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Shocking news that shoplifting offences recorded by the police in Wales and England have risen to the highest level in 20 years, with almost 250,000 unsolved cases, and most going unregistered anyway, once again highlights failings by the biggest force in Wales, South Wales Police (SWP), amid growing concern that the small country has FOUR forces.

People have tried to take on the shoplifters themselves

More than 430,000 offences were recorded last year – up by more than a third on the previous 12 months to December 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – yet most of the cases were unsolved so did not feature in the records at all.

This is the highest figure since current police records began in 2003, but organisations representing retailers say they represent a tiny fraction of the true number of incidents.

Demonstrators want a legal inquiry – and more action is planned

To other critics, police behaviour has also been highly questionable in different areas – with miscarriages of justice cases top of the list.

Among the high-profile ones involving SWP are: The Cardiff Three (Five), The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones (The Tooze Murders), as well as Annette Hewins (The Gurnos Fire Case). More action is planned by The Cardiff Five support group over the coming weeks, to draw attention to these cases.

However this shameful list does NOT have on it all those innocent people, who were convicted of less important crimes than murder, 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.

Mandy Power, her two daughters Katie and Emily, along with disabled mother Doris Dawson, were all beaten to death

Important questions have been raised, too, about police actions in the terrible Clydach Murders case, although officers insist that this is NOT a miscarriage of justice, despite the family of the man convicted of them declaring that he is innocent. A major campaign with website has been launched in his support.

In this awful case four people (Mandy Power her elderly disabled mother Doris, and two young children) were brutally beaten to death in 1999. Documentaries about the appalling incident on Sky were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series. Following a police investigation which lasted for a year after the murders, David ‘Dai’ Morris was convicted of them (after TWO separate trials), but died in prison saying he was not guilty.

The Cardiff Three. Three black men were convicted of murder (although FIVE were put on trial), but one white man actually did it

Other cases, though, definitely WERE miscarriages of justice.

For example, Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi, and Stephen Miller were falsely found guilty in 1990 of the murder of Lynette White, and spent more than two years serving prison sentences having endured the same time on remand, while cousins John and Ronnie Actie were acquitted after being in custody since their arrests. Inaccurate 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. It exposes the failings by SWP investigating officers, and bolsters demands for a judicial inquiry.

Cardiff newsagent, Phillip Saunders, and one of the three people wrongly convicted of his murder, Mike O’Brien

Three BLACK men had been convicted of the murder (although FIVE, including the Acties, were put on trial), when one WHITE man (Jeffrey Gafoor) was finally caught years later through DNA analysis. He confessed to carrying out the horrendous 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 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.

Andy Cooke said things need to change in the police

There are now growing demands for a full legal investigation into the number of high-profile miscarriages in the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s. All of this and, now, the shoplifting figures, has endorsed the alarming fact that across Wales and England the public’s confidence in the police is at an all time low. A YouGov poll found that only 49 per cent of Britons thought the police were “doing a good job”, down from 77 per cent four years ago. In his most recent assessment of policing, Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC), described this as one of policing’s “biggest crises in living memory”. He could not remember, he said, “when the relationship between the police and the public was more strained than it is now”.

Liz Saville-Roberts, MP, leader of Plaid Cymru in the House of Commons, tabled the motion highlighting miscarriages by South Wales Police which called for a judicial inquiry

Anger over the miscarriages of justices, has led to the tabling of an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the UK Parliament which was signed by several MPs, emphasising growing calls for a judicial review.

It proclaimed: “…this House notes the series of cases since the 1980s investigated by South Wales Police force that resulted in wrongful convictions; further notes the devastating impact that wrongful accusation and imprisonment can have on people subject to miscarriages of justice; expresses concern that many of the perpetrators of these crimes have yet to be found; and calls on the Ministry of Justice to organise a judicial inquiry into all miscarriages of justice that took place between 1982 and 2016”. The motion was immediately signed by three Plaid Cymru (Plaid) MPs, including the party’s leader in the House of Commons (HoC), who tabled the motion, Liz Saville-Roberts.

Phil with Mike O’Brien, one of those wrongly convicted after a flawed police investigation, at the Media Conference calling for an inquiry into the actions of South Wales Police

Media Conference (MC), was held too (at which our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry, spoke) also demanding the judicial inquiry to uncover the truth about the miscarriages (it has since been refused, but as the EDM and the shoplifting figures show, there is now increasing pressure to hold one).

Following the MC some then marched to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd (WP/S), and Welsh Government (WG) buildings, with a number of politicians backing a Statement of Opinion to back the calls for an inquiry. A rally was held as well outside Cardiff Crown Court.

Wales has FOUR police forces, in a population of 3.1 million!

At the MC Phil stressed the disturbing fact that areas with a greater population, have FEWER police forces.

“It is ridiculous that in a population of 3.1 million people we in Wales have FOUR forces, he said: “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!”.

He 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’, but that this was the least that should be done with SWP.

On the case!

The MC was organised by Mr O’Brien, who talked movingly about how his health had been badly affected, after he spent 11 years inside prison for a crime he did not commit. Mr O’Brien told The Eye: “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.

Lots of programmes have been broadcast looking into the behaviour of the police in South Wales

Several programmes have been broadcast looking at the events (including the ones on Sky) in which the police played such a major part, and a number are in production now.

The promotional material before one of them, 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”.

Figures reveal what happened

The shoplifting figures have once more underlined recent events despite the fact one of them is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case.

The successful prosecution against Mr Morris was that he had gone to Ms Power’s looking for sex, high on drink and drugs, been spurned and beat the entire family to death, leaving his chain there in the process. Yet the evidence suggested Doris had been killed first, NOT her daughter, when presumably it would have been the person doing the spurning who would have died FIRST!

Mike O’Brien on the Sky programme Murder In The Valleys said he would be South Wales Police’s worst nightmare

Mr O’Brien appears on the Sky programmes saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris IS in fact another miscarriage of justice. He told the 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.

Dai Morris’ sister, Debra (now Thomas) with parents after the first conviction: ‘They’ve got the wrong man’

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”.

David Thorne of South Wales Police on Sky’s ‘Murder in the Valleys’ – ‘We got it wrong, but this time we are right’

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”.

Phil Parry and former police inspector Stuart Lewis on BBC Panorama in 2003 which first questioned the way the police had behaved

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”.

During MITV, the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) at the time, Detective Superintendent (DS) (Retd.) of SWP Martyn Lloyd Evans (who used the word ‘sublime’ when he meant ‘subdued’!), 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.

Martyn Lloyd Evans on ‘Murder in the Valleys’, didn’t think an E-Fit was ‘relevant’

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).

Martyn Lloyd-Evans should look up what words mean!

Inspector Stuart Lewis, had changed his shift to be on that night, yet 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.

However Mr Evans’ record was considered so exemplary he was later chosen to examine cold cases in the Major Crime Review unit. In 2009, he said: “What we do is use today’s technology on yesterday’s cases which means that offenders who may think that they are safe 20 years after a crime has been committed aren’t any more and could receive a knock on the door any day”.

Wynne Phillips, formerly head of CID South Wales Police on ‘Murder in the Valleys’ – ‘We can’t manufacture evidence’

In the MITV films Mr Evans’ boss as the then head of SWP CIDWynne 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 television 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.

Sky’s ‘Murder in the Valleys’ showed how the Clydach case caused huge disquiet in the community, while suspects were questioned but released, and now there are calls to scrap South Wales Police altogether

Now there is more worrying evidence – that shoplifting offences recorded by the police in Wales and England are at record levels (although they are only a small minority of those actually committed), and it again shines the spotlight on behaviour by the largest force in Wales (SWP), which is one of four.

 

The memories of Phil’s remarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism (during which the mistakes of the police were often brought out) as he was gripped by the rare and incurable neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’ (including The Cardiff Newsagent Three case). Order the book now!

Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.

Tomorrow – how an extraordinary legal case which has been underway at the High Court in London concerns the alleged sending of poison pen letters, and seems to hark back to an earlier age, so Phil re-publishes a key story about them.