Cardiff killings

It seems like ages since I’ve done one of my indispensable Cardiff lists. So here, for some meaty holiday reading on the beach, is a grisly catalogue in alphabetical order of just a miniscule few of the city’s many murder victims.

NADINE ABURAS (1986-2014): Having met student Nadine on MuslimMatch.com, American control freak Sammy Almahri courted her for two years before travelling to Cardiff and strangling her to death in the Future Inn budget hotel in Hemingway Road down the Bay. He faked a suicide note, stole her car, drove to Heathrow and fled to Tanzania, but was eventually caught, extradited and sentenced to 17 years minimum.

ARTHUR ALLEN (1902-1940): In his Kent Street, Grangetown, lodgings George Roberts broke his friend’s skull with an iron bar then dumped his still-alive body in nearby Bradford Street, all for the sake of a few quid. Allen, home on leave from the navy, took two months to die in Cardiff Royal Infirmary. The charge of wounding was then upgraded to a charge of wilful murder and 29 year-old Roberts was promptly executed.

DORIS APPLETON (1903-1921): Lester Hamilton, a Jamaican marine fireman, shot his ex-girlfriend in the face when she answered the door of her house in Cwmdare Street, Cathays. He then went back out into the street and shot himself in the head. Doris died, but he didn’t. Paralysed down his left side, he had to be carried to the noose.

JULIAN BIROS (1891-1913): Spanish seaman Biros, one of thousands of casual labourers of no fixed abode looking for work in Cardiff docks, had a dagger plunged into his heart alongside Roath Dock by another labourer, Hugh McLaren. The men knew each other: they were among many who slept rough in the Crown Patent Fuel Works nearby and used an abandoned railway carriage as a kitchen (an area now occupied by the BBC’s Roath Lock studios). The argument had been about a packet of tea. Unrepentant McLaren was hanged in Cardiff jail’s execution chamber five months later.

HENRY BLATCHFORD (1836-1900): The retired Canton widower was blown away by a shotgun at point blank range by 16 year-old Tommy Sweetman in the back yard dairy at the Sweetman’s home in Conybeare Road, where Henry did odd jobs for Sweetman’s father. Bipolar, epileptic Tommy had previously been released from a mental asylum against the advice of his doctor – the mistake wasn’t made again.

COLIN BLOOMFIELD (1965-2000): Since it opened in 1832 HMP Cardiff has been the scene of myriad unimaginable horrors, few worse than the murder of Bloomfield by his cellmate Jason Ricketts. Prison officers entered the cell to find a blood-bath: Bloomfield had been strangled and his liver, spleen and left eye cut out with a specially sharpened toothbrush and a plastic spoon embedded with razor blades. This happened in the supposedly safe Vulnerable Prisoners Unit. Ricketts was sent to a secure psychiatric unit without time limit and the six officers who witnessed the nightmare scene were awarded a total of £1million in compensation for their trauma.

JOAN CANHAM (1932-1951): Office worker Joan was stabbed on the doorstep of her Gelligaer Street home in Cathays by rejected ex-boyfriend Donald Bowling from Percy Street in Grangetown. Despite the fact that he had bought a large sheath knife for this purpose earlier in the day, Bowling got off lightly with five years for manslaughter.

JEAN CHALLENGER (1924-1956): Newlywed Jean from Roath had cycled out to then rural Llanedeyrn and was blackberrying among the fruit-laden hedgerows of Peggy Giles Field on Llwyn-y-Grant farm (near today’s Park Inn on Circle Way East) when she was bludgeoned to death by an onslaught of powerful blows to the head. She was so disfigured her husband could only identify her body by the clothes. The finest brains in Cardiff City Police (founded in 1836, absorbed into South Wales Constabulary in 1969) never found the culprit.

JOYCE COX (1934-1939): Nobody was ever caught either for the sexual assault and murder of four year-old Joyce, found near Coryton station in the Cardiff Railway cutting. More than 75 years later, the police still refuse to release their files on the case because to do so would be “unfair” to a mystery suspect.  One can only presume he’s a VIP.

GLENYS DARLING (1951-1977): James Darling moved to Cardiff from Yorkshire with his new wife to take up a position as assistant verger at Llandaf Cathedral. The “committed Christian” killed her eight months later by dropping a plugged-in electric fan-heater into the water while she was taking a bath in their delightful grace-and-favour cottage on The Green. She was three months pregnant. Found guilty of murder, he did 12 years in prison before being released in 1990. In 1998 he committed suicide in a Halifax canal.

RHYS DAVIES (1991-2009): 17 year-old Rhys from Tredegar died of head injuries inflicted by a group of assailants outside Ladbrokes on St Mary Street. Investigations collapsed for lack of evidence, prompting the question: what then is the point of all those battalions of CCTV cameras that monitor every square inch of Cardiff city centre?

HONORA DUTCH (c1815-1865): Alcoholic Honora was kicked to death by her abusive husband John Dutch in the back yard of their tenement (demolished 1902) on Gray Lane, Canton. Neighbours who had come out to investigate the commotion stood and watched. Endorsing the then routine idea that a husband could do what he liked to his wife, the court was lenient. It was judged to be manslaughter and John Dutch got 10 years hard labour.

PHILIP EVANS (1645-1679) & JOHN LLOYD (c1640-1679): Before most public executions were moved to the exterior of Cardiff’s first purpose-built prison in St Mary Street in 1700, they used to take place at grim Cae Budr and Plwcca Halog fields on the outskirts of the town (today’s equally grim City Road/Albany Road/Richmond Road/Crwys Road/Mackintosh Place junction). Here was the scene of numberless barbaric lynchings – none more infamous than when these two harmless, gentle Catholic priests were hanged, drawn and quartered at the height of Catholic persecution in the reign of Charles II (1630-1685). Their skeletons and entrails were left to decompose on the gibbet for years – pour encourager les autres. They were canonised as martyrs by Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) in 1970.

HAROLD FISHER (1918-1972): Harold was stabbed to death and robbed in broad daylight outside the Avana Bakery in Pendyris Street (opened 1901, closed 2003, now student flats). His killer remains at large.

WINIFRED FORTT (1897-1917): Greek sailor Alex Bakerlis swung from the Cardiff scaffold in 1918 for his frenzied knifing of one of the daughters of the owner of the house in Bute Street where he lodged between ocean voyages. Impossibly jealous and possessive, 25-year-old Bakerlis killed Winifred on the Bute Street bridge over the Junction Canal (filled in 1964).

STEPHEN GILBERT (1894-1936): Mutilated beyond all recognition in the stockroom of his greengrocer’s shop on the Croft Street/Clive Place corner in Roath, Gilbert bled so extensively that it seeped through the floorboards and formed a pond in the cellar below. Investigations focused on his gambling and sexual predilections but drew a complete blank.

CARRIE GILMOUR (c1875-1907): Big-hearted Carrie Evans from Llanelli married badly, escaped to Mary Ann Street in Cardiff and slid into alcoholism and prostitution. A policeman on early morning patrol came across her lying in a pool of blood on West Canal Wharf, her face slashed and her windpipe severed, surrounded by her empty purse and a few pathetic halfpennies. Local residents had heard her screams in the night but went back to sleep. Psychopathic sailor Patrick Macdonald confessed the next day, was sentenced to life imprisonment and died behind bars in 1934.

MABEL HARPER (1890-1943): Beaten to death, sexually assaulted and strangled, Mabel was found on a grass verge by the side of Western Avenue near the Taff bridge. The case was a low priority in the flux and chaos of WW2, got lost in a pending tray and has not been subsequently solved.

GLADYS IBRAHIM (1897-1919) & AYSHA IBRAHIM (1919-1919) 23 year-old steamship fireman Thomas Caler from Zanzibar slit the throats of Gladys and her eight month-old baby daughter with a razor at Gladys’s Arab refreshment house in Tiger Bay’s Christina Street (demolished 1968). Post-mortem he raped Caerffili-born Gladys and stole a gramophone and cash. Despite being caught red-handed with a blood-soaked razor and the gramophone, Caler protested his innocence all the way to his appointment with the hangman.

SUSAN INGRAM (1831-1874): James Gibbs, Susan Ingram’s vain, womanising husband, was the butler at Llanrumney Hall, then the country estate of the Williams dynasty. He had abandoned her repeatedly in England, but the deluded woman kept coming back for more, making the fatal mistake of following him to Llanrumney. He beat her to pulp, cut her throat so deeply he almost severed her head and then chucked her in a ditch by Ball Farm (located where Weston Road and Worle Avenue would be built in the 1950s). Sobbing in his hood, Gibbs was hanged at Usk jail.

DAI LEWIS (c1890-1927): Ex-boxer, heavy drinker and small-time thug Dai paid the ultimate price for trying to muscle in on the lucrative protection racket the Rowlands gang operated at Ely racecourse: knifed to death outside the Blue Anchor in St Mary Street (now Sports Bunker). John Rowlands admitted manslaughter in self-defence (it was Lewis’s knife) but he, brother Edward and Danny Driscoll were all found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Then John went berserk in custody and was sent to Broadmoor for life while the two who didn’t do it were both hanged in 1928.

PETER LEWIS (1944-2012): William Jones from Adamsdown is currently serving a minimum of 22 years for the meaningless stabbing of Peter outside his flat in Claude Road, Roath. Tooled-up Jones encountered the vulnerable pensioner with learning difficulties while hunting down an ex-girlfriend.

RONALD LEWIS (1911-1947): The matey Morganstown railwayman drowned after being beaten unconscious and thrown in the Taff at Sophia Gardens one night. It’s another unsolved case.

THOMAS LEWIS (1818-1848): The knifing to death of Thomas Lewis of David Street by Irishman John Connors outside the newly-built St David’s Catholic church at the corner of Stanley Street and Whitmore Lane (Bute Terrace) unleashed a week of appalling violence in 1848 – Cardiff’s first race riot. 10,000 wretchedly poor Irish immigrants had recently been shipped to Cardiff by the Butes at the height of the Great Famine in order to work for peanuts building docks and railways on the cheap, thereby undercutting wages, depriving locals of employment and virtually overnight altering the entire culture, language and demography of the town. The exploited Irish were forced to live in indescribably overcrowded and filthy conditions and ravaged by cholera outbreaks – still a step up from starving in Connemara – and their exploitation was at the expense of the Welsh, driven to the workhouse or effectively turfed out of their home town. This was an old ploy: set Celt against Celt, worker against worker, divide and rule. It worked too: Cardiff has not had a Welsh-speaking majority, a pro-Wales majority, a radical majority or a high wage economy ever since. Connors was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, but suffered a fate worse than death: he was transported to the hell on earth of the Botany Bay penal colony and died in Australia. The Motorpoint Arena now covers the site of David Street, Stanley Street and the church.

MAUD MULHOLLAND (1894-1913): After shop assistant Maud of Theobald Road in Canton ended her relationship with the boy next door – needy, controlling, insurance agent Edward Bindon – he bought a revolver and shot her six times at point blank range in Denton Road one Sunday evening. Bindon gave himself in and at first acted cocky and satisfied. But the 20 year-old wasn’t so sanguine four months later when dragged weeping and whimpering to the prison gallows.

GERALDINE PALK (1964-1990): Shipping clerk Geraldine was found face down in an open culvert behind Fairwater Leisure Centre, yards from her home in Bracken Place. She had been violently raped, had sustained over 80 stab wounds and her skull had been crushed. A 12 year police investigation, including appeals and reconstructions on Crimewatch, got nowhere, but advances in forensic technology eventually solved the mystery when random DNA testing fingered Mark Hampson, doing time in Dartmoor for a separate offence. The sadist was jailed for life in 2002 and died in Wakefield prison in 2007.

DIC PENDERYN aka RICHARD LEWIS (1808-1831): The 1831 Merthyr Rising, in which at least 24 unarmed men, women and children were shot dead by British troops on the streets of the iron town during perfectly reasonable protests against wage cuts, oppression, evictions and starvation, was a pivotal moment in Welsh history. The rebels inflicted unprecedented defeats on the military over a week of heroic resistance, for the first time ever the red flag was raised as a symbol of revolt, and the events were central to the emergence of the Welsh working class. After the sheer might and shoot-on-sight policy of the British forces prevailed, the Whig government in London decreed that someone, anyone, should be hanged as an example. Almost at random young Dic Penderyn was hauled out of the crowds and chosen by the authorities. On trumped-up charges of wounding a soldier he was summarily tried, convicted and then publicly hanged outside the gaol in St Mary Street (today the site of the Central Market). Cardiff was chosen as the location for this state-sanctioned assassination because the compliant, conservative population could be relied on not to protest. In 1874 Welsh American Ieuan Parker, on his deathbed in Pennsylvania, confessed to a priest that it was he who had injured the soldier. Dic’s last words, “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” (O Lord, what an injustice), would make a fitting motto for the city. PS: my pen-name is an homage to him.

WILLIAM PERRY (1836-1873): Deranged Wharton Street pork butcher John Jones (real name Benjamin Swann from Wolverhampton) committed the ultimate crime in the now closed Westgate Hotel: he killed a cop. In the pub’s entrance lobby he plunged a fearsome cleaver deep into old acquaintance PC Perry of Heath Street in Riverside, and then did the same to himself. Perry died instantly on the Cowbridge Road pavement; Jones six days later in the Infirmary, tearing open his wounds and howling in agony.

PHILLIP SAUNDERS (1952-1987): Any faith in British justice and policing was tested to destruction after the gruesome murder of newsagent Phillip Saunders. He was ambushed late at night for the takings from his Wood Street kiosk and attacked so severely with a shovel in the back yard of his Anstee Court home in Canton that his skull shattered into innumerable fragments. The ‘Cardiff Newsagent Three’ (Darren Hall, Michael O’Brien and Ellis Sherwood) were wrongfully convicted of the murder in 1988 thanks to fabricated and suppressed evidence and spent nearly 11 years in prison before the convictions were quashed in 1999 after one of the longest and most celebrated of all miscarriage of justice campaigns. South Wales Police deigned to re-open the case in 2003 and eventually concluded in 2015 that there was “insufficient evidence” to charge anyone with the crime (a nicety that hadn’t mattered back in 1988). The police have paid out over £1 million in compensation to the three men for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, but have made no apology, accepted no liability or any wrongdoing and taken no action against any of the 40 officers involved in the case. O’Brien’s brilliant 2008 book The Death of Justice is essential reading.

MARGARET SENNETT (1945-1969): Single mother sex worker Margaret, who lived in Grangetown, was strangled, set alight and dumped in an outhouse at the back of St Mary’s church in Bute Street by screwed-up Royston Slater of Splott. Soon nabbed, he pleaded insanity and ended up in Rampton.

AAMIR SIDDIQI (1993-2010): Low-life thugs Jason Richards and Ben Hope both got a minimum sentence of 40 years for ferociously stabbing talented schoolboy Aamir to death when he answered a knock at the front door of his family home in Ninian Road, Roath. They had been paid £1000 each to carry out murder by Mohammed Ali Ege, but the thick junkie retards called at the wrong house and killed the wrong person. Ege fled to India and was arrested and awaiting extradition when he escaped from custody by climbing through a toilet window. He remains on the run.

PATRICIA SIMPSON (1943-1963): Patricia from Warrington in Cheshire lived in Adamsdown and plied her trade in the oldest profession on the streets of Tiger Bay. She was found seven miles north at the bottom of a 250ft deep disused mine shaft in Pentyrch, strangled with a chiffon scarf. For 40 years this was just another dead prostitute, another unsolved case, until a 73-year-old man in jail in Israel confessed, giving details only the murderer would know. He was not extradited or named and the case was closed.

KATHERINE SMITH (1991-2017): Having conned her into a meeting on the ‘dating’ website Plenty of Fish, repulsive Anthony Lowe, who had 142 previous offences, stabbed lonesome Katherine 33 times in her Heol Trelai flat in Caerau, stole her car and fled to Weston-Super-Mare, where he went straight back on the website looking for more sordid, exploitative fucks. He’s doing 18 years minimum so might be out by the time he’s 64.

HARRIET STACEY (1855-1904): Unstable, diseased Harriet from Hereford was found strangled and tied to her bed with a washing line in Saltmead (now Stafford) Road, Grangetown. Detectives were baffled by her secretive and complicated private life and whoever killed her got away with it.

DARREN THOMAS (1969-2014): HMP Cardiff has a maximum capacity of 800 yet permanently holds more than 1,000 inmates. That’s why Thomas, serving a 12-week sentence for breaching an Asbo, was made to share a cell with deranged arsonist Colin Capp, originally from Inverness. In the absence of alternatives, the menacing hulk in the middle of the city centre is required to lock up the poor, the addicted, the mentally ill, the illiterate and the plain unlucky as well as the genuinely criminal – and that’s why Capp got the chance to stab his cellmate in the neck 100 times with a ballpoint pen. He’s now a lifer.

DAVID THOMAS (c1840-1885): If a spur-of-the-moment murder is bad, how much worse is capital punishment; a calculated, cold-blooded, merciless murder by the state? A classic example of its insane inhumanity is the 1886 execution of David Roberts in Cardiff jail for the ferocious murder of Cowbridge farmer David Thomas. Because the hangman miscalculated Roberts’ weight and the drop ratio, the condemned man wriggled, twitched and heaved for breath for fully 10 minutes before he died, to the mounting consternation of those present. As a result, the Home Office issued new, mathematically precise hanging guidelines. Capital punishment for murder was abolished eventually in the UK in 1965 but it wasn’t until 1998 that the death penalty was abolished altogether – and now the  Tory government in London is trying to sneakily normalise and thus reintroduce it by allowing extradition of UK subjects to backward countries like the USA where executions (invariably of poor black people) still take place.

LILY VOLPERT (1911-1952): Volpert’s throat was cut from ear to ear in her pawnbrokers and general outfitters shop at 203-204 Bute Street. In an outrageous and brazenly racist miscarriage of justice, Somali merchant seaman Mahmood Mattan (1924-1952) was arrested, tried, convicted and executed for the murder within six months, solely on the testimony of one unreliable witness. He was the last person to be hanged at Cardiff jail. The conviction was quashed 45 years later in 1998, the first ever ‘cold case’ to be referred to the Court of Appeal by the newly-formed Criminal Cases Review Commission. Mattan’s son, Omar, was found drowned on a remote Scottish beach in 2003.

LYNETTE WHITE (1967-1988): The savage murder of sex worker Lynette in a squalid room in James Street, Butetown, is notorious in the annals of crime. It featured the longest murder trial in British history up to that point (at Swansea Crown Court) and a famously grotesque miscarriage of justice that saw three mixed-race men spend three years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit before their convictions were overturned on appeal. The campaign to free the ‘Cardiff Three’ (Yusef Abdullahi, Stephen Miller and Tony Paris) was one of the most high-profile of its kind, with TV documentaries on Channel 4 and the BBC, and marked a turning point in the fight to hold the police to account. South Wales Police at first refused to re-open the case, implying the men were still guilty, but in 2002 had to admit they were wrong when new DNA technology led to the real killer, reclusive security guard Jeffrey Gafoor. The Cardiffian was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003, receiving a shorter minimum tariff than had been given to the wrongfully convicted men, but the case was far from over. An interminable review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission eventually resulted in the jailing of three of the original prosecution witnesses for perjury, the arrest of 13 former and serving police officers and the largest police corruption trial in British criminal history – but that collapsed in 2011 because the defence claimed key files had been destroyed (they had not; the files were found the following year). This outcome was labelled “the biggest scandal in the history of British justice” by respected investigative reporter Tom Mangold, who had covered the case for Panorama, and “a very sad day for justice” by journalist Satish Sekar, who wrote the definitive account of the shameful deeds, Fitted In: The Cardiff 3 and the Lynette White Inquiry. To compound the injustice, all the officers involved were allowed to retire and then eight of them sued South Wales Police for damage to their reputations! These civil actions failed but did succeed in delaying a new inquiry, announced by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2015, into “the unresolved questions surrounding the reasons why no-one was found responsible for this appalling miscarriage of justice”. When the enquiry was eventually published in 2017 Richard Horwell QC concluded that the outrageous multiple injustices were all the fault of “human failings” rather than systematic police corruption and wickedness. Surprise, surprise. Desperate, pimped, trapped, mutilated Lynette has not been silenced yet.

NORA WILFRED (1939-1972): Viciously knifed in Bute Street late at night, Nora was poor and underprivileged so not many resources went into the murder inquiry and the killer remains out there.

THOMAS WILLIAMS (1850-1869): After a night on the tiles 19 year-old apprentice ships pilot Thomas was knifed outside the Rothesay Castle pub in Bute Street (demolished 1971, now the site of a vacant office next to the PDSA). The blade completely opened up his abdomen. Gallono and Pietro Gastro, Italian brothers on shore leave, were executed for this trademark Tiger Bay murder – one among countless in the 19th century to involve sailors, alcohol, knives and convenient ‘foreign’ scapegoats.

RHODA WILLIS (1863-1907): Sunderland-born Willis (aka Leslie James) was hanged at Cardiff jail on her 44th birthday for “baby farming”, the lurid phrase that referred to the widespread practice, before adoption and fostering laws were introduced, of being paid to take in unwanted babies – usually those of rich women seeking to avoid the scandal of an “illegitimate” baby in a censorious, moralistic era. Poor Willis, who rented rooms in Splott’s Portmanmoor Road, was brutally murdered by the state, the last woman to be hanged in the UK for the offence and also the last woman ever hanged in Cardiff.