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- Reading the riot act part one - 31st May 2023
A major demonstration is to be held calling for a judicial inquiry after the large number of miscarriage of justice cases by the biggest police force in Wales.
The protesters are due to meet this summer outside Cardiff Crown Court on the anniversary of the jailing of the Cardiff Newsagent Three – just one of the cases involved – following a flawed inquiry by South Wales Police (SWP).
A media conference (MC) was also held last year (at which The Eye’s Editor, Phil Parry, spoke) demanding justice, and a full legal inquiry was subsequently refused, but this is a sign that peace is unlikely to be restored soon.
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.
The organiser, Mike O’Brien (one of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three), spoke 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.
The press release publicising the event this year, states: “On Thursday 20th of July 2023 it will be 35 years to the day that The Cardiff Newsagent 3 were wrongly convicted by a Jury in Cardiff Crown Court. To mark this Anniversary and to continue our calls for a Judicial Inquiry into the Criminal Justice System. We will be holding a demonstration outside Cardiff Crown Court At 11.am.”
The miscarriages in the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s include: The Cardiff Three (Five), 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, 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.
At the MC highlighting what happened, Phil emphasised the disturbing fact that areas with a greater population, have FEWER police forces. He declared: “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 also 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.
As well as books, several radio and television programmes have been broadcast looking at the events in which the police played such a major part, and a number are in production now. 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”.
Mr O’Brien is also a staunch campaigner for David ‘Dai’ Morris who was convicted of the appalling Clydach murders. This is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case, although Morris died in prison still protesting his innocence.
One of the programmes looking at the case in general (Sky’s Murder in the Valleys [MITV]) were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series. 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 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”.
However another television programme late last year, on 5Star (which pretended to be looking into ‘cold cases’), 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. It originally launched as the female-orientated Five Life in October 2006, and was relaunched as Fiver in 2008 with a revised version of the same concept. The channel later re-branded as 5Star in 2011.
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 proclaimed 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 over 30,000 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????”.
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.
It is clear, though, that the issue of the number of miscarriages with SWP at their heart, IS going to run – and is only likely to end when a full judicial inquiry is granted.
Details of many of the miscarriage of justice cases, were reported during 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).
Some are included in the book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now! Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.