An admission by the new head of the biggest police force in the UK that people have been “let down”, puts centre stage again the failings of the largest one in Wales, as critics accuse it of abandoning dozens of families in THAT country, it has emerged.
Sir Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police (Met) Commissioner wrote in an open letter on LinkedIn: “I need to and want to hear from those we have let down..(we have been)..far too weak (in rooting out rogue officers)“.
But detractors of South Wales Police (SWP) say that Sir Mark need look no further than recent events in THIS force, because it has been responsible for a string of miscarriage of justice cases, and many people have been ‘let down’.
The list of the high-profile miscarriages in Wales includes, The Cardiff Three, The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones, as well as Annette Hewins, but this does NOT have on it all those who were convicted wrongly for less important crimes from the 1980s to the 2000s, but who now have a record which will affect them for the rest of their lives. There are mounting calls to scrap SWP altogether.
One of those jailed wrongly during this time, says comments by the head of the Met (which has been put in ‘special measures’ because of ineptitude), should be applied to SWP too. Mike O’Brien (one of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three) said: “Due to the number of scandals in relation to South Wales Police, they too should be put in special measures, because of the number of miscarriages of justice, followed by a full judicial inquiry, and lots of innocent people, as well as their families, have been let down here”.
Mr O’Brien has organised a Media Conference (MC) to be held next month to press for that inquiry. He wants an official investigation into the actions of SWP (and others) recently, because of the number of miscarriages. The MC about what took place in South Wales is on October 12 in Cardiff’s Norwegian Church Arts Centre at 11 am, and has been organised by Mr O’Brien to coincide with the murder 35 years ago of a newsagent in the city, called Phillip Saunders, for which he was wrongly jailed, before his innocence was established.
During the 1990s our Editor, Phil Parry, was regularly approached by solicitors saying that bad things were happening in South Wales, and that something had to be done. He will also be appearing at the MC, and several television programmes have been made looking at what has occurred in Wales.
Adding to the woes of SWP is that a corrupt former head of CID has been jailed. A highly complex sting operation trapped former Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, which involved the bugging of cars, and deploying of decoy ‘clients’ who made out that they wanted to pay for information.
It led Mr Jones, who is now 63, to admit 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. The lengthy operation, called Operation Boost, culminated with the once-lauded police officer being jailed for 18 months.
The former top detective admitted at Bristol Crown Court, conspiracy to commit wilful misconduct in a public office and conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The judge Simon Darwall-Smith said: “For a person of your age and former seniority, retiring at the rank of detective chief superintendent, it saddens this court to see how you conspired with your friends…because you knew they were prepared to break the law to access information.
“This lack of moral fibre on your part goes to the root of the corrupt culture existing in parts of the force. The public would be justifiably outraged if you didn’t receive an immediate custodial sentence.”
But even before this imprisonment emerged, there were major issues for SWP, because earlier this year, another television programme was broadcast examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail. The promotional material for it, declared: “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”.
Sky documentaries were also transmitted earlier this year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into the appalling Clydach murders in 1999, which is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case, although the man convicted of them (David ‘Dai’ Morris) died last year still protesting his innocence. They have been nominated for two BAFTA Cymru awards, including best Factual Series.
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”.
A long-running campaign has been launched to establish Mr Morris’s innocence, and after the first trial when he was convicted, his sister Debra gave an emotional press conference with her parents where she stressed that her brother was NOT guilty.
She said: “He just didn’t do these things…they’ve got the wrong man”.
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, in the Clydach case (when four members of the same family were killed).
It was found by the review that these traces 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 ACC Thorne acknowledged: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong (in the earlier cases). 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”.
Phil, though, had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the Clydach Murders three years after they had been committed, and he was the first to question the police actions during the investigation of this case 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, but 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 SWP.
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”. However events before the murders, have shown that SWP did 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 two of 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.
MITV on Sky, was made by the production company ‘Five Mile Films’, and the four programmes have been nominated for the awards at next month’s BAFTA Cymru ceremony.
However there are unlikely to be any awards for SWP, even if the head of another force now says he wants to hear from people who have been “let down”…
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, though, was refused, because it was to have included names.