appeals dismissed today.

Farm labourer John Cooper was given a whole life jail term for two double murders that stunned west Wales in the 1980s.

He evaded justice for decades, but modern DNA and fibre examination techniques saw him brought to justice earlier this year.

John Pope was jailed after a retrial for the 1996 murder of Karen Skipper, whose partially clothed body was found in the River Ely in Fairwater, Cardiff, with her hands tied behind her back.

Pope had his murder conviction quashed in 2009 by the Court of Appeal, but he was found guilty after a retrial two years later.

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

In the case of Pope, the Lord Chief Justice published an 11-page document outlining the case and his reasons for refusal.

It 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."

Cooper, who police linked with the double murderers in west Wales following a string of robberies referred to as "the Huntsmen offences", had his application for an appeal thrown out.

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 (the court of appeal) agree with him. This renewed application will similarly be refused."

Following the ruling, Mrs Skipper's family wept tears of joy.

Speaking outside court, her sisters Heidi Mathison, Gail Emerson and Dorothea Scholz said they were relieved the matter was over.

Mrs Mathison, 45, said: "We shouldn't have been here. But we've got the right result and we're pleased.

"Karen can finally rest in peace. We've said that on a number of occasions now, but for me this will be the end and we can carry on and remember Karen for who she was - and not for all the court trials that we've had to endure."

Mrs Mathison said the days leading up to the appeal hearing had been an incredibly tense time for her family - particularly her 81-year-old mother Josie Scholz.

"We've been anxious, had no sleep and not been eating. It's been an emotional rollercoaster," she added.

"This morning, I woke up and didn't know if I could come to court because I didn't know what the result was going to be.

"It's really difficult to explain.

"For the past 16 years our lives have been on hold.

"Karen was a loving caring person who didn't deserve to die. We will never move on from what happened.

"You don't ever forget what happened, but we will try to get on and live our lives - because that's what Karen would have wanted us to do."

Mrs Skipper's family said they were also thinking of her late husband Phillip.

A year after his wife's death in 1996, Mr Skipper was put on trial accused of her murder.

He was cleared by a jury, and died in 2004 before the real killer Pope was caught.

"He endured a terrible time when he was placed on trial," Mrs Mathison added.

"Phillip was found not guilty and quite rightly so.

"It would just have been nice for him to have been here today to hear this news."

Mrs Mathison also paid tribute to South Wales Police, who following a cold case review in 2007 were able to bring Pope to justice.

One of the key officers in the inquiry was senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Stuart Mackenzie.

He said: "Our thoughts remain with the family of Karen Skipper, as they have done since she was brutally murdered on March 10, 1996 - as well as the family of her late husband Phillip.

"Over two decades, they not only had to deal with the pain of losing Karen but also three trials and two appeal hearings.

"We note the decision of the court today and for the sake of Karen's family and friends hope this is the end of the matter."

PA

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