At an astonishing media conference (MC) in Cardiff today, which was attended by The Eye, a full legal inquiry was demanded into Wales’s biggest police force, after details have been revealed of how it was responsible for a string of recent miscarriage of justice cases.
The list of those miscarriages includes: The Cardiff Three (Five), The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones (The Tooze Murders), as well as Annette Hewins. But this list does NOT have on it all those innocent people, who were convicted for 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 the organisation (South Wales Police [SWP]) completely.
Following the MC some then marched to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), and Welsh Government (WG) buildings to demand action.
The event was organised by one of those wrongly convicted (Mike O’Brien, of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three). Mr O’Brien 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.
Our Editor Phil Parry also spoke at the MC, when he told the audience of how he was regularly approached by solicitors during the 1990s, who said the police were doing bad things, and that something had to be done.
He also described how other forces had been put in ‘special measures’, but that this was the least that should be done with SWP, and there was now a growing number of calls to scrap the force altogether. Phil said in the MC that the opportunity should then be taken to create ONE police organisation covering Wales.
“It is ridiculous that in a population of 3.1 million people we have FOUR”, he told The Eye. “Scotland has a population twice that number, but only has one. Think of all the public money that is wasted duplicating resources, to pay fat salaries to all those Assistant Chief Constables, and Chief Constables!”.
Another who spoke emotionally of what had happened to him, was John Actie, one of the Cardiff 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 jailed (although FIVE were put on trial), when one WHITE man (Jeffrey Gafoor) was finally caught years later through DNA analysis. He confessed to carrying out the awful 1988 murder, and even apologised 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 at the scene minutes after the murder. But after 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 television programmes have been made looking at the events in which the police played such a major part, and a number are in production now. Earlier this year, another was broadcast examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail.
The promotional material before the programme, 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”.
Adding to the woes of SWP is that a corrupt former head of CID was recently 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 they wanted to pay for information.
It climaxed in Mr Jones, who is now 63, 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.
The lengthy investigation, called Operation Boost, led to the once-lauded police officer being jailed for 18 months. Mr Jones confessed to conspiracy to commit wilful misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, at Bristol Crown Court in December 2008.
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.”
Sky documentaries were also broadcast earlier this year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into the horrific Clydach murders in 1999.
This, too, was highlighted by today’s MC, despite the fact it 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 were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony last weekend, including one for best Factual Series.
Mr O’Brien 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”.
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 press conference with her parents when she stressed that he was not guilty. She said: “He just didn’t do these things…they’ve got the wrong man”.
However, ACC Thorne 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”.
Yet Phil had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the shocking Clydach Murders three 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) 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 a FURTHER 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.
Today the evidence of an MC, puts further pressure on the police after it has emerged there was a staggering number of miscarriage of justice cases in Wales…
The memories of Phil’s incredible 39-year award-winning career in journalism (including important miscarriage of justice stories), as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition , Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.