- A final episode of Howard’s way? - 21st March 2023
- From Russia with truth part two - 21st March 2023
- Justice of the peace - 20th March 2023
After 23 years with the BBC, and 38 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), here our Editor Phil Parry looks at the fine line he encountered, between humour and drama, as a four-part documentary series continues transmission about a case he examined during his years in television.
In the past he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
Earlier he disclosed why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis.
In times of great drama, there is often a strange kind of humour.
For example, I remember when I was filming once, I looked at my producer because we had absolutely NOTHING in the can, and she showed fear in her eyes.
I realised I looked exactly the same way!
This was, of course, actually a very serious moment, as we had a regular transmission slot looming, and unless we filmed SOMETHING, it would be TOTALLY empty!
But we were both so tired, we burst into hysterical laughter…
In fact, believe it or not, filming is actually VERY tiring, and I found there was often hysteria because of it!
On another occasion, again at a time of extreme drama, when I talked to a senior police officer, many years ago as a cub reporter, he managed to conflate the words “insinuate” and “innuendos”, saying magnificently: “Now don’t you be giving me any of your insinuendos”!
It was difficult to keep a straight face at this one…
I was reminded of this fundamental fact during broadcast of SKY documentary films on now, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), which re-examine a notorious murder case in Clydach near Swansea, in which two children, their mother and elderly disabled grandmother, were battered to death in 1999.
They were on SKY Crime and SKY Showcase; with all four episodes available as a ‘box-set’ on NOW TV, and the films have been written about extensively.
They centred on the biggest, and most controversial, murder investigation ever mounted by South Wales Police (SWP), and ever since, there have been lingering doubts concerning the guilt of the man who was eventually convicted for committing the terrible crimes, David (‘Dai’) Morris.
I made a BBC Panorama programme about the case 20 years ago, and we were the first to question the conviction. Film-makers relied on that Panorama heavily for the four part SKY series on it, another episode of which was transmitted last night.
After many weeks in which we read ALL the statements given to police, during the original Panorama, we secretly filmed one of the key police players in the investigation, Inspector (at the time) Stuart Lewis, in an office where some chairs were below a window, and others set against a wall facing that window.
For the filming I hared up the stairs to where I knew the meeting would be, before Lewis (this was long before I was gripped by my disability, HSP, I couldn’t do it now), so that I was able to sit in a chair with my back to the window, and he would be forced then to sit in a chair against the wall, with the light on him, because I knew that otherwise our shot would be RUINED!
The small secret camera I wore also became incredibly hot during the affair, so I must have looked a bit weird scratching my shirt all the time…
Looking back on it, all of this was, again, a HILARIOUS incident!
This was included in MITV, but featured, too, is the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) who was in charge of the case at the time, Detective Superintendent (DS) (Retd.) Martyn Lloyd Evans, who we didn’t even bother approaching for an interview in our original BBC Panorama, because we knew he’d say ‘no’. In fact SWP refused altogether to do a formal interview for us then!
It reminded me of how I used to spend most of my time, when I was in television, not engaged in journalistic pursuits at all, but in persuading people to go on camera. It is MUCH easier when they are retired!
For MITV, Mr Evans talks about a highly credible witness who had seen someone wearing a black bomber jacket, (which looked like a police coat, and she had even pointed out a similar one in the room where she was being questioned), near the murder scene in the small hours of the night in question, under a lamppost, and she gave a statement to officers, from which an ‘e-fit’ was constructed. The police report which was shown in the MITV documentary films (as well as in my BBC Panorama programme), said it had a ’90 per cent’ chance of likeness.
The witness studied the man closely, (because as I said on MITV she fancied him) and he looked directly back at her. This e-fit, however, was NEVER released to the public.
During MITV, Mr Evans is questioned about this apparent mistake, and he replies that because the man was carrying a bag, and it was believed the killer had not had one it was not put out. He said: “I didn’t think it was relevant”.
Yet the e-fit matched almost exactly the face of the first senior police officer on the scene, Lewis, who had stayed there a matter of minutes, or that of his identical twin brother (another police officer, Sergeant (again, 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 awful 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’.
So to say the e-fit which closely resembled him (or his identical twin brother) was not released to the public because it wasn’t ‘relevant’, was so absurd, it was actually FUNNY.
During the interview for MITV, Mr Evans used, as well, the word “sublime”, but clearly meant “subdued”!
Once more, this was HILARIOUS, and I thought I must have misheard. But no – when I played it back, there it was as clear as a bell!
This means that the man leading the biggest murder hunt in SWP history, even got his words muddled up.
Another moment that was so ridiculous it was comical, came when Mr Evans declared that not everybody who was aggrieved about his or her partner having an affair would go on to murder an entire family, implying that it was no motive at all.
But he appeared to think it was a far safer motive for someone who had been rebuffed in a sexual advance by a woman in her 30s, to then murder an entire family, which was the prosecution case against Morris (a killing spree, during which it has been established that the elderly disabled grandmother was killed FIRST, when presumably if a person wanting sex had been rejected, then the individual doing the rejecting would be the first to die!).
Again, this was such NONSENSE, that it was actually laughable!
In the MITV films Mr Evans’ boss as head of CID, Wynne Phillips, also said something so extraordinary, that again I found it amusing: “We can’t manufacture evidence”.
But events before the murders, showed that SWP have done EXACTLY that!
The list of the controversies the force faced in the past, is endless (some of which I have uncovered), and it includes The Cardiff Three, The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, The Tooze Murders, as well as The Annette Hewins Case.
To take just one of these cases in which I was intimately involved (because I made ANOTHER programme questioning the conviction [The Cardiff Newsagent Three]), the police had MANUFACTURED an overheard ‘confession’ during which the young men had effectively admitted to the murder of the newsagent, and they presented before the court ‘evidence’ that the group had run from the scene.
Yet apart from casting serious doubt on the supposed ‘confession’, we had also discovered medical records that showed a key member of the gang, had bad legs, and couldn’t run at all!
Michael O’Brien (one of The Cardiff Newsagent Three) was imprisoned wrongly for 11 years, and appears in MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Morris (who has now died in prison, still protesting his innocence) is another miscarriage of justice case.
He wasn’t laughing.
But I was…
Tomorrow – we show, unamused, how confirmation in the UK media that taxpayers could have to pay as much as £1 billion in compensation after hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly pursued through the courts by the Post Office (PO) in the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, highlights again a bizarre affair at football’s governing body in Wales.
The memories of Phil’s astonishing, decades long award-winning career in journalism (when secret recordings were used regularly in investigations) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disease 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