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Fiddles, fixes, and dodgy deals

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pembreysignAS THE COUNCIL carries out its own investigation into irregularities at Pembrey County Park and other Council leisure facilities, The Herald has been provided with credible information from more than one source which indicates that not only were there significant and widespread irregularities in the management and finances of the venue, but that senior Council officers were made aware of them and took steps to cover them up.

The Herald has spoken to several current members of Council staff and been given documents and recordings which suggest that the Council’s ongoing enquiry into Pembrey is likely to uncover not only who knew, but when they knew, and why the matter was brushed under the carpet by officers desperate to avoid a scandal.

The Herald understands that affairs at Pembrey were on the radar of senior then opposition councillors before Plaid took leadership of the authority last year.

We can also confirm that Executive Board Member for Resources, David Jenkins, launched an enquiry into the operation of the leisure operation at Pembrey, having previously held concerns at the lack of clarity in certain figures relating to the Park’s operation. The result of that enquiry was the preliminary report presented to the Audit Committee on March 22.

That report suggested that there were ‘historic issues’ and that Council procedures had not been complied with.

We believe that at least one officer concerned in the allegations has recently left – or is shortly due to leave – the Council’s employment without facing disciplinary action and with a payoff.

Repeated assurances were given to councillors at a full Council meeting that there was no evidence of dishonesty, with Deputy Leader, Councillor Pam Palmer, leaping in to defend officers from any suggestion of misconduct. It appears those assurances, and Cllr Palmer’s wish to fling herself in front of a bullet for Council officers, were sadly misplaced.

ASSURANCES FROM OFFICERS

Responding to questions from members of the Audit Committee in March, Ian Jones, Director of Leisure and Regeneration, and Phil Sexton expressly denied that any fraud had taken place.

Mr Jones told the committee that, following the departure of the previous Director (David Gilbert OBE, who is now a member of the Swansea Bay City Region Board), staff had been asked to look at a number of issues. However, Mr Jones failed to expressly identify what those issues were or how they had arisen in the first place.

Mr Jones went on to claim that what the report had picked up on were ‘exceptions’ and that whatever the ‘historic issues’ were, they were not the norm across all sites.

The Director of Leisure and Regeneration claimed that the authority was a victim of its own success and change within his department. He cited challenges the authority had faced with staff leaving and with unidentified and unexplained ‘complicated Human Resource issues’.

Mr Jones said that areas needed to be strengthened and improved, whilst failing to identify why improvement was required, or at least how the circumstances giving rise to improvement necessity had arisen.

NO FRAUD, BUT NO HIDING PLACE

Phil Sexton, the Council’s Head of Audit, Risk and Procurement , said: “It was made clear to the Audit Committee that no fraud had been identified. In terms of the review of the leisure facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park, which had been undertaken at the request of the Director of Communities, the committee was made aware that the weaknesses identified were being addressed and officers would continue to work closely with the audit section.

“Members were advised that an Action Plan was being prepared in respect of the issues in question and it was agreed that this should be brought to the committee at its next meeting. It was then resolved by the committee that, for monitoring purposes, an Action Plan be submitted to the next meeting detailing as to how the concerns raised following the review of the leisure facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park would be addressed.”

Speaking to Herald reporter Alan Evans after the meeting, the Executive Board Member for Finance, Cllr Dai Jenkins, said: “The audit committee have done their work and there is going to be an action plan to look into it further. If the allegations are as bad as they seem to be and are found to be true, or if there are loopholes in the system, they will be removed. The audit committee is only a tool of the full Council as are all scrutiny committees.

“There is no hiding place. I don’t see any way shape or form that there can be a cover up. We will look at the review in full detail and report to full C ouncil accordingly.”

‘FOR F**K SAKE DON’T GO TO THE POLICE’

The Herald can confirm that it has listened to a recording in which two senior Council officers are heard pleading with a third party not to go to the police with details regarding allegations of serial dishonesty and sharp practice by other Council employees.

In the course of that recording, one senior officer demands to know what information is in a third party’s possession. When the third party refuses to confirm or deny that he has information that substantiates allegations of dishonesty, the senior officer says: “You do (have the information) don’t you? For f**k sake don’t go to the police.”

The Herald believes that information is now in the possession of local MP Nia Griffith and AM Lee Waters and that material has now been handed to the police.

A further recording has a manager at a Council facility detailing the fact that a contractor would win a tender and openly giving them confidential information about other tenders and about the amount of money they should offer for the tender.

THE TENDER

The Herald has heard a recording and seen a transcript which contains a conversation between in which the parties discuss the tender for catering services at Pembrey Country Park. They also discuss personal HR information regarding the dismissal of a Council employee who is unaware of their impending purported redundancy.

The two discuss plans for reorganisation of council facilities in order to ‘get rid’ of the employee who is known to them both. They also discuss conversations they have had with County Council officers. The recording took place in January 2016.

We know the identity of both participants, but we will refer to them as H and X.

H: You will be awarded the bloody tender on the first of February. Trust me, on the first of February we will award you the contract. We will make a decision week after next. We will give you the nod on the first of February. There is a ten day cooling off period. There are ten days where it is in limbo where you can change your mind if you don’t want it. The formal contract is February 15 or 16. Nobody knows what we are doing really do they? I discussed it with [Council officers] and that.

THE DISMISSAL

X: We know what has happened – the problem we have is that we are not able to do what we want to.

H: He is going to get his redundancy notice.

X: Oh he hasn’t had it yet?

H: [A named senior current officer ] fixed a meeting with him for yesterday to formally give him it ….HR said don’t give him his redundancy notice before Christmas as it will spoil his Christmas. It was due for the seventh . It is something like the 15th that he will get his formal notice. The trouble is he’s got three months’ notice.

X: Ah, but you said you were going to do like you did with [a former manager].

H: I have plans. The only problem we ‘ve got with the ski slope is they are putting it into sport.

X: That is a way of getting rid of him?

H: To get rid of him – I hope I can get it back. My problem is if it goes into a trust, I have problems. I don’t want them to have the cycling. The leisure centres are going into it. All the leisure centres, theatres and they are going to add the ski slope. They’ve done it to get rid of him.

The Herald has also seen two letters, which our source says were written by X under duress from H. We were told that the letters were given to council auditors in order to cover up failure to follow tender processes at a council facility.

Referring to the two letters, our source said: “It is all falsified. H wanted the auditors to see X had tendered but X hadn’t.”

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Man jailed for assaulting three officers during arrest

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THREE female officers carrying out their duties suffered injuries in an unprovoked attack at the hands of the man they were trying to arrest.

Officers had executed a warrant at the home of John Steven Knight, in Stafford Street, Llanelli, for an unrelated matter. Because the 37-year-old was not home, PC Jaye Blanco-Martin, DC Eleri Owen and colleague who does not want to be named, attended his work in Ammanford.

As officers spoke with Knight he was initially calm and compliant. But then he tried to unlock his phone.

The DC who is not being named said: “In fear that Knight was attempting to delete evidence and frustrate a police investigation I took hold of his left arm to try and seize the phone. 

“Knight’s personality and attitude towards the officers changed instantly.

“He moved his phone to his other hand and immediately started to fight us.  He was pulling away clearly trying to escape.

“Out of nowhere I felt a sudden push from Knight using his full body weight and as a direct result of this blow and I fell to the ground and hit my head. I immediately felt pain and discomfort to my head and it started throbbing.” 

In the struggle, all three officers ended up on the floor having been shoved and thrown into furniture, walls and a door frame.

Despite Knight’s efforts, the officers were able to arrest him, although they were left with the marks to show they had been in a struggle.

One officer suffered a suspected head injury that required a CT scan, while all three suffered cuts and bruising to various parts of their bodies.

The officer added: “I was incredibly worried for mine and my colleagues’ safety.  Knight was a well built and over 6ft and had the strength to take three officers to the ground with him.”

Knight appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on September 29, the day after his arrest, on September 28, when he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Following the terrifying ordeal DC Owen said: “During the whole incident I was afraid not just for my safety but also my colleagues.

“That it was only three females with a male who was around 6ft 2ins resisting and assaulting officers made me feel vulnerable.

“I will never forget this, it will be something that stays with me throughout my career. I did not expect to go to work that day to be assaulted. I was just carrying out my duties.”

After a rise in such assaults, Dyfed-Powys Police has linked with Wales’ emergency services to launch the year-long ‘Work With Us, Not Against Us’ campaign.

It came after more than 4,240 assaults were committed against emergency workers, including police, fire and ambulance crews, in the period April 2019 – November 2020, representing a monthly average increase from 202 in 2019 to 222 in 2020, or 10%.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Emma Ackland, said: “Assaults on police officers continues to increase and this is completely unacceptable. No officer should expect to come under any sort of attack when doing their best to serve the public and potentially save lives.

“It is vitally important that sentences given reflect the harm and upset caused to these victims – professionals doing their work.”

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Town centre triumph as food festival returns

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THE people of Llanelli treated themselves on Saturday, October 16 as Llanelli Food and Drink Festival returned for its third stint in the town centre. 

Crowds turned out in droves as hot street food vendors and artisan producers lined the streets in the event organised by Ymlaen Llanelli, the town centre’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Chair of Ymlaen Llanelli, Lesley Richards, was thrilled with the event’s success: “The annual food festival is our biggest event, and it was great to see people excited for it to return after a year away. Our work at Ymlaen Llanelli is all about bringing people together in Llanelli town centre, so we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone that came along and made the day what it was. We can always rely on the people of Llanelli to bring the party!”

The sun was shining as festival-goers as they tucked into their treats and were entertained as a lineup of acoustic acts took to the stage in Stepney Square. 

Children and adults alike got stuck into the food-themed crafty fun as the vintage pottery bus Annibendod offered Mad Hatter’s Tea Party pottery, while A Taste of Times Past hosted pickling and pasta-making workshops in St Elli Shopping Centre.

BID Manager, Mandy Jenkins, was pleased with the day: “It was brilliant to see town so busy, and we’ve had incredible feedback from our businesses who were choc-a-block on the day. On top of that, the public response has been phenomenal, so we really couldn’t be happier. Thank you Llanelli!”

Ymlaen Llanelli returns for some festive fun with Llanelli Reindeer Parade on Saturday, December 4.

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Police: New scientific evidence shows that David Morris was correctly convicted

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SOUTH WALES POLICE say that an independent investigative assessment into the Clydach murders in 1999 have shown that there is a scientific link between David Morris and a sock, widely accepted as being used by the offender during the killings.

David Morris was found guilty of murdering an entire family of four including two young girls.

But potential new witnesses, along with the views of experts, had given campaigners calling for his release fresh hope.

However Morris, 59, died in prison in August.

He spent 22 years in jail for killing Mandy Power, 34, her daughters Katie, 10, and Emily, aged eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris Dawson.

A bid to again take his case to the Court of Appeal was rejected in 2018 by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In July the Crown Prosecution Service said no information had been provided by the potential new witnesses to undermine the conviction.

The review, which was being overseen by Devon and Cornwall Police, was then expected to move on to look at forensic issues also challenged in a recent BBC television documentary about the killings.

Police say that the scientific examination of the sock has identified the presence of a mixed *Y-STR profile using technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team over 20 years ago.

While the presence of a link to Morris (or a male relative of his paternal lineage) and the mixed Y-STR profile has been identified, the science cannot determine how or when this profile was transferred onto the exhibit, but the conclusion of scientists is that it is “more likely” that Morris contributed to the DNA profile found on two different areas of the blood-stained sock than if he did not contribute DNA to them.

Following the tragic events in Kelvin Road, Clydach in June 1999, South Wales Police carried out an extensive investigation into the murders and the scale of the investigation was the largest and most complex ever undertaken by a Welsh police force.

In 2002, David Morris was convicted of the murders by a unanimous verdict at Swansea Crown Court. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to a conflict of interest by a defence solicitor. A retrial was held at Newport Crown Court in 2006 and Morris was convicted again. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The matter has been considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission as recently as 2018. Following a thorough review of the case material they decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal as no new evidence had been identified.

In November 2020, legal representatives of Morris contacted South Wales Police requesting the release of various exhibits from the investigation.

This request was the subject of careful consideration and the force decided on a course of action which involved the appointment of an independent senior investigating officer and an independent forensic laboratory to oversee a forensic review of the case material.

This work – carried out under the banner of Operation Dolomite – has been led by experienced detectives Steve Carey and Ian Ringrose, supported by police forensic expert David Lloyd, all of whom are from Devon & Cornwall Police. An independent forensic science laboratory, Cellmark Forensic Services, was commissioned to carry out forensic work.

Following the death of David Morris on 20th August 2021, permission was given by his family to obtain a blood sample to allow forensic examinations to take place.

Assistant Chief Constable David Thorne, of South Wales Police, said: “The decision to carry out an investigative assessment did not constitute a reopening or reinvestigation of the murders, nor did it demonstrate any lack of confidence in the conviction of Morris and the subsequent case reviews. Morris was convicted unanimously by a jury on the strength of the prosecution case and independent reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have never identified any evidence which would determine the conviction to be unsafe.

“However, the advancement of forensic technology has provided the opportunity for evidence-based answers to some of the questions which have been raised about forensic issues in this case, along with other matters raised by the BBC Wales documentary ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’. The appointment of Steve Carey and his team has ensured the review has been conducted with a layer of independence.”

The outcome of the investigative assessment has been communicated to the victims’ families, the family and legal representatives of Morris and others affected by this case.

Mr Carey said: “My team has carefully examined the issues raised and subject to the terms of reference for Operation Dolomite.

“In the opinion of the forensic scientist regarding these results – which were obtained from samples extracted from two separate areas of the sock at the time of the original forensic examination – it is more likely that David Morris (or a close paternal-line male relative of his) contributed DNA to them than if he did not.

“In relation to one sample, the lead forensic scientist has stated to me that in his opinion the low-level and incomplete mixed Y-STR result is as would be expected if Morris had contributed DNA to it. For another person to have contributed to it, the components must match by chance.

“The scientist would have a very low expectation of selecting a male individual at random from the Western European population having components in their Y-STR profile being represented to the same extent as those in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“To test this, an evaluative tool developed by Cellmark Forensic Services showed that from a dataset of 9,357 Western European males, no-one is represented to the same extent as the component in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“It should be noted that the results do not allow the scientist to interpret how the DNA got onto the sock and therefore whether this was through directly touching the item or indirect transfer but the identification of this link has been possible due to the development of technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team.

“This is significant as the sock was recovered from the murder scene and it was widely accepted that it was used by the killer.

“The outcome of the forensic assessment and completion of further actions have not established any information that undermines the conviction of Morris. In my view, as the independent senior investigating officer, the new findings from the samples taken from the sock support the existing evidence that originally convicted him.”

Operation Dolomite also investigated accounts provided by two witnesses who featured in the BBC documentary. They were interviewed by officers and several enquiries were conducted to try and corroborate and support their accounts.  All this evidence was shared with the Crown Prosecution Service. None of the information provided by the witnesses undermines the conviction of Morris.

ACC Thorne added: “Notwithstanding the fact that Morris has been convicted based on overwhelming evidence against him, South Wales Police has shown a commitment to providing evidence-based answers to the issues which have been raised about this case over many years.

“This commitment has now resulted in a forensic link between the convicted killer David Morris and an item of great significance which was recovered from the murder scene. South Wales Police commissioned the review in the hope that we could in some way provide closure for those most affected by the murders. In particular, those who lost three generations of the same family and have had to revisit those painful memories time and time again over the last two decades.

“The findings from Operation Dolomite will be shared with the Criminal Cases Review Commission to complete the due process and demonstrate transparency.  However, in the knowledge of the conclusions drawn from this review, South Wales Police would like to show respect to the family and those affected by these terrible crimes by finalising this case.

“Our thoughts as ever remain with the family of Mandy Power, her children Katie, aged 10, and Emily, eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris, who still experience such painful memories even to this day.”

Following the refusal by the CPS to look at new evidence before David Morris died, Janiene Morris, one of David Morris’s two daughters, said: “This is another massive blow to dad’s case and as a family we just don’t understand it.”

She said at the time that the evidence of a taxi driver who had sighted unidentified people near the murder scene had been discounted. In all, she said there were three witnesses that had placed others near the murder scene on the night of the killings.

“We’ve never met them and don’t want to because we want to do things properly. These witnesses have was not involved with anyone in the case and have absolutely no reason to lie. I cannot express how angry and frustrated we are right now. It is so frustrating, but we’re not going to take it lying down”.

Speaking in July, Janiene said: “He is up and down. He has good days and and bad days. Sometimes he is just exhausted with everything that is going on. We are looking forward to seeing him.”

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