A controversial Welsh police force was warned of vital new leads in the biggest multiple murder investigation it has ever undertaken, but urged patience while outside officers examined their practices.
SWP relied instead on a new, less than conclusive, DNA link to the man eventually convicted of the murders, David ‘Dai’ Morris, even though they had been made aware of serious failings in the inquiry.
Mr Thorne (who has enormous powers and responsibilities) merely responded to the disclosures about the terrible case, by declaring: “…we have approached Devon and Cornwall Police to provide a Senior Investigating Officer to conduct an investigative assessment on our behalf…Therefore, I would be very appreciative of your understanding and patience in this process…”.
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) was also sent the dossier and – while acknowledging receipt – nothing concrete appears to have been done about the revelations.
The Clydach murders case was not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice (although the man ultimately convicted of them [Mr Morris] died last year still protesting his innocence), but others have been, and our Editor Phil Parry was the first to question police behaviour during the investigation in a BBC Panorama television programme about them three years afterwards.
As he said in the opening of it in 2002: “One police force in Britain has a disturbing record of locking up the wrong people in murder cases”.
Apart from urging patience on receiving the huge study, Mr Thorne conceded for the first time there were major mistakes in previous miscarriages of justice that the force was responsible for. He said: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong. We absolutely got it wrong”.
Innocent people were being imprisoned for serious crimes they did not commit, and it has now emerged that a news conference is to be held in the Autumn calling for a judicial inquiry into the number of miscarriages of justice there were from 1982 to 2016 in Wales.
There is a powerful argument today for scrapping SWP altogether, to start again. Observers believe the opportunity should then be seized to create ONE police force for the whole of Wales, instead of the FOUR at the moment (serving a population of 3.1 million).
At the time of the horrific Clydach murders (about which the MITV documentaries as well as the BBC Panorama programme, were made), a highly credible witness had come forward, informing officers that she had seen someone wearing a black bomber jacket, which looked exactly like a police coat, near the scene in the small hours of the night in question, and gave a statement, from which a highly accurate ‘E-Fit’ was constructed (she even pointed out a jacket which was similar in the interview room).
It was published on the police picture, shown in the MITV films (as well as in the BBC Panorama programme), that it had a ’90 per cent’ chance of likeness. The witness studied the man closely, because, as Mr Parry said on MITV, she quite fancied him. This E-Fit, however, was NEVER released to the public.
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 this apparent mistake. 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 drove an unmarked police car which was similar to one spotted outside the house where the murders happened, but with a log book which went missing, and he didn’t report the deaths as suspicious, even though he was known for meticulously playing by the book, and was called by his colleagues ‘Inspector Perfect’.
To say it wasn’t ‘relevant’ for the public to see the E-Fit, to critics was UNBELIEVABLE!
Mr Evans said on MITV that at the time of one of the fires Inspector Stuart Lewis attended a dog biting incident, however investigators have found no record of this.
In the films Mr Evans’ boss as the then head of SWP CID, Wynne Phillips, also said something thought incredible: “We can’t manufacture evidence”. But events before the murders, showed that SWP have done EXACTLY that.
To take just one example (about which Mr Parry had made ANOTHER television programme [The Cardiff Newsagent Three]), the police had 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.
During filming for MITV, the forensic review referred to by ACC Thorne, found traces of DNA on a sock which it is believed was used to hold the murder weapon, that were “likely” 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’.
However ‘trusting them’ may be viewed as difficult after all that has gone before.
During the period the press conference will bring out, Mr Parry was regularly approached by solicitors saying their client was totally innocent, and that BAD things were happening.
On one occasion he took out his notebook (which was always carried with him) and the solicitor told Mr Parry to put it away, because he didn’t want a record made of the conversation. At this time, the police appeared OUT OF CONTROL!
In the Cardiff Newsagent Three case, for example, doubt had been cast on the supposed ‘confession’, and medical records were discovered that showed a key member of the gang, suffered with bad legs, so he couldn’t run at all.
Film-makers are preparing a programme about this case, and broadcast is planned for later in the month.
The media conference about what has taken place in South Wales is on October 12 in Cardiff’s Norwegian Church Arts Centre at 11, and has been organised by Michael O’Brien (one of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three) to coincide with the murder 35 years ago of the Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders, for which he was wrongly incarcerated, before his innocence was established.
This followed a programme Mr Parry had made for the BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) television current affairs series, Week In, Week Out (WIWO).
Mr O’Brien, has been severely affected by being imprisoned for 11 years for something he didn’t do, and appears on MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris is a FURTHER 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 (SWP wouldn’t do one with Mr Parry), ACC Thorne, made a startling admission.
He accepted: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong. 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”.
Despite what ACC Thorne says, the list of those miscarriages is extremely long, and on it is The Cardiff Three, The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones, as well as Annette Hewins, but this does NOT include all those who were jailed wrongly for less important crimes than murder, yet who now have a record which will affect them for the rest of their lives.
However critics of the SWP Clydach murders investigation should be ‘patient’, according to ACC Thorne, while another force looked into what has happened.
As Mr O’Brien might put it, the media conference in the Autumn, too, could be SWP’s “worst nightmare”, because it will put centre stage all the miscarriage of justice cases it has been responsible for, and the lives that have been ruined as a result…
The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (including some of the miscarriages of justice he has uncovered) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – why the commentary style of controversial pundit and television chat show host, Jonathan ‘Jiffy‘ Davies, has again been condemned on social media during a hugely important rugby league game, with one critic declaring he was Welsh but even HE found him a hard listen.