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Accusations of police failings, during inquiries following the fatal car crash in Cardiff, and revelations that both Gwent Police (GP) and South Wales Police (SWP). are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), have put centre stage earlier questionable actions by officers in Wales.
A friend of those who died, Tamzin Samuels, said: “I do think the police could have done a lot more in putting the helicopters out earlier. They only posted the appeal an hour before the girls were found. We found them before the police found them – we rang the police. The search party found the girls before the police found the girls. I think that speaks volumes really, they had all that equipment, and we had cars when we were looking.”
Eve Smith, Darcy Ross, and Rafel Jeanne, died after the Volkswagen Tiguan they were travelling in came off the A48(M) in the Welsh capital and crashed into trees. Sophie Russon, and Shane Loughlin, who were in the same vehicle, also suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital.
All five were reported missing following a night out, and were last seen in the Llanedeyrn area of Cardiff at around 2am on Saturday morning.
A vigil was held for the victims on Tuesday at the scene of the fatal crash, although many appear to be critical of the police’s behaviour, and the incident has caused a huge political storm.
A Plaid Cymru politician declared that the Welsh Government (WG) must not disregard public distress. Peredur Owen Griffiths MS, told the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) that there had been “a great deal of public distress” following the crash, and added: “It would be wrong to pre-empt any findings of…an investigation, but you cannot ignore the public disquiet from the families and the friends of the crash victims”.
Welsh Conservative (WC) leader Andrew RT Davies MS, asked whether any Welsh Government (WG) agencies, along with the police, would have been made aware of the missing people at the time. He said: “I understand, obviously, the referral to the police complaints authority, but this is a part of the trunk road agency – the A48 is, close to the M4 – when a missing persons alert is put out by the police, what agencies that the Welsh Government sponsor would be alerted to such a missing persons alert?”.
Ms Russon’s mother Anna Certowicz, has told the Daily Mail that police officers warned her to “stop ringing” the station for updates after reporting her daughter missing.
She said: “I had to drive to Cardiff to knock on doors myself because they were doing sod all. They just didn’t seem to think it was worth investigating. It was so frustrating”.
The IOPC has said: “After careful assessment of referrals from Gwent Police and South Wales Police, we have decided to independently investigate how police responded to the missing person reports.
“We will be examining what information police had, the grading given to any risk assessments, and the steps taken by police to locate the missing people prior to the Volkswagen Tiguan being found just after midnight on Monday. We will also consider what communication took place between the two forces, and whether police action was appropriate and followed relevant policy and procedures”.
Some critics have even raised the possibility that the young people may have survived if the car had been found earlier.
Police issued a public appeal for help on Sunday night at 11pm – more than a day after the first missing person’s report was made.
But these worrying disclosures are not the first time Welsh police forces have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Ex-SWP Sergeant David Meller was banned from the force, after he was found to have used inappropriate language and behaviour towards female colleagues, as well as a teenage detainee in the custody suite. He swore at a 15 year old girl and used sexual references to women in front of her. After the official disciplinary hearing which followed, officialese language was used by SWP to describe what had happened: ‘Mr Meller had breached the standards of professional behaviour, namely authority, respect and courtesy, showed discreditable conduct, and failed to challenge inappropriate behaviour’. He was to be added to the ‘Barring List’, preventing him from returning to the profession.
A police watchdog is also looking into contentions of racism and misogyny in another force – GP – as well as homophobia. The IOPC has said that the behaviour of three serving GP officers is being examined, and it would keep the involvement of other officers under review.
It’s alleged that they had sent messages, first reported by the Sunday Times (ST), showing evidence of corruption within the force. Underneath the headline “The Toxic Blue Line”, it was published about GP: “There are industrial levels of abuse, racism and potential corruption”. Officers made sick, so-called, ‘jokes’. The paper said that phone records show they had ‘joked’ about sending Jimmy Savile to rescue Thai schoolboys trapped in a cave, and swapped nude pictures of a female footballer. It said there had been “exposed a toxic culture of corruption, racism (and) homophobia in Gwent police force”.
Mr Davies also showed great concern about THIS affair, too. He wrote to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, asking her to intervene at GP, and has proclaimed that he fears there is deep “rot” in the force. But condemnation has come from all sides of politics, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats (WLD) have queried whether the Welsh Labour (WL) Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, should remain in post.
However these extraordinary disclosures also highlight other alarming incidents at GP’s neighbouring force, (SWP), which add to the outrage following the Meller affair, as well as the fury after the crash deaths.
There has been a string of miscarriage of justice cases on its watch, and a Media Conference (MC), was held last year (at which our Editor, Phil Parry, spoke) calling for a judicial inquiry to uncover the truth about what happened (which has now been refused).
Following the MC some then marched to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), and Welsh Government (WG) buildings to demand action, with several senior politicians backing a Statement of Opinion to support the calls for an inquiry.
These actions underscored demands for the legal investigation into the number of miscarriages in the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s including: The Cardiff Three (Five), The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones (The Tooze Murders), as well as Annette Hewins.
Yet this shameful list does NOT have on it all those innocent people, who were convicted of less important crimes, but 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 told The Eye. “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 one of those wrongly convicted after a flawed investigation by its officers, (Mike O’Brien, of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three). Mr O’Brien 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 earlier: “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 Mr 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. Earlier last year, another was transmitted examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail.
The promotional material before it, 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 FoI revelations of alleged racism as well as the questions after the appalling crash at the weekend, 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.
Sky documentaries were also broadcast earlier last year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into a FURTHER CASE – 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, was highlighted by the MC, as well as by the 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 a 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 stated: “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) Mr 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.
Perhaps a further programme will be made about the police now after the charges that officers were inept during investigations following a fatal car crash, and revelations that the two forces involved have referred themselves for investigation, or possibly it would be a transmission concerning their earlier actions in Wales…
Details of stories like these, after 23 years with the BBC, and 39 years in journalism, by our Editor Phil Parry 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!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.