Sunday, 26 September 2021

Nerd Church - Of Tigers And Men: 'A Killing In Tiger Bay' and The Cardiff Five


Warning: this post discusses a murder case, and related themes such as blood and violence. 

It also discusses racism, institutional racism, miscarriages of justice, wrongful conviction, borderline torture, and police corruption. 

There are brief references to sex work and drugs.






The name Lynette White is one that’s known all over Wales.

Because of what happened to her, and what happened to five innocent men after her death.

Sadly her life is often brushed over, eclipsed by the crimes of the police officers who were supposed to investigate her murder – police officers who couldn’t even manage to spell ‘Lynette’ correctly when they told the press her name.





'Of Tigers And Men: 'A Killing In Tiger Bay' and The Cardiff Five' against a grey stone background







Lynette White, a 20 year old White woman who had been working as a sex worker in the docklands area of Cardiff, was found dead on 14th February 1988.

She had been brutally and viciously murdered.

An eye-witness had seen a White man, covered in blood, leaving the flat where Lynette’s body was found on the night she was killed.

She thought he was injured, so had asked if he was alright or if he needed help. He told her he was fine, had just hurt his hand, and said someone was coming to pick him up, so she left it there.

After Lynette was found, the eye-witness told the police what she’d seen, and described the man.




This was almost certainly Jeffrey Gafoor – Lynette’s murderer.

Modern DNA evidence proves that his blood was present at the murder scene, it was through a partial match on the DNA database that police eventually tracked him down.

Jeffrey Gafoor plead guilty to the murder of Lynette White in 2003.




...But the police arrested five men for the murder of Lynette White in November 1988, with the trial starting in 1989.

The Cardiff Five were put on trial for the murder of Lynette White, and the Cardiff Three were wrongfully convicted of her murder.

It was one of the biggest miscarriages of justice the UK has ever seen.







A recent TV series for BBC Wales, called ‘A Killing in Tiger Bay’ asked the question that still haunts so many to this day: How did one White man become five Black men?





(The series is still available on iPlayer in the UK – if you’re able to watch it, and can deal with the subject matter, I seriously recommend it. It's excellent.)



Wales is a small country of a little over 3 million people. Most people here live in the South, and our capitol city is Cardiff; on a global scale, Cardiff would be considered a tiny city, but it’s our largest.

Despite how small we are as a nation, People of Colour (PoC) have made their way here for centuries, especially in the cities and at the ports (most of our cities grew up around said ports.)

Cardiff is by far the most diverse area in Wales, and within Cardiff, Butetown and the Docklands – parts of which were the notorious Tiger Bay – have always been the most diverse areas.





They’ve also often been considered the ‘roughest’- Tiger Bay as such no longer really exists, but it was notorious for slum housing and poverty, as often happens with dock areas.

Butetown and many of the other areas are still there, but Tiger Bay itself has largely been replaced with the up-market Cardiff Bay after decades of slum clearances and redevelopment. 

Not all of the redeveloped areas were originally housing – there was also a whole lot of ex-industrial and commercial premises that really did need to be regenerated.

While it’s accepted, generally, that something had to be done to redevelop the area, the way in which it was done has often marginalised the poorer and more diverse historic communities of Butetown and the docks.

Put simply, the money wasn’t put into the poor communities being displaced by the new developments.




The redevelopment of the area was in full-swing in the late 1980s – there was a lot of money coming in, and, it’s speculated, a lot of pressure on South Wales Police to close the Lynette White murder case.

The problem with that was they had no leads.

So it seems they decided to make some.



dividing line

What followed was the most horrendous, and, yes, clearly racist, ‘stitch-up’ job you could think of.


Lynette’s boyfriend, Stephen Miller, as well as local boys Yusuf Abdullahi (known as ‘Dullah’,) Tony Paris, John Actie, and Ronnie Actie – all Black men – were arrested and charged with her murder.




Several of these men were ‘known to’ police in the area – these were people who the police didn’t like, for one reason or another.

John Actie had previously been beaten up by police, for no real reason, and then charged with assaulting them – but he won when it came to court, and was acquitted.

Tony Paris was a shoplifter.

Various members of the group either used or sold drugs at one time or another.

They were petty criminals, not murderers.




Under coercive interrogation which has been likened to psychological torture, Stephen Miller made a false confession, agreeing to the story that the police had come up with.

The documentary series goes into depth about how it’s possible to obtain false confessions in these circumstances, and also explains how the judge prejudiced the jury against an expert who had testified to this.






After watching ‘A Killing in Tiger Bay,’ and hearing the recordings of Stephen Miller’s police interviews, I can 100% believe that he would make a false confession.

I think that, after hours of that, I would too.

Miller clearly loved Lynette – clearly still loves Lynette. To pin her murder on him, and for the police to describe what happened to her so graphically in his interviews, is beyond cruel.




The other ‘witness’ accounts from the police were also thought to have been coerced.

They didn’t match with other accounts the same individuals had previously made, stating again and again that they knew nothing of the events of that night.




The only evidence the police had were these so-called witnesses, and Stephen Miller’s false confession.

While forensics weren’t as sophisticated back then as they are now, none of the Cardiff Five’s blood groups were consistent with the only blood found at the scene that did not come from Lynette.

Most of them had alibis. Yusuf Abdullahi was actually at sea, working on a boat, on the night of Lynette’s murder. He had 13 alibi witnesses.




This was one of the longest trials in British legal history, a trial with an all-White jury, racist judges who made excuses for so-called witnesses referring to the defendants as ‘monkeys,’ and harassment by racist police throughout.


(The trial, by the way, was heard in Swansea – which, while far more diverse now, only had a tiny proportion of PoC at the time; hence the all-White jury.)

John Actie and Ronnie Actie were acquitted, probably because Stephen Miller’s false confession had them playing a lesser and more absent role in what had supposedly happened to Lynette.




Stephen Miller, Tony Paris, and Yusuf Abdullahi, were all convicted of Lynette’s murder.

Somehow, despite there being no evidence, despite the numerous alibi witnesses, they were convicted of Lynette’s murder.


 

For two years, the families of the Caridff Three – as well as John and Ronnie Actie, members of the original Five – campaigned for their convictions to be overturned.

They won their case at the Court of Appeal in 1992, and were free to go.


dividing line

Eventually, years later, the police re-opened the case

...leading to the arrest and conviction of Jeffrey Gafoor – a spot on match for the original mock-ups of the suspect, based on the evidence of the eye witness.

I can remember that happening in 2003 when I was a kid – it caused quite a stir, locally, of the ‘he only lived around there - well, I never!’ variety.

dividing line
The investigation into police corruption that followed eventually led, in 2011, to the trial of eight South Wales Police officers in the largest police corruption trial the UK has ever seen.


Four more were due for trial the following year.

Graham Mouncher, Richard Powell, Thomas Page, Michael Daniels, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen, Peter Greenwood and John Seaford stood trial for perverting the course of justice.




Key evidence disappeared. Papers had apparently been destroyed, never to be seen again.

The trial collapsed.

Graham Mouncher, Richard Powell, Thomas Page, Michael Daniels, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen, Peter Greenwood and John Seaford were found Not Guilty.




A few weeks after the collapse of the trial, somehow these key papers were found.


Interesting timing.

Also an interesting decision by the judge – who should have dismissed the case without prejudice, rather than finding the defendants not guilty. In my humble opinion, anyway.


dividing line
Much as I love my beautiful Wales, I don’t live in a world of sunshine and rainbows, where everything always works as it should.


There are still problems with racism and prejudice here today – but in the 1980s? It was pretty damn bad.




But it was never acceptable to allegedly fabricate evidence and frame five men for murder. NEVER.

The police officers were found not guilty in 2011.

That’s not ‘in those days,’ that’s not ‘at the time.’ That’s just ten years ago.

And it’s not acceptable.






It shows that the system is still institutionally racist – still set up to prioritise dishonest White police officers over innocent Black people.

It’s not OK.

It’ll never be OK.





But, as Stephen Miller points out in the documentary, with Gafoor in prison, at least Lynette can rest now. That’s the least she deserves.






Sources:

(Warning: links may include distressing and graphic details)



Timeline of Events:



In-depth:




Recent developments:




The series:





Tiger Bay:




The police corruption trial:


















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2 comments:

  1. This is so sad, and yet so common in all parts of the world. I thought immediately of the central park five when I was reading this post, and these patterns reveal that both racism in the criminal justice system is rampant. I can't also help but feel for Lynette as she was a sex worker, and violence against sex workers is all too common. When the justice system only protects those at the top, is it really justice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It so often is not justice - and that's why we have to keep making things better.

      Lynette was killed by a client; they had had a disagreement over £30. He snapped and killed her - violently and brutally. I was impressed how the documentary made efforts to get people who'd known her to talk about Lynette as a person - everyone seemed to love her, and they all spoke about how kind and gentle she was.

      I just Googled the Central Park Five - I'd heard of it, but didn't know the details, maybe because it happened in the US and we don't always get the same coverage of US crimes - and there are definite similarities. The fact that it happened in 1989 - the year the Cardiff Five's trial started - speaks of the racist global culture (or at least the Western one,) at that time.

      Murders are rare here in general. I just looked at the statistics, and in 1988, when Lynette was killed, there were 43 total homicides in Wales - that's pretty typical, maybe even a little on the high side. So a big murder case like this? Was huge. And just the things the lead investigator said to the press should've been enough to claim the case had been prejudiced, but... here we are.

      Delete

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