A talk tonight in Wales by the human rights barrister Michael Mansfield, KC, throws into sharp relief the Welsh miscarriage of justice cases Cardiff Three/Five and Cardiff Newsagent Three, where The Eye’s Editor, Phil Parry, uncovered new evidence which led to the release of wrongly-accused men after years in jail, as well as the questionable actions of the police.
Mr Mansfield was involved in the successful appeals in both these extraordinary cases, and was a significant figure in the legal action following the Clydach murders, where there is also huge controversy about police behaviour, and the man convicted of them [David (Dai) Morris] died in prison still protesting his innocence. He will tonight be in conversation in Cardiff talking about his career fighting injustice.
In the astonishing 1988 Cardiff Three/Five case three BLACK men were convicted of the brutal Cardiff docklands murder of Lynette White (although FIVE were put on trial), when one WHITE man (Jeffrey Gafoor) was finally caught years later through DNA analysis. He confessed to carrying out the terrible 1988 murder, and even apologised, through his barrister, to the others who had been incorrectly jailed.
The five innocent men, were arrested in December 1988 after detectives had been on the case for 10 months, and were pursuing a white suspect seen nearby (who looked EXACTLY like Gafoor), minutes following the murder. But when South Wales Police (SWP) changed the investigating team, and pressure mounted to make an arrest, attention turned to black locals. Despite no forensic evidence connecting the five to the killing, they were taken in.
Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris, and Stephen Miller were found guilty in 1990 of the murder, and spent more than two years serving prison sentences having spent the same time on remand, while cousins John and Ronnie Actie were acquitted after being in custody since their arrest. False eyewitness statements, coerced confessions, and more were used in the police ‘investigation’. However on appeal in 1992 the taped interviews with Mr Miller, who had a mental age of 11, were deemed an example of inappropriate interrogation for reference in future cases, such was their intimidating and coercive nature. It exposes the failings by SWP investigating officers, and bolsters demands for a judicial inquiry.
Several programmes have been broadcast looking at the events in which the police played such a major part, and a number are in production now. The promotional material before one of them, proclaimed: “Episode One Monday 23rd May at 9pm Raphael Rowe delves into the brutal murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders in 1987. The episode examines the investigation that led to the conviction of three innocent men, which resulted in their wrongful imprisonment. The episode reveals shocking police threats and coercion that led to the arrest and incarceration of Michael O’Brien, Ellis Sherwood and Darren Hall. After the men had spent more than a decade behind bars, a court appeal quashed the original verdict, but the unsolved case continues to haunt the city. Plus, for the first time ever, the victim’s sister and nephew break a 35-year silence and reveal exclusive insights into the case”.
Michael O’Brien (himself the victim of a high-profile miscarriage of justice by SWP – Cardiff Newsagent Three), is campaigning for a judicial inquiry into the numbers of awful cases the force has been responsible for. They include: The Cardiff Three (Five), The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones (The Tooze Murders), as well as Annette Hewins. However this shameful list does NOT have on it all those innocent people, who were convicted of less important crimes than murder, yet who now have a record which will affect them for the rest of their lives, and there is a powerful argument for getting rid of SWP COMPLETELY.
An Early Day Motion (EDM) in the UK Parliament was tabled and signed by several MPs, emphasising growing support for Mr O’Brien’s cause. It declared: “…this House notes the series of cases since the 1980s investigated by South Wales Police force that resulted in wrongful convictions; further notes the devastating impact that wrongful accusation and imprisonment can have on people subject to miscarriages of justice; expresses concern that many of the perpetrators of these crimes have yet to be found; and calls on the Ministry of Justice to organise a judicial inquiry into all miscarriages of justice that took place between 1982 and 2016”. The motion was immediately signed by three Plaid Cymru (Plaid) MPs, including the party’s leader in the House of Commons (HoC), who tabled the motion, Liz Saville-Roberts.
A Media Conference (MC), was held last year (at which Phil spoke) also demanding the judicial inquiry to uncover the truth about the miscarriages (it has since been refused, but as the EDM shows, there is now increasing pressure to hold one). At the MC, Phil stressed the disturbing fact that areas with a greater population, have FEWER police forces. “It is ridiculous that in a population of 3.1 million people we in Wales have FOUR forces”, he said: “Scotland is much bigger, but only has ONE. London has almost nine million people yet has just TWO . Think of the public money that is wasted duplicating resources, to pay fat salaries to all those Assistant Chief Constables, and Chief Constables!”.
Following it some then marched to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), and Welsh Government (WG) buildings, with a number of politicians backing a Statement of Opinion to support the calls for an inquiry. A rally was also held outside Cardiff Crown Court.
At the MC, Phil said to the audience that he was regularly approached by solicitors during the 1990s, who said the police were doing bad things, and that something had to be done. On one occasion he was told to put away his notebook because he was informed that no record should be made of the conversation. He also described how other forces had been put in ‘special measures’ (including the Metropolitan Police [Met]), but that this was the least that should be done with SWP.
The MC was organised by Mr O’Brien, who talked movingly about how his health had been badly affected after he spent 11 years inside prison, for a crime he did not commit. He told The Eye: “My health has been ruined, and there has been long-lasting damage. My miscarriage of justice case has caused a huge family rift”. Mr O’Brien, who is now in his fifties, was jailed wrongly in 1988 for the killing of Cardiff newsagent, Phillip Saunders. Another who spoke emotionally of what had happened to him, was John Actie, one of the Cardiff Three/Five.
Even before this, Sky documentaries were broadcast, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into the horrific Clydach murders in 1999, when four people (Mandy Power her elderly disabled mother Doris, and two young children) were brutally beaten to death. Mr Mansfield was the barrister in one of the appeals against the conviction of Mr Morris, and they were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series.
Another television programme on 5Star (which pretended to be looking into ‘cold cases’), though was VERY different. and incurred the wrath of many close to what had happened. 5Star is a free-to-air television channel owned by Paramount Networks UK & Australia and a sister to Channel 5, which specialises in documentaries. One of the daughters of Mr Morris, Janiene Marie O’Sullivan, publicly declared to her dedicated website group: “I am finding it difficult to put into words how it made me feel….Basically it was a whole hour of Martin Lloyd-Evans (who led the investigation into the Clydach Murders) talking rubbish!…South Wales police have done themselves no favours again with this one”.
Mr Morris’s sister Debra Thomas also said on the site: “Can you believe the utter verbal diarrhoea Martin Lloyd was spouting in that cheap channel 5 program…I also know the journalist is on this group so I hope and pray she gets to read this.” And: “What disgraceful journalism!! They should hang their heads in shame”.
The website Mrs Thomas helped set up, along with her niece, questions her brother’s guilt and has almost 31,000 members. On it she published a reply from Channel 5 to her complaint about the programme, but above the letter she wrote: “What research did they do????”.
The successful prosecution case against Mr Morris (who gained a lot of support while in prison) was that he had gone to Ms Power’s looking for sex, high on drink and drugs, been spurned and beat the entire family to death, leaving his chain there in the process. Yet the evidence suggested Doris had been killed first, NOT her daughter, when presumably it would have been the person doing the spurning who would have died FIRST!
Mr O’Brien appears on MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris IS in fact another miscarriage of justice. He told the MITV documentary-makers: “When I was released from prison I remember…saying ‘I’m going to be South Wales Police’s worst nightmare for what they did to me’, and I meant every word of it”.
In a formal interview for MITV (they wouldn’t do one with Phil), Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) of SWP, David Thorne, made a startling admission, about the mistakes that were made by the police in the earlier miscarriages of justice. During filming for the programme Mr Thorne appeared on, a forensic review found traces of DNA on a sock which it is believed was used to hold the murder weapon, that were “more likely than not” to have come from Mr Morris, and SWP trumpeted the finding.
They effectively said: ‘We know we got it wrong in the past, but this time is different. Trust us’. Yet a long-running campaign has been launched to establish Mr Morris’ innocence, and after the first trial when he was convicted, his sister Debra gave a tearful press conference with her parents when she stressed her belief that he was NOT guilty. She said: “He just didn’t do these things…they’ve got the wrong man”.
ACC Thorne, though, insisted on MITV, that Mr Morris was the RIGHT man, but acknowledged that mistakes had been made in previous police inquiries. He proclaimed: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong (in the past). We absolutely got it wrong. (There were) HUGE errors in the way investigations were conducted (but) we HAVEN’T found that in this case. This is not a miscarriage of justice”.
However Phil had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the shocking Clydach Murders a few years after they had been committed, and he was the first to question the police actions during THIS investigation too. As he said in the opening of the programme: “One police force in Britain has a disturbing record of locking up the wrong people in murder cases”.
During MITV, the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) at the time, Detective Superintendent (DS) (Retd.) of South Wales Police (SWP) Martyn Lloyd Evans, is questioned about the apparent mistake of not releasing to the public a witnesses’ E-Fit constructed soon after the murders, which, it said, had a 90 per cent likeness. He replies that because the man seen was carrying a bag, and it was believed the killer did not have one, it was not put out.
Mr Evans said: “I didn’t think it was relevant”, but the E-Fit matched almost exactly the face of the first senior police officer on the scene, Inspector (at the time) Stuart Lewis, who (against all procedure) had only stayed there a matter of minutes, or that of his identical twin brother (another police officer, Sergeant [also at the time] Stephen Lewis, whose wife was having a gay affair with one of the victims). Inspector Stuart Lewis, had changed his shift to be on that night, however at crucial hours during the murders his whereabouts were unknown. He was driving a red Peugeot diesel, and a car similar to this was spotted near the murder scene. So to say the E-Fit was ‘not relevant’, appeared bizarre in the extreme, to critics of the police.
In the MITV films Mr Evans’ boss as the then head of SWP CID, Wynne Phillips, also said something incredible: “We can’t manufacture evidence”. But events before the murders, showed that SWP have done EXACTLY that. To take just one of those cases (in which Phil was intimately involved, because he had made ANOTHER programme questioning THAT conviction [Cardiff Newsagent Three]), the police MANUFACTURED (as Mr Phillips said they DIDN’T do) an overheard ‘confession’ between the young men they had arrested, when an admission was effectively made to the murder of the newsagent, and they presented before the court ‘EVIDENCE’ that the group had run from the scene, but one of the three had bad legs and couldn’t run at all.
Now all this is being put centre stage, by an appearance tonight in Cardiff of one of the key people who led the legal appeals after the police actions were exposed…
The memories of Phil’s, remarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the rare and incurable neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book (which includes how he pursued the Cardiff Newsagent Three miscarriage of justice case) ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – how during 23 years with the BBC, and a 40 year journalistic career (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), Phil always believed that the label ‘BREAKING NEWS’ should only be used rarely, above revelations of hugely important information, but now comes still MORE evidence that the opposite is the case, and it is being put on stories willy-nilly now!