Twenty years after a Panorama investigation helped to clear the Cardiff Three, the same team returns to investigate why the trial against the police officers collapsed last year.
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Innocent! You know that they're lying, you know police have told
them what to say. Last year, the case against eight officers accuse
of perverting the course of justice to secure those convictions
collapsed. Frankly people had written a work of fiction about
this. They wouldn't have believed it. But this is fact.
reputation of an entire police force has been shredded and tonight,
we reinvestigate what is becoming the biggest scandal in the history
of British justice. This is the largest scale of injustice in a
single case certainly in my working I'm returning to Cardiff on a cold
case review I first covered for Panorama over 20 years ago.
It's a journey into the past with purpose.
To reinvestigate a tale of murder and a major miscarriage of justice.
I wanted to know how it was that last year, eight police officers
involved in that miscarriage walked free from court when the case
against them collapsed in dramatic First stop in the City that's
changed almost beyond recognition is to meet a man I felt I knew only
too well but remains a stranger. At the age of 33, Tony Paris was
serving a life sentence for the murder of which he was innocent. He
was in Wormwood Scrubs when the television programme was
transmitted in February 1992. the Panorama programme, one prison
officer said to me, "what are you doing in this prison?" I said,
"Well I told you I shouldn't be here". That's when I realised,
people are now listening. The story begins at number 7 James
Street in the heart of the old docks area with the murder of 22-
year-old Lynette White, a well- known prostitute.
She was a very pleasant girl. I mean, she was only I think 20 then,
at the time. She was very pleasant and well-liked.
The killing was exceptionally unnecessarily brutal, some 49 stab
wounds and her head almost severed. I think she had her throat cut more
than once because it was very ragged and probably after that she
had multiple stab wounds. The senior duty officer that night
was Inspector Dick Powell who immediately became involved in the
investigation. He and the police team had an early
and powerful lead. Witnesses had seen an obvious murder suspect
right outside the house within hours of the killing.
An actor played the suspect, a lone white man, when BBC Crimewatch
featured the Lynette White case five weeks after her murder.
The man seen virtually outside the flat must be the prime suspect?
certainly is a person who we must spook to at this time. -- speak to.
He remained the major suspect for months as the investigation
continued with the South Wales Police drafting in their most
experienced officers. They included Inspector Tommy Page,
described to me as the CID's top detective, and in the vin act lar,
a renowned thief taker. Seven months after the murder in
September, the day-to-day investigation was taken over by
Inspector Graham Mouncher. Today, the case notes in the
Lynette White file run to over a million pages.
A review of the investigation shows that when Mouncher took over, he
was still focused on a single white male line of inquiry.
Now he was convinced he had a prime suspect christened Mr X. Two weeks
later, the investigation against the suspect ended abruptly when
forensic analysis on the blood in the flat ruled him out. The
detectives were right back to square one.
When the case against Mr X collapsed, the story took a turn
that almost defies belief. For nine months, police had been looking for
one white male suspect. That line of inquiry now became history.
Suddenly, in a series of dawn raids across the docks, a completely new
set of suspects was taken in for questioning.
There's a knock on the door at your home? Yes. Cops come in? Yes.
they say? John, can you come to the police station with me. I actually
said, are you taking the (BLEEP), you are looking for a white guy,
what are you troubling me for. Actie was known in Cardiff's
dockland as a hard man and not without reason. I'd met and filmed
him 20 years ago but now at last he agreed to talk openly to me for the
first time. Enyou are charged with the murder, I mean what's going
through your mind? I... I couldn't believe it. It was horrifying. It
was unbelievable. Also arrested we was Tony Paris,
again a man known to the police but only with minor convictions for
shoplifting. I was panicking because as far as I was concerned,
they're not listening to me. They're trying to convince me that
I was there. That's a chilling moment for you? It was. That was
really the start of the reality that there wasn't going to let me
And along with Tony Paris and John Actie, the three other men arrested
and charged were John's cousin Ronnie Actie, Yusuf Abdullahi and
Lynette's boyfriend, Stephen Miller. Based on the flimsy evidence from a
tip-off, the police had come up with a scenario in which all five
men had somehow come together on the night of the murder. They then
made their way to Lynette's flat and, without motive, had taken it
in turn to stab her to death. This bizarre story leaned heavily
on the testimony of four key witnesses. They included Leanne
Vilday, a Butetown prostitute and friend of Lynette White's and
another local prostitute, Angela Psaila. The police had interviewed
both women on a number of occasions and both women had insisted
consistently they knew nothing of the murder.
Then suddenly, after nine months, they changed their story. Now they
said they'd heard screams from the flat. They say they ran over to
find Lynette being attacked. The two other main witnesses were
Mark Grommek who lived above the murder flat and Paul Atkins who was
with him that night, both men are gay.
Like Vilday and Psaila, they too changed their story numerous times
and they settled for a final version that seemed to implicate
all five men in Lynette's murder. This version was then taken and
presented to Stephen Miller who, after 13 hours of denials in his
interviews, eventually agreed he Following the longest murder trial
in British criminal history, John and Ronnie Actie were acquitted
with unanimous not guilty verdicts. The remaining three defendants,
Stephen Miller, Yusuf Abdullahi and Tony Paris, were all sentenced to
life in prison. Innocent! You are a convicted murderer, you
get life, you phone your wife? I just told her that I don't know
when I'm going to get out. So the best thing to do was to divorce me.
There was too many people in prison getting letters and killing
themselves. I had enough on my plate worrying about me. I couldn't
worry about what was happening outside.
20 years ago, when I first visited Cardiff, I was puzzled at the
police adapting a new scenario quickly and suddenly accusing five
mixed race men with no forensic links to the crime without motive
and based on evidence from deeply unreliable witnesses.
These girls, these prostitutes, you know, they were vulnerable, they
were street girls, you don't get no more vulnerable than that. Five
people. You all had alibis? Yes. None of you had a motive? Motive,
no. We wasn't there. Back in 1992, I asked the former
Assistant Chief Constable of Manchester, John Stalker, a veteran
of over 100 murder inquiries, to review the quality of those
prosecution witnesses. These frankly were awful witnesses,
terrible witnesses. I would have been very unhappy to be taking a
case and very unhappy to be taking a car parking case before the
magistrates or the courts with witnesses like this.
And Panorama exposed the scandal of how Stephen Miller had been
interviewed by the police. The officer in this extract is
During the ordeal of all the hostile police interviews, Miller
denied over 300 times being at the scene of the crime.
Finally, he cracked and implicated his co-defendants.
He has a low mental age and capacity, he was subjected to five
days of intensive and brutal police questioning in a police station. By
the end of that, he has told me that he would have almost said
anything to get out of it. Nine months after the television
programme, the case of the Cardiff Three was heard at the Court of
Appeal. In his ruling, the Lord Chief Justice highlighted the
treatment of Stephen Miller in his As a result of the way Miller was
interviewed... Justice, man... the unreliability of other elements
of the Crown's case, the Cardiff Three were freed.
They emerged furious at their treatment by the South Wales Police.
They weren't interested in what I had to say. They didn't care. They
just wanted somebody in jail. were just basically just used as
scapegoats for the police who couldn't find anything else or
anybody else to put this crime on. They say when you're in a police
station, you're supposed to have rights. They broke all the rules.
They lied to me, they put me through sheer hell.
Supporters of the innocent men, now joined by Lynette's family,
campaign ford the case to be re- opened.
But it would take another seven full years for the South Wales
Police to launch a fresh investigation in 1999.
Now, aided by the latest advances in DNA profiling, they were able to
reexamine blood found in Lynette's flat and on her clothes.
The blood was eventually matched to that of 38-year-old Jeffrey Gafoor,
a local security guard. 15 years after murdering Lynette in
a row over sex and money, he was finally caught, confessed to the
crime and sentenced to life. Catching Gafoor was a big relief
because now you can say "I told you", you know, the same old thing.
I felt great and I also felt someone's got to be held
responsible for this. It is the police.
No-one can deny that the hunt by a fresh South Wales Police team for
Jeffrey Gafoor had been an impressive feat of detection and
now, with the killer safely behind bars, pressure mounted for a
thorough inquiry into what had gone so wrong with the original murder
investigation and why. In 2004, the Independent Police
Complaints Commission was now responsible for taking one of the
most controversial decisions in the entire saga.
They allowed the South Wales Police to investigate themselves.
A move taken, I understand, for public relations reasons, and to
restore the morale of the battered force.
The investigation was led by detective Chief Superintendent
Chris Coutts, a senior officer in the South Wales Police.
We always took the view that it should have been a neighbouring
force, not South Wales Police, who investigated the horrendous
miscarriage of justice that commenced in 1988.
But lawyers are not the only ones astonished by the decision to let
the South Wales Police investigate itself.
I've spoken to a number of former police officers who share the
concerns and we've obtained some internal South Wales Police
They reveal that detective Chief Superintendent Coutts was actually
investigating, amongst others, his former immediate boss, Inspector
Dick Powell, the man who was originally involved in the murder
inquiry. The paper showed that a decade ago Powell and Coutts worked
together. The close personal relationship
between these two must have given rise to some real concern. Sources
involved in the inquiry have told me that the IPCC saw nothing wrong
with it. Despite this, over the next six years, Coutts and his team
would continue to investigate their former colleagues in the South
Wales Police thoroughly and efficiently. The first arrests were
not of police officers but of the original key witnesses, Mark
Grommek was charged with perjury. He initially fought the case saying
he was forced to lie under duress but later pleaded guilty. Leanne
Vilday and Angela Psaila said they too had been forced by the police
to give false evidence. Nevertheless they were also charged
with perjury and pleaded guilty. Alex Carlile represented Leanne
Vilday. He's one of the most eminent lawyers in the country.
process that the so-called eyewitnesses went through, in my
view, was shocking. Leanne Vilday for example was threatened that she
would be charged with the murder, with being a participant in the
murder. It's not too difficult to understand how she succumbed to the
pressure. In sentencing all three in December to prison in 2008, the
judge said: "You were seriously hounded, bullied, threatened and
abused and manipulated by the police during a period of several
months. As a result you felt compelled to agree to false
accounts suggested to you." The Crown had been told that the
South Wales Police officers behaved appallingly forcing witnesses to
tell lies that sent innocent men to prison for life. Now, all that
remained was for the officers themselves to stand trial. 13 South
Wales Police officers were charged in the case against the first eight
and two civilian defendants opened at Swansea Crown Court in July of
last year. They included former inspectors Dick Powell, Tommy page,
and Graham Mouncher and former Dective Constable Greenwood. Police
officers forced each of the four vulnerable witnesses into changing
their statements. The police were, they allege, fitting in evidence to
suit their view of what happened to Lynette and they used threats,
intimidation and fabrication to finally implicate all five of the
original defendants. The prosecution argued that the
officers first convinced themselves of the guilt of the defendants and
then imposed their theories on those who actually knew nothing
about the murder. The court heard of an example of this and of just
how the police treated potential witnesss in the case of Jack Ellis.
Back in 1988, Elis was a local Taxi Driver who knew Lynette White well.
He willingly helped police on a number of occasions and even
appeared in the Crimewatch appear. I'm more of a friend than a Taxi
Driver. She used to talk a lot, dream a lot, you know like any
other young girlment But the police attitude to him changed when one of
the witnesses falsely claimed she'd seen his taxi outside the murder
flat. Now the police wanted him as a witness to support their murder
theories. I was taking to the police station. Then they just laid
into me with questions. I was scared, like really scared. Jack
Ellis was held in that police station without break for over ten
hours, shouted and yelled at by detectives trying to get him to
change his true account to fit their version of events. They get
to the point that you just want to give in and tell them anything,
even if you don't know it. Were you beginning to reach that stage?
much so, yes. But Elis dogedly held firm. After ten hours of
questioning and buling -- bullying, the police didn't take a statement
from him but wrote him out of the scenario they came up with and
drove him home. The car pulled up and they practically drag him up
the path. He was in such a state. His legs wouldn't hold him up. He
was the most dreadful colour. I get a bit upset about this. When they
brought him in, they just dumped him in the chair and one said, "I
think you'd better get a doctor. I think he's having a heart attack.
"And they just left. They just slammed the door. But even this
kind of evidence was not enough to save the prosecution's case, as
something quite fundamental was happening to fatally undermine it.
As the trial continued, it became clear that the overarching
importance of what is called disclosure, the production and
sharing by the prosecution of all documents relevant to the case, was
failing. The disclosure process is fundamental to the trial. How did
it go so wrong? From my understanding of the investigation
it was done quite competently. They investigated, foun the evidence and
charged the officers. Now what we have found out about the officers'
conduct in the criminal trial is that it was wholey incompetent.
November the judge gave the prosecution one last chance. He
called it the litmus test to prove they'd handled the paper work
correctly. But a crucial set of four files required to prove the
prosecution's competence couldn't be found. Evidence from one South
Wales Police officer indicated that one of the files had been destroyed
on the orders of senior officer Chris Coutts. The court transcripts
record that the prosecution accepted what appeared to be the
deliberate destruction of the files was indeed fatal to the case. The
explanation for this catastrophe was a serious error rather than
deliberate misconduct, in other words, a multimillion pound cock-up,
rather than a malign conspiracy. The judge promptly gave up, stopped
the trial on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service and
formally declared all eight policemen not guilty. But that
acquittal, under those circumstances, merely deepened the
suspicion of the original murder defendants. I was gutted. I was at
home. My solicitor phoned me and told me the case was being
withdrawn bit Crown because they'd misplaced from papers. Misplaced
some papers, they had computers down there 400 grand to work this
out. It took them six years to get it to trial, then they lost some
papers? Then came the most extraordinary twist in the whole
saga. Incredibly, the documents that had apparently been destroyed
miss teersly turned up -- mysteriously turned up seven weeks
after the trial ended. The court's conclusion that Mr Coutts was
involved in their destruction simply couldn't be true. I blame
the police first, because it is absolutely clear, cannot be avoided
that the police had possession and control of those documents for a
long time. Within a very short time at the end of the trial the
documents had been found. Well, it's self-evident that something
went very badly wrong. And to put the entire farce into perspective,
nobody had elected to call Mr Coutts to give evidence about what
had really happened to the files. When the trial collapsed, the court
was told that Coutts had given orders and there was documentary
evidence of this for the files to be destroyed. It was imperative
that the lead officer, Coutts himself, to explain the position.
But he never did. Today, despite the multimillion pound series of
legal disasters, the authorities are still denying a full
independent public inquiry into everything that went wrong. Instead
the Director Of Public Prosecutions has ordered a review of the Crown
Prosecution Service' role in the trial. The Independent Police
Complaints Commission is investigating its own performance
and the -- and the saga of Chris Coutts, the South Wales Police and
the case of the miss serious lost and miraculously found documents.
Indeed, I understand the IPCC will probably conclude merely that there
have been some honest mistakes. Predictable and all rather cosy.
However, the fiasco has not gone quite unnoticed. This summer the
House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has announced an
in-depth investigation into the IPCC. And they were very interested
in the dossier I'd gathered on the case. We've established that the
senior investigating officer in the South Wales Police had actually
worked under one of the chief defendants whom he was
investigating. That's ridiculous, isn't it? Conflicts of interest of
this kind need to be examined extremely carefully. Do you think
the investigation should have gone ahead given that these two people
knew each other as well as they did? This is a matter for a proper
investigation. I hope that when we get to look at this case, we will
be able to get to the truth. one official involved in this 25-
year-old saga of injustice and inefficiency has agreed to appear
in this programme. No-one from South Wales Police headquarters,
none of the detectives who were acquitted, no-one from the CPS or
IPCC. Everyone has ducked behind the endless ongoing inquiries and
investigations as their excuse for So, no closure in sight for those
who were inextricably lirvinged by fate to -- to 7 James Street.
dream about things I seen in jail. I dream about people hanging by
their neck, you know, I shouldn't be seeing this. Dianne and Jack
divorced a decade ago as a result of his profound mood changes. He's
old before his time, alone and ill. I wish I could say to the police
force, please apologise to him, at least, apologise for what you did
because you know you did it. Ronnie Actie died in 2007 aged 49. He had
been living in a garden shed. Yusuf Abdullah died last year, also aged
49. His family said he had been unable to adjust to life after
prison. John Actie remains obsessed with
the case. It's took over my life. It's taken
everything. I just want closure. I want to move on. Spephen Miller is
now the most damaged. Since the collapse of the trial, he's
suffered from acute depression and Accra phobia.
-- agoraphobia. Chris Coutts is retired and is writing a book. He's
hired a publicity agent who requests money for interviews. All
eight officers who faced trial are now considering suing the South
Wales Police. Lynette White would have been 45
this July. Next week, panorama joins the hunt
The case of the Cardiff Three - wrongly convicted of murder in 1992 - refuses to go away. Twenty years after a BBC Panorama investigation helped to clear the original men, the same team returns to investigate why the trial against the police officers accused of perverting the course of justice collapsed last year, and asks: is this the biggest scandal in British legal history?