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The Clydach Murders - Miscarriage of Justice or right person convicted?

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--- Quote from: CountryCat on December 28, 2019, 10:27:36 PM ---Morris has always protested his innocencel

--- End quote ---

So has Jeremy Bamber



--- Quote from: Nicholas on October 17, 2020, 09:59:30 PM ---According to a ‘Mr G Young’ who wrote a comment in May 2020 on Amazon re Michael O’Briens book ‘The death of justice’

Referring to O’Brien
‘He is now actively involved in the case of Dai Morris another person wrongly convicted of murders that SW serving police officers at the time were accused of. As a result of this his car has twice been vandalised but this only makes him stronger

--- End quote ---

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar January 19th 2009

The Long Wait for Justice

For more than twenty-one years Michael O’Brien has waited for an apology. South Wales Police intend to keep him waiting, despite paying half a million pounds to O’Brien and one of his co-defendant’s Ellis Sherwood to keep allegations of bad faith from being aired in court more than two years ago. Despite writing a book, several media appearances, reopened investigations and legal action, he is still waiting.

The decision to abolish the discretionary scheme for compensation and cap the amount awarded to the wrongly convicted may actually result in more civil actions being brought against police, eradicating the proposed savings. This case alone is likely to have cost the public around £1m.

It was re-opened in September 2003 after a cold case review. The murderer(s) of Phillip Saunders have not been brought to justice, nor are we any closer to discovering what went wrong in the original investigation.


O’Brien has received no apology and the force has not admitted liability. It has been more than five years since the case was re-opened, yet there has been no breakthrough. It appears that attention was actually focused on the original defendants despite compelling evidence of their innocence.

During the re-opened investigation people close to O’Brien and Sherwood were arrested, but later released without charge. Over five years after the case was re-opened the perpetrator(s) remain at large.

Credible Evidence?

On October 12th 1987 Phillip Saunders was viciously attacked and robbed outside his home in Anstee Road, Cardiff. He died five days later. O’Brien, Sherwood and Darren Hall were subsequently convicted of his murder. There was no credible evidence against them. Their convictions were quashed in 2000 after a year on bail pending their appeal.

After the historic settlement of the legal action by O’Brien and Sherwood, Deputy Chief Constable David Francis said, “Over a period of six years we [South Wales Police] have consistently maintained our position that the officers who worked on the inquiry into the murder of Phillip Saunders did so in good faith and the Force was not liable for malicious prosecution or misfeasance”.


The Newsagent’s Three, as they came to be known, were referred back to the appeal court in 1998 by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Detective Superintendent Alan Partridge, then of Thames Valley Police, reviewed police conduct in this case. He found 115 violations of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. This included handcuffing all of the defendants to radiators.

“Presumably, Mr Francis, police lawyers and the Police Authority believe that handcuffing us to radiators is a sign of good faith”, said O’Brien. “They used criminals against us, threatened our witnesses with prosecution and dropped serious charges against known criminals to get evidence against us. And then they used prison informers and a police officer with a history of overhearing confessions that hadn’t been made”.

Unnecessary Burden

Francis claims that the action was settled in order to avoid unnecessary expense to the public. To date he has failed to explain why it was necessary to run up legal fees for six years including fighting all the way to the House of Lords O’Brien’s attempts to adduce evidence about that officer, who claimed to have overheard incriminating admissions in the cell area of Canton Police Station between O’Brien and Sherwood.

A then Detective Sergeant Stuart Lewis had a history of overhearing so-called confessions in the that area. Five years before the arrest of the Newsagent’s Three, Robert Griffiths – one of the defendants in the Cardiff Explosives Conspiracy trial – was acquitted despite Lewis swearing on oath that Griffiths had confessed in the cells area. Lewis was involved in other controversial cases and was unlikely to give evidence on medical grounds.

If this investigation had been conducted in good faith and without misfeasance, why did they agree to compensate O’Brien and Sherwood and if the only reason was to save an unnecessary financial burden on the public, why did it take six years to reach this conclusion, racking up legal expenses on both sides in the process?

By Satish Sekar (January 28th 2009)


Michael O’Brien’s quest for an apology for over eleven years of wrongful imprisonment has so far been unsuccessful, but he secured the highest ever compensation to a victim of a miscarriage of justice in a civil action against the police. South Wales Police paid O’Brien and his then brother-in-law Ellis Sherwood a total of half a million pounds in 2006.

“In accordance with counsel’s advice payment into court have been made in full and final settlement of the claims by Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Sherwood without an apology”, said Deputy Chief Constable Dave Francis. “It is emphasised that this has been done without any admission of liability”.

Bad Faith

Francis went on to claim that O’Brien and Sherwood had chosen to accept the payments rather than take their allegations to court, but O’Brien says he had no choice but to accept the payment, because he faced bankruptcy if he pursued his claim and the court awarded him less than the police paid into court.

“I stand by all of my allegations against the police”, said O’Brien. “They acted in bad faith. Let them sue me if they dispute this”. OʼBrien has made no secret of his allegations of bad faith. South Wales Police and those accused, especially Lewis have never sued him.

His solicitor who helped him to bring the historic claim was unimpressed with the way the settlement had been portrayed as well. “South Wales Police are trying to depict their payment of £500,000 plus legal costs of probably the same amount again as a commercial settlement,” said Sarah Ricca. “I wonder if anyone is fooled by such a claim.”

The Newsagent’s Three have yet to receive an apology from either the police or criminal justice system. Nor is there an investigation into unlawful conduct by police officers in this case despite the conclusions of former Detective Superintendent Alan Partridge and the endorsement of the appeal court.1


“Their refusal to apologise after all that they put me and my family through clearly shows that they refuse to accept the findings of the CCRC and appeal court”, said O’Brien. It has had a detrimental effect on the Forceʼs attempts to move on past the discredited methods of policing at that time

“I do not trust them to investigate this crime impartially any more”, OʼBrien said. “I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they refuse to investigate my claims of bad faith in the original investigation, let alone allow the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute any of them. Only a fully independent public inquiry can get to the truth of what happened in my case and other miscarriages of justice in South Wales”.

Consistent Critic

Since his release O’Brien has been the most vociferous critic of South Wales police over miscarriages of justice, including his own. A tireless campaigner for a public inquiry into several Welsh cases including the Cardiff Five and that of Annette Hewins, O’Brien has been a consistent thorn in their side.

Ironically an apology and an investigation into proven police malpractice in his case could have avoided the expense to the public that Francis appears so keen to avoid years ago.


“The fact that they paid such a large amount into court has nothing to do with concerns for the public purse and everything to do with the strength of the evidence against South Wales officers,” said Ricca. “There now needs to be a public inquiry into this and other cases involving South Wales police officers which raise such serious allegations of police misconduct.”

Nobody wants the murder of Phillip Saunders solved more than Michael O’Brien, so much so that he offered a reward of £50,000 for information leading to the convictions of the real murderer. All he ever wanted was justice.

‘Clydach murders: Five years working on a ‘hopeless case‘ by Brian Thornton - Nov 2014

‘The murders in Clydach 15 years ago were almost unimaginably brutal. A disabled grandmother, a mother and her two little girls were killed with a ferocious intensity that takes the breath away.

These four people were murdered in their own home without a sound being heard by anyone. There was no shouting, no cries for help.

Doris Dawson, Mandy Power and her daughters Katie and Emily were all well known in the village and were well loved by their friends, family and neighbours. The story of the Clydach murders is one of complexity, secrets and ultimately profound sadness. Four innocent people died that night in 9 Kelvin Road, but the crime has had a deep and devastating effect on a huge number of people.

A few days ago David Morris, the man convicted of carrying out the murders, made a second application to the CCRC asking for his case to be investigated. The 52-year-old former builder is in Long Lartin serving a life sentence. Morris is as guilty – from a legal point of view – as anyone could possibly be. He’s had two trials in which both juries were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he was the murderer. He’s had one application to the CCRC rejected. Some of the most senior police officers in Wales (and England) have investigated the case. A legion of forensic scientists have analyzed the exhibits. A posse of eminent barristers and solicitors have worked on the documents. All have come to the conclusion that David Morris is guilty.

One very senior QC that I approached for advice in the early days of my investigation told me to give it up. ‘It’s a hopeless case, it would be much better to put your efforts in another case where you might get a result,’ he said.

To be honest, there have been many times over the past five years when I wished I’d followed his advice. The case is big – more than 300 lever arch files – and fiendishly complex. When it first arrived at Winchester University in December 2009, I was utterly defeated by the scale of it. The first few months were spent just trying to organize the files and the students. We made little or no impact in those early days and I felt completely out of my depth.

What could I – a journalism lecturer with no formal legal training – and a bunch of undergraduate journalism students do with a case that had already been checked and signed off by some of the country’s most experienced legal minds?

That stage was very demoralizing – and was made worst by the fact that I had also taken on three other cases where prisoners were also claiming they were wrongly convicted. As I tried to juggle the casework with my actual job – lecturing – the workload became almost unmanageable.

If it hadn’t been for the advice and guidance I received from people like Julie Price and Dennis Eady, of the Cardiff Law School Innocence Project and police expert Des Thomas I’d have struggled to complete the investigations. The reason casework is so hard is because there’s no guidebook, no tried and tested way to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice.

A convicted mass murderer writes to you to say he’s an innocent man, you agree to take a look at the case, 300 files arrive in a truck. What then? The past five years have been a catalogue of mistakes, disheartening dead ends and very occasional moments of revelation.

I’ve tried my best, the students have tried their best, but I do have regrets. One in particular. Our investigation took too long. This shouldn’t have taken five years, it should have taken half that. When I met David Morris in prison I told him I was sorry that the investigation had taken so long, something that he found funny – I guess because people in his position don’t get many apologies.

Despite all of this the breakthroughs did come.

Painstakingly we added each new piece of fresh evidence to the CCRC application, building it up to the 30 page document that the commission is now about to consider. David Rose’s excellent Mail on Sunday article outlined some of the key issues – but there are many worrying issues that we discovered over the last five years that are included in the application that aren’t appropriate to make public at this stage.

Francis Fitzgibbon QC and Maslen Merchant are the legal team behind the application and their dedication, creativity and skill have made all the difference. People like Francis and Maslen don’t get involved in cases like this for the money – which is good, because there is no money in cases like this. They are two rare examples of lawyers in this country who are still willing to take on ‘hopeless cases’ like this and they deserve a huge amount of credit for the work they’ve done.

I once spent a few days ringing every solicitors firm in the phone book in Hampshire looking for someone who did pro-bono work, only to be told again and again that ‘we don’t do pro bono work in Hampshire’. And Hampshire is by no means the exception.

When the CCRC is roused it can be an unstoppable force – dedicated and brave  – and we are appealing for the commission to go the extra mile in their investigation of this case.

Cases like Sam Hallam show the commission operating as it was designed to – as the miscarriage campaigners of the 80s and 90s hoped that it would. But there is also another CCRC – the CCRC that carried out the first investigation into the Victor Nealon case. A CCRC that can be lazy-minded and overly officious.

What we – David Morris, his legal team and everyone who has worked on this application – are asking, is for the CCRC to see this application for what it is, a plea for help.

We see the CCRC as a partner in this process, and with such a complex case we cannot do it alone.

But we want, and need,  the Sam Hallam CCRC – with fire in its belly and up for the fight – to seek out the truth of this case, wherever it lies.

None of us know 100% that David Morris is innocent – the fact is, we will probably never know for certain what happened in Clydach that night. But given what we know through our investigations, it is very difficult to see how any jury in full possession of the facts would now convict David Morris for these horrendous crimes.

‘Woman lied about night of murders‘ - July 2006

‘The girlfriend of the man accused of killing a family of four has said she lied to police about the time he came home on the night of the murders.

Mandy Jewell told Newport Crown Court she lied about David Morris' movements because she was afraid she was a suspect herself.

She had quarrelled with Mandy Power, who was killed along with her daughters and mother, earlier in the week.

Mr Morris, 44, of Craig-cefn-parc, denies murder. The trial continues.

The court heard Ms Jewell had lied to the police at first when questioned about the night of the murders in Clydach, near Swansea, and had said Mr Morris had come home to the flat they shared earlier than she thought he had.

The prosecution said by providing herself with an alibi, she had also provided Mr Morris with one.

The trial had already heard the couple had been in the pub for most of the day on 26 June 1999 but she had left about 2100 BST after they had argued.

Prosecuting, Patrick Harrington said Ms Jewell must have been worried that Mr Morris was involved in the murders for a number of reasons.

During the day, he had mentioned Mandy Power, a friend of Ms Jewell, saying he did not like her, and also he had been drinking, which made him violent.

However Ms Jewell said she had not been worried as his only real connection to Ms Power was through herself.

The court heard she did not think the police were suspicious of Mr Morris when they first came to see her.

But giving evidence, Ms Jewell's mother Mavis Lewis said her daughter had told her immediately after the first visit from police she thought they suspected David Morris.

"Why would she lie to me?" she asked.

Mr Harrington also accused Ms Jewell of lying to the police and the jury when she said there was only a small amount of violence between her and Mr Morris.

The court heard from a statement Ms Jewell had made to police before the murders accusing him of attacking her and threatening to kill her, and threatening to put a tyre over her head.

Mr Morris also threatened to burn her house down, and she had accused him of burning all her clothes, Mr Harrington said.

Ms Jewell told the court she had been livid with Mr Morris when she made the statements and withdrew the complaint.

She said: "If I thought he had anything to do with the murders I would not lie to protect him."

Ms Jewell was asked about phone conversations she had had with a friend of Mr Morris, Mark Reilly, last weekend.

The prosecution alleged she had been asked about phone calls which had been made from her flat the day before Ms Power died.

The court had heard Mr Morris claim he had slept with Mandy Power the day before the murders, during which time he had left a necklace found at the murder scene at her house.

The prosecution said phone calls had been made from the flat during the time he alleged he was with Mandy Power.

Ms Jewell was asked if Mr Reilly had asked whether she could have come home early from work that day.

She said she told Mr Reilly the same as she told the court on Thursday, that as far as she was aware, she was in work at that time.

The prosecution also asked whether hundreds of calls made by Mr Morris to her in the weeks before he gave evidence were to make sure she got her story right, but she said Mr Morris had phoned regularly since he had been on remand and that had not changed.


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