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Expert casts doubt over sale of murder victim's ring.

A JEWELLERY expert has expressed doubts over prosecution claims alleged murderer John Cooper sold the gold wedding ring of one of his victims at a shop in Pembrokeshire.

At Swansea Crown Court, ex-farm labourer Cooper, 66, denies the 1985 murders of farmer Richard Thomas and his sister Helen at their Scoveston Manor home near Milford Haven.

He also pleads not guilty to killing Oxfordshire holidaymakers Peter and Gwenda Dixon as they strolled the Pembrokeshire coastal path near Little Haven in June, 1989. All four victims died from short range shotgun blasts and Peter Dixon's gold wedding band was stolen.

The court has heard on July 5, 1989, the day the Dixons' blood soaked bodies were found, Cooper sold a gold wedding ring at Pembroke Jewellers of Main Street, Pembroke. The shop's records indicate Cooper, who gave his name and address, sold the ring for pounds 25.

Milford Haven-born Cooper, of Letterston, near Fishguard told police it was not Peter Dixon's ring. But Gerard Elias QC, prosecuting, has claimed it was "more likely" to have been Mr Dixon's.

Yesterday , jewellery expert Craig O'Donnell said working on a 1989 price of around pounds 5 per gram of gold, the ring would have had to weigh around five grams. But Mr O'Donnell said after examining an old family photograph of Mr Dixon wearing the ring, he "guestimated" it to have weighed 3.5 grams.

However, the expert agreed with Mr Elias that the buyer of the ring may have been prepared to sell it as a second hand wedding band and could have got between pounds 50 and pounds 75.

Mr O'Donnell estimated a 22 carat gold ring of the type Mr Dixon had been wearing would have retailed as new in 1989 for around pounds 320.

Firearms and ammunition specialist William Harriman, examined an old style paper coated shotgun cartridge found by police in a box at Cooper's former home in St Mary's Park, near Milford Haven. The prosecution case is that the old cartridges were similar to paper coated cartridges murder victim Richard Thomas had at his Scoveston Manor home.

But Mr Harriman said "hundreds of millions" of the cartridges were made in Europe, particularly during World War II.

Cooper, a grandfather, denies four murders and one count of rape, another of indecent assault and five attempted robberies in connection with an alleged attack on five teenagers in woods near the Mount Estate, Milford Haven in 1996. The case continues.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 17, 2011
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