Here our Editor Phil Parry looks at the vital role of legal rules for all journalists, as well as where the law falls down.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking 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 Wales 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.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the current coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown is playing havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
For any investigative journalist the law is sacrosanct.
As a reporter of almost 38 years (during which time I have covered innumerable court cases, prosecuted legal actions myself, and been defended in them) I know this salient fact only too well.
There are occasions, however, when the law is, to use a well-known phrase, an ass, and then all you can do is lay out the facts to let the reader make up his or her own mind.
Crooked Welshman Howard Williams who changed his name to James Daniels and has defrauded countless innocent people of their life savings, is a case in point.
The first jail sentence for Williams/Daniels was handed down at Cardiff Crown Court on December 22 2005 and was for four months imprisonment.
During it, part of one Christmas Day was spent outside the wallis of Cardiff prison by his parents, in order to be close to their son inside. His father Bill Williams said to me that they wanted, “…to be near” him.
Within 9 months of the release of Williams/Daniels, on November 21 2006, it was reported that a burglary had taken place at the home of Bill and his wife Sonia Williams, where valuables including £50,000 worth of jewellery had been taken.
On July 25 2012 Williams/Daniels was jailed for four years. Some months after his release a damaging fire took place at the home of his parents, in Treharris to the south of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.
There is no EVIDENCE that either the fire or the burglary have anything to do with him (no witness or picture) but these dates are intriguing.
As has been demonstrated here, it is clear that the law has played a significant role, too, in the life of Williams/Daniels, although in a different way to the one in mine.
His father, Mr Williams Snr, ran a sofa business in South Wales, and described his son to me as a “complete crook”, and has posted on Facebook (FB) that he and his wife (Sonia) knew of their son’s past and on occasions did not like him, although always loved him. He said: “…we know his wrongs often we felt he was a little xxxxx but whatever we allways (sic) love him, often we did,nt like him but we always have and always will love him…”. Mr Williams Snr, has also told me how he was called by the police to Clifton suspension bridge where his son was threatening to commit suicide.
Meanwhile it is obvious that the activities of that prisoner, Williams/Daniels, have harmed a huge number of families, with many losing large amounts of money to him, and The Eye have been inundated with messages from distressed people. Journalists on the website have shown that recently Williams/Daniels ‘ran’ a ‘restaurant’ called Billy’s Diner at Porth in the Rhondda, and had a correspondence address in Cardiff, which was offering deliveries during the lockdown, but it appears that customers to it have been duped. One angry client said on FB the food took an hour and 20 minutes to arrive, while another declared:“I ordered a hot dog for myself, with salad and cheese, I opened the box and had one leaf of lettuce and roughly 5 grated bits of cheese, fair to say I had about two bites of it…My daughter had a chicken burger, not too much of a problem with that however had a stringy texture on the chicken, and felt undercooked, fair to say nearly everything went in the bin”. Meat there was served raw, has been condemned as ‘disgusting’, and it has been stated on FB that Trading Standards would be contacted.
One person close to Williams/Daniels told me: “He has sucked everyone in. He owes some staff and the landlords lots of money who haven’t been paid at all. He’s using the name James Daniels and Alfie Elkins and (a) cafe (he opened) was called ALFIE’S in Roath (Cardiff). Another cafe (he opened) was called Alfie’s in Tonypandy, then he opened Scoops in Pontyclun.”
The reviews of his ‘restaurant’ ‘businesses’ (which switched to takeaways during the lockdown) were not good and it appeared he was taking orders but not sending out food. One critical comment read: “We didn’t receive the BBQ Chicken Wrap in the order. We have tried to ring twice but no answer”. Williams/Daniels moved to Murcia in Spain, changed his name to James Daniels, and has in the past posed as an ‘Estate Agent’, but his ‘businesses’ have been mainly in the cafe or restaurant trades, yet when he ran ‘Crave Desserts’ in Merthyr Tydfil staff said on FB they had to “beg” for money, and that it was “absolutely disgusting”.
The Eye have also been contacted by one of the drivers for this cafe who offered extremely disturbing information. He said: “He (Williams/Daniels) not paying me for the work I did for him and he also not paying the other drivers. Thank god I read your report on him, it save me money and bother. The guy is a joke. I’m now £200 out of pocket, but it could be worst (sic)”.
A recent text message about the latest escapades of Williams/Daniels said that he has: “…taken everything out AGAIN not paid the staff Owes one of the girls £500 locked up and empty”. Earlier a ‘Crave Desserts’ staff member warned others on FB: “Nobody work for Crave desserts in Merthyr town, haven’t paid some of their staff for weeks, delivery drivers and kitchen staff, always says it will be in on Friday or Tuesday and I’m still waiting 5 weeks on along with others who worked there. Always got to beg for your money, Absolutely disgusting, you work the hours and expect to be paid! They have blocked me from their page and ain’t answering my messages, fuming!
The Eye understand, too, that Williams/Daniels has a new partner, although it was shown how two years ago he announced on social media his engagement to another woman called Danni (or Danielle) Greer while he was still married to a third person.
The website’s journalists have disclosed too that Williams/Daniels had opened a tanning studio in Cardiff, although like many of his past ‘businesses’ this one also soon met trouble.
Williams/Daniels has admitted to being imprisoned, but described it in a FB post as a “short while”, when his convictions in fact total years. He claimed: “…when I was younger I did spend a short while in prison for fraud in the UK”, and adds: “Stand up to the liars (and) haters…”.
But Williams/Daniels himself is a liar and hater. Apart from, over 10 years, spending more than four in prison convicted of 25 deception counts, he has been made bankrupt three times – in 2002, 2010 and 2015.
When in one of his previous ‘careers’ he conned people into thinking he was an ‘Estate Agent’, the anger of an individual was clear on a property website: “He (Williams/Daniels) makes you pay circa £10k deposit and then disappears into the sunset”. At a property event in the South of England, The Eye were told that an investor had lost £30,000 to him. His extraordinary exploits have even been the subject of the website’s satirical writer Edwin Phillips and Williams/Daniels has boasted of owning a boat as well as a jetski, which he has said on FB was for sale.
He has posted a YouTube interview on his property website where he brags about his property ‘expertise’. He claims he had a “massive” estate agency business, but went from earning £20,000 a week to having just £56 in his pocket and living on the streets. Williams/Daniels also alleges he has driven expensive cars, and said in the interview that it took just “24 hours” to turn the £56 into £1,000, yet some critics have questioned how much of this is true. One who is owed thousands of pounds by Williams/Daniels told me: “This is all made up. He lives in a complete fantasy world!”.
Williams/Daniels has also been in charge of marketing for a Spanish wine bar called ‘Blanco’ in Murcia, and he announced his engagement to Ms Greer on the bar’s website, where the ‘liar’ post was published as well. But The Eye have divulged how over one Christmas and New Year, he warned customers on social media that they could no longer accept credit cards at Blanco, even though these periods are the busiest times of year for restaurants and it is almost unheard of for them only to take cash then.
He also ran dance nights at a disco in Spain called ‘Roldan’ but it closed soon after The Eye’s disclosures. Following them, Williams/Daniels asked a specialist company how to “get rid” of the “negative” stories about him on the internet. He wrote: “When I google James daniels spain or James Daniels property or James Daniels murcia a load of website links appear for the-eye.wales which are negative reviews and not true(The Eye – nothing is untrue). How do I get rid of these an(d) how much does it cost? Also how long does it take?”.
Williams/Daniels had his legs broken when an illegal drugs deal soured, and it has also been revealed on The Eye, how formerly he had teamed up with another ex-criminal from South Wales, who was put behind bars for drug offences, to start a ‘charity’. He launched the ‘Crisis Housing Charity’ and asked for donations from the public in a venture designed ostensibly to help ex-convicts find homes. The ‘charity’ gave an address in Cardiff but does not now exist.
There is, however, mounting consternation that only The Eye have covered the exploits of Williams/Daniels. One who knows him well, told the website: “I was totally ignored when I emailed (the mainstream media) back last year, I was so hopeful when it was the Spanish national police after him. He was also wanted for identification fraud here. Turns my stomach just thinking of what he is doing. Evil man”.
I have personally been subjected to a torrent of abuse on social media from Williams/Daniels and his supporters, following discoveries by The Eye’s journalists. My friends, wife and children, have been too.
In one tirade he wrote: “You write total lies about people (The Eye – we only report facts), bully to the point of harassment and suicide, and will not answer a direct email? This is not journalism this is a mixture of Phil Parry (The ex journalist) and (others) you are pure scum!!!!! Let it be publicly known that The Eye does NOT care about people it just lies to make fictitious stories up. BULLYING, LIES, MENTAL HEALTH ABUSE TO NAME BUT A FEW!!!!!”.
In another he said: “I am have contacted you (sic) numerous times before asking why you consistently, stalk, bully and harass me? … You so far have asked the following for comments:
Abuser (The Eye have never said Williams/Daniels is an abuser).
Sex Offender (The Eye have never said Williams/Daniels is a sex offender).
Drug user (The Eye have never said Williams/Daniels is a drug-user, just that he has dealt in illegal drugs).
Meanwhile his ex-business partner, Sam McManus (also known as ‘Georgeson’), has first-hand knowledge of his lies. He has admitted he too was conned by him and that Williams/Daniels was a ‘sick man’. Mr McManus explained how he was deceived along with everyone else, and told The Eye: “He (Williams/Daniels) has fooled many people and I can only be grateful that there are good investigative journalists like you guys who expose greedy people like him. It is embarrassing to admit that I am yet another victim of his greed”.
Williams/Daniels also said he performed at expensive property ‘seminars’ in upmarket hotels or golf clubs around South Wales where customers were duped once again. For £299 potential clients were tempted with a “Special Offer February Deal – Sourcing and rent to rent training weekend”. The ‘offer’ was removed from Williams/Daniels’ Facebook site, where he was known as ‘The Shoes’, soon afterwards, and when The Eye contacted one of the golf clubs, officials had no record of it taking place.
Among the many accusations on social media from Williams/Daniels to my family, is that we are pursuing a person suffering the strain of, as he puts it, “severe mental health illness” and cases of this are well known to me.
But luckily I also know the legal rules, and where the law fails – but it appears that Williams/Daniels does not…
Tomorrow – why members of a controversial Welsh independence organisation which has been torn apart by an internal civil war over transgenderism, have been accused of making another fear for his safety and that of his family, as well as his mental health.
Phil’s memories of his extraordinary decades long award-winning career in journalism (including exposing the activities of criminals) as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A Good Story’. Order the book now. The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!