A remarkable admission from the largest police force in Wales, that their prosecution was “flawed” 70 years after the execution of a Cardiff man following a wrongful murder conviction, highlights how a legal inquiry is now being demanded into the emergency of the same force’s actions in the wake of a series of miscarriages more recently.
In one of them (the so-called ‘Cardiff Newsagent Three) a Welshman who spent 11 years behind bars (along with two others), after being wrongly convicted of murder (Mike O’Brien) told The Eye exclusively: “This is appalling. They say it was ‘a flawed prosecution, of which policing was clearly a part’, but that applies in my case too.
“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. However South Wales Police (SWP) are today contrite, as they confess to their part in a scandal many years before that.
Mahmoud/Mahmood Mattan, a British Somali and former seaman, was hanged in 1952 after he was convicted of killing a shopkeeper in her Cardiff store, and SWP have said sorry for what they did.
Mr Mattan was the last man to be hanged in Wales.
The organisation’s Chief Constable, Jeremy Vaughan, has stated: “There is no doubt that Mahmood Mattan was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
“It is right and proper that an apology is made on behalf of policing for what went so badly wrong in this case 70 years ago and for the terrible suffering of Mr Mattan’s family and all those affected by this tragedy for many years”.
Yet a Media Conference (MC) is to be held next week demanding an inquiry into the activities of SWP (as well as others) just a few years ago.
In one of their recent actions – a miscarriage of justice case for which SWP were responsible – three BLACK men were 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 of Lynette White, and even apologised to the others who had been incorrectly jailed.
Yet it appears that in 2022, racism and bias are now very much at the forefront of minds in SWP.
Mr Vaughan added about the 70 year old Mattan case: “This is a case very much of its time – racism, bias and prejudice would have been prevalent throughout society, including the criminal justice sys
He may look askance at the MC about what took place more recently with his force at its heart, when black men were wrongly jailed.
It is on October 12 in Cardiff’s Norwegian Church Arts Centre at 11 am, and has been organised by Mr O’Brien to coincide with the murder 35 years ago for which he was wrongly incarcerated, before his innocence was established.
Apart from the police investigation which culminated in his jailing, the list of other murder miscarriages in the last few years includes; The Cardiff Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones, 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 now a growing argument for scrapping SWP altogether.
During the 1990s our Editor, Phil Parry, was regularly approached by solicitors saying that bad things were happening in South Wales, and that something had to be done.
Some of those who were falsely locked up will be speaking at the MC calling for the legal inquiry, including a person with a direct link to the terrible events surrounding the execution of Mr Mattan.
Tasha Grech, his granddaughter, is due to appear at the MC, giving her backing to the demands for an investigation of the police’s behaviour.
Also appearing, will be Paddy Hill, one of the ‘Birmingham Six’.
Academics and authors who have examined what happened in South Wales, are also due to speak, as well as politicians from different parties.
Phil will be talking too, and several television programmes have been made looking at the events of the last few years.
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.
“The public would be justifiably outraged if you didn’t receive an immediate custodial sentence.”
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”.
Sky documentaries were also broadcast earlier this year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into the horrific Clydach murders in 1999, which 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 have been nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony at the 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 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, and like his superior Mr Vaughan, he 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.
Now the evidence of concern is growing about the recent role of SWP, after they have finally admitted being wrong in a case more than 70 years ago…
The memories of Phil’s astonishing 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.