Appalling revelations that an officer in a UK police force allegedly “did not bother” to investigate properly Wayne Couzens over two incidents of flashing hours before he raped and murdered Sarah Everard, have shone the spotlight on huge failings by its sister service, South Wales Police (SWP).
At a misconduct hearing former PC Samantha Lee stood accused of conducting an “extremely poor” investigation after Couzens exposed himself to female staff at a drive-through McDonald’s in Kent on February 14 and 27 2021, a police disciplinary hearing was told.
Ms Lee reportedly had failed to secure the relevant CCTV footage when she attended the restaurant on March 3, hours before Couzens abducted Ms Everard in London.
It is alleged that her behaviour suggested “she was more intent in getting away quickly than in performing her duties properly”, the hearing was told.
Ms Lee, who was based in the South Area Command Unit, was also said to have lied and made “a bogus allegation” when questioned about her actions, claiming she believed that the CCTV at the restaurant deleted automatically. She denies gross misconduct and breaching the force’s standards.
Couzens is serving a whole-life term at HMP Frankland for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard.
But the furore over these reports has put centre stage misdeeds by SWP, and add to growing concern about shortcomings by the police in many forces.
The victim of one of a large number of miscarriages by SWP (Mike O’Brien of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three), has proclaimed on social media: “It’s not just the Met”.
An Early Day Motion (EDM) in the UK Parliament has been tabled and was signed by several MPs, emphasising mounting calls for a judicial review into the number of miscarriages SWP is responsible for.
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 our Editor, Phil Parry, 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 growing pressure to hold one).
Following the MC 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 is to be held on July 20 outside Cardiff Crown Court.
These actions underscored demands for the legal investigation into the number of high-profile miscarriages in the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, which the EDM now calls for too. 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.
Phil emphasised 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!”.
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 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. Mr O’Brien 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. He was accused of involvement in the murder of 20-year-old Lynette White, who was viciously killed in James Street in what is now known as Cardiff Bay. Three BLACK men had been convicted of the murder (although FIVE, including Mr Actie, 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 suspect seen nearby (who looked EXACTLY like Gafoor), minutes following the murder. But when SWP changed the investigating team, and pressure mounted to make an arrest, attention turned to locals. Despite no forensic evidence connecting the five to Ms White’s murder they were taken in.
Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi, 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.
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. Early last year, another was transmitted (although it is still available to be streamed) examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail.
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”.
Adding to the woes of SWP, and emphasising the EDM, is that a former head of CID was recently jailed. A highly complex sting operation trapped one time Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, which involved the bugging of cars, and deploying of decoy ‘clients’ who made out they wanted to pay for information. It climaxed in Mr Jones admitting to paying an ex-colleague to supply him with information from police databases, after he retired from SWP to run a private investigations agency in 1997.
Even before these terrible details emerged, 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.
This, too, has been put centre stage by the EDM, as well as recent reports of police actions, despite the fact it is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case, although the man convicted of them (David ‘Dai’ Morris) died in jail still protesting his innocence. They were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series.
Another television programme late last year, 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 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 his innocence, and after the first trial when Mr Morris 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 [The 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 there are more questions for the police to answer, after disclosures that an officer allegedly “did not bother” to investigate properly Couzens over accusations of flashing hours before he raped and murdered Ms Everard, shining the spotlight as it does on mistakes by SWP…
The memories of Phil’s extraordinary 39 year award-winning career in journalism (including stories like these) as he was gripped by the rare incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in the book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Soon on The Eye – how disturbing news that the police have still not learned from a “calamitous litany of failures” in one high-profile murder case (meaning this force in London could have missed other cases, according to a damning watchdog report), put centre stage some of these awful details, amid mounting concern that a country of only 3.1 million people has FOUR services.