The Cardiff Three and the Lynette White murder case

Yusef Abdelahi, Tony Paris and Steven Miller

Served four years for the murder of Lynette White before their convictions were overturned on appeal. Subsequently Jeffrey Gafoor was traced through DNA analysis and he admitted the crime. It then became obvious that the original investigating officers must have fitted up innocent men.

Convicted of the murder of Lynette White in 1988 on the basis of Steven Miller’s alleged ‘confessions’, the three men became known as the Cardiff Three (not to be confused with the Cardiff ‘Newsagent’ Three) and spent four years in prison before it was admitted that they had been the victims of a miscarriage of justice.

In 1992 the court of appeal heard tapes of Miller’s interviews during which he confessed after 13 hours of questioning; the judges said they were ‘horrified’: “The officers … were not questioning him so much as shouting at him what they wanted to say. Short of physical violence, it is hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidating approach by officers to a suspect.” The judges were also critical of the solicitor who attended the interview, stating that he “sat in on the interview and seems to have done little else”.

The men’s campaign was helped greatly by the journalist Satish Sekar, who later published a book on the cases (see below). Following pressure from Sekar, the murder case was re-opened in June 1999. A trace of previously unanalysed DNA was found, which led the police to Jeffrey Gafoor, who admitted to the murder of Lynette White. (see How police found Gafoor.)

Subsequently police officers who had conducted the investigation which led to the wrongful conviction of the Cardiff Three were themselves arrested (see Police Officers Arrested). The case continues…

Eight former South Wales police officers tried on charges of perverting the course of justice

The officers are: retired chief superintendent Thomas Page, retired chief inspectors Graham Mouncher and Richard Powell, and retired police officers Michael DanielsPaul JenningsPaul StephenPeter Greenwood, and John Seaford.

Read more in Wales Online 6 July 2011


But – surprise! surprise! … the officers will never be convicted:

The UK’s biggest trial of ex-police officers has collapsed … Eight former South Wales Police officers were accused of perverting the course of justice after the wrongful conviction of three men … files relating to complaints by an original defendant were said to be missing … the director of public prosecutions is “extremely concerned”.

Former officers Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen have now all been acquitted.
Civilians Violet Perriam and Ian Massey also denied two counts of perjury. They have also been cleared.

read more: BBC News, Thursday 1st December 2011

And yet another surprise – the missing documents have turned up again!

The documents had not been shredded at all – S. Wales Police had them all the time.
Read more in The Guardian 26 January 2012 by Steve Morris

Inquiry into collapse of £30m police corruption trial – Channel 4 news 26 Jan 2012

Yusef Abdelahi dies aged 49, 25 January 2011

Cardiff solicitor Matthew De Maid, whose firm represented Mr Abdullahi, said his case was a reminder of the devastating consequences on someone’s life if they are a victim of a miscarriage of justice. “He found life very difficult following his case and wrongful conviction,” said Mr De Maid.
“My thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Abdullahi and I am sorry for their untimely loss,” said Peter Vaughan, Chief constable of South Wales Police.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had expressed its condolences to Mr Abdullahi’s family.
The CPS has confirmed that Mr Abdullahi would have been called as a prosecution witness at the trial of 15 people charged over the investigation into the murder, which is expected to start later this year. Of those accused, 13 are former and serving police officers. The defendants are accused of being implicated in the outcome of two trials which led to the wrongful imprisonment of three men for murder.
Perhaps the police breathed a sigh of relief as they realised there would be one less witness against the 13 officers.

26 January 2011


13 Police officers charged with perverting the course of justice

‘Fabricated’ evidence used to convict men of killing prostitute

Police Constable John Howard Murray, Detective Sergeant Paul Stephen, Detective Constable Paul Jennings, Wayne Pugh, Graham Mouncher, Richard Powell, Thomas Page, Michael Daniels, John Brian Gillard, Peter Greenwood, John Seaford, Rachel O’Brien and Stephen Hicks are summonsed with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The first three are currently serving officers with South Wales Police and Wayne Pugh is a South Wales Police staff member. All others named are retired police officers.

Violet Elizabeth Perriam and Ian Albert Massey are civilians summonsed with two counts of perjury.

By Mark Hughes, Crime correspondent,
4 March 2009 

By Martin Shipton, 3 March 2009
click here for article in WALES ONLINE

Witnesses jailed after being forced to commit perjury by police – while officers responsible remain free                   Article by Afua Hirsch and Satish Sekar 22 December 2008

Trial witness admits 3 charges of perjury – willing to testify against police         WALES ONLINE 27 October 2008 
WALES ONLINE 28 October 2008 (1)
WALES ONLINE 28 October 2008 (2)

Senior detectives in re-inquiry to be disciplined for making false statements: one is promoted to Home Office policing standards division [you couldn’t make it up] by Martin Shipton, Western Mail, 25 August 2007

28 February 2007: Four trial witnesses arrested
Four people have been charged with perjury in connection with the original investigation into the 1988 murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White. Paul Atkins, 52, Mark Grommek, 48, Angela Psaila, 42, and Leanne Vilday, 37, had been trial witnesses.


Crown Prosecution Service statement 

Fitted In: The Cardiff Three and the Lynette White Inquiry
by Satish Sekar (The Fitted-in Project)

The English criminal justice system regularly churns out serious miscarriages. If you want to know why and how this happens, you could turn to this shocking and detailed account of the case of the Cardiff Three.

The three, Yusef Abdelahi, Tony Paris and Steven Miller, were convicted of the brutal murder of a prostitute in Cardiff’s Butetown after one of the longest-ever trials. The real killer is still at large. Policemen under pressure to resolve a horrific crime refused to accept the repeated and emphatic denials of a man who was psychologically vulnerable. They intimidated and threatened him until he confessed. Other promising lines of inquiry were abandoned once the police were convinced they had got their men.

Though the crime was committed in Cardiff, the trial was held in Swansea, where black defendants were unlikely to find jurors whose life experience matched their own. Satish Sekar details how forensic evidence was misinterpreted, and draws pertinent general conclusions about the defects of the adversarial system of trial. Satish campaigned for and got a full investigation of the way the case had been handled. He shows that despite (or perhaps because) of the blizzard of legislation in this field over the last 20 years, the system is on course for more miscarriages in the future. This is a very important book for anyone concerned with the future of civil liberties in Britain.



Police officers among 22 held over quashed murder convictions

By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent, The Independent 25th April 2005

Twenty-two former police officers and members of the public, including several prostitutes, have been arrested as part of one of the biggest inquiries into a miscarriage of justice.

The case into the botched investigation of the murder of a Cardiff prostitute 17 years ago could result in criminal prosecutions against officers and witnesses involved in the jailing of three innocent men.

The internal inquiry, which began 20 months ago, is into how officers from South Wales Police were able to obtain evidence and confessions that led to three men being wrongly given life sentences for murder.

In one of the most notorious miscarriages, Steven Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris, who became known as the Cardiff Three, were jailed in 1990 for the murder of Lynette White. The 20-year-old prostitute was stabbed more than 50 times in a frenzied attack in a flat above a betting shop in Cardiff’s Butetown area on Valentine’s Day 1988.

The three were cleared on appeal in 1992 in a case that became a cause célèbre.

In 2003 the real murderer, Jeffrey Gafoor, was jailed for life for the crime. The breakthrough was due to new DNA techniques used on evidence taken from the crime scene.

After the new conviction, South Wales Police announced an inquiry into the case, which is being overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In the latest round of arrests, four retired officers from the South Wales force – two men and two women – were detained at their homes on Thursday. One of the four retired officers has been working with the South Wales force as a member of police staff. They were later released on bail.

The move follows similar arrests last week of five other retired officers. All the ex-officers were arrested for offences of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, false imprisonment and misconduct in a public office.

A further 13 people, including former Cardiff prostitutes and pimps, have also been arrested as part of the inquiry. The civilians have been questioned about evidence and information they provided that incriminated the Cardiff Three.

The current inquiry is re-examining the murder investigation that led to the miscarriage.

Within days of the killing, South Wales Police had their first suspect. Several witnesses had seen a white man wearing bloodstained clothing in a distressed state outside the victim’s flat shortly after the murder.

But 10 months later, the investigation dramatically changed tack. Although the white man had not been eliminated, eight other people, seven of them black, were arrested. Three were released and five blacks were charged with murder.

All the defendants were known to the police. The main evidence against them came from two prostitutes, friends of White. After 42 hours in police custody, they claimed they had seen five men murder her.

In 1990, three men, Mr Paris, Mr Abdullahi and Mr Miller, were convicted of White’s murder after a trial that lasted 117 days. Two of the other men named as the killers were acquitted. Mr Miller, then 26 but with a mental age of 11, was “bullied and hectored” for 13 hours during a “travesty of an interview”, before giving a confession implicating the two other men, said Lord Taylor of Gosforth when he was the Lord Chief Justice.

At the men’s appeal in 1992, the judges ruled the convictions were unsafe and unsatisfactory because recorded police interviews of Mr Miller should not have been put before the jury. Mr Miller – Ms White’s former boyfriend – who had an IQ of 75, had denied the offence more than 300 times.
In 1999, South Wales Police began a new inquiry. Thanks partly to advances in DNA analysis, they were able to uncover the evidence that would help to convict the real killer, Gafoor, a security guard of Llanharan, near Bridgend, South Wales.

In February 1988, Gafoor went to Cardiff docks to find a prostitute and paid £30 to White. But when they got back to her flat he changed his mind and asked for his money back. A row started and Gafoor pulled a knife and stabbed his victim more than 50 times, cutting her throat, slashing both wrists, cutting, stabbing and slashing her face, arm and torso.

Gafoor was linked to the killing during the new investigation after DNA was discovered on a piece of cigarette wrapping found near White.

Gafoor’s blood was matched after a family member gave a DNA sample and was found to have a similar profile.

Gafoor pleaded guilty to the murder in 2003 and was given a life sentence.

A team of 22 officers is currently working on the case and further arrests are expected. Officers from Wiltshire, Dorset, Avon and Somerset and Gloucester are also giving support.

How police found Gafoor 

When Lynette White was found murdered on Valentine’s Day 1988, few forecast it would take 15 years to find her murderer.

Jeffrey Gafoor’s guilty plea at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday ended a mystery that had seen three innocent men jailed, an independent review of the investigation and a wide-ranging police DNA sweep, casting a shadow over the city for more than a decade.

Three men were found guilty of the murder in 1990. But when their conviction was found to be a miscarriage of justice, it seemed the killer might never be found.

I was one of the officers who obtained a mouth swab from Gafoor…within 24 hours we had the full hit on the database.” 
Paul Williams, South Wales Police

It was only the painstaking discovery of fresh DNA evidence from the scene of the killing in James Street, Butetown, that began the trail to the murderer.

An independent review into unsolved murders in south Wales paved the way for a fresh inquiry, which got under way in September 2000. As part of that new inquiry, a fresh DNA sweep of Lynette White’s flat was carried out. Police managed to find a new DNA sample – spots of blood – from a skirting board and sent it for analysis to independent company, Forensic Alliance.

Scientists there found the DNA of an individual who police had never questioned in connection with Lynette White’s murder.

Detective Constable Paul Williams, who worked on the reinvestigation, said: “Incredibly, officers revisited the scene at James Street and took a skirting board from the scene and sent it to Forensic Alliance. They painstakingly removed paint and fortunately found a DNA profile.”

After 14 years, police had finally built up a profile of the man who killed Lynette White.

The next breakthrough came when the DNA profile – dubbed Cellophane Man because of previous DNA evidence found on a piece of cellophane – was sent to Forensic Alliance’s laboratory in Oxford.

DNA expert Andrew MacDonald explained: “We searched the national DNA database and couldn’t find an complete match. South Wales Police instigated a mass screen which ruled out about 300 people.

“We also ruled out the people from the initial investigation, none of whom provided a match for Cellophane Man. We had to think what else we could do to track him down.

“One of the (DNA) components was quite rare – you’d only expect 1-2% of the population to have it. We searched the National DNA Database for all the people who had that component. From that search we got 600 hits back. [It was narrowed to] a list of 70 people – one of them stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

“It was a really exciting moment to find that this person had so much in common with Cellophane Man.” That partial match was with a youth who was not born when the 1988 killing took place, but who had had dealings with the police. Testing of the 14-year-old’s family found a close relative whose DNA matched that of Cellophane Man’s and he was instantly suspected as Lynette White’s murderer. That relative’s name was Jeffrey Gafoor.

Detective Constable Williams said police were “amazed” by the link between Cellophane Man and the teenager. “When we had the youth profile it was surprising, he wasn’t born at the time but I knew the net was closing in,” he said.

“The youth provided a partial match with Cellophane Man, who we now know as Jeffrey Gafoor.

“That is why we had to look at his family. “I was one of the officers who obtained a mouth swab from Gafoor that was then sent to Forensic Alliance who fast-tracked it. Within 24 hours we had the full hit on the database.”

Jeffrey Gafoor was arrested and charged with Lynette White’s murder in March this year.

He may never have been brought to justice if DNA technology had not advanced so quickly since the time of the brutal killing.

Published: 2003/07/04

About INNOCENT (138 Articles)
Challenging miscarriages of justice since 1993.

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