- An explosive meeting at Parc Howard leaves more questions than answers. Alan Evans reports.
ON SATURDAY (June 6), The Herald attended a public meeting of the Parc Howard Association on Saturday.
Prior to the meeting, The Herald asked members of the public for their views. Jean Prior, who was visiting the park with her family and said: “The park was gifted to the children of Llanelli. It is a disgrace that there are plans to sell it off. It belongs to the people and the people should have the say in what happens to it.”
Liz Lewis of Felinfoel Road was attending the park with her grandchildren. She said: “I have been coming here for years with my children and now my grandchildren. I had a flyer through the door to invite me to an open meeting, but I had no idea what the agenda was, which was the privatisation of this park, which is an outrage. It is ours – they cannot sell it off. The people of Llanelli should decide what happens to this park.”
Before the meeting commenced, The Herald was approached by Tony Rees, who is an associate of the company Loca Venture Ltd.
Mr Rees asked: “Who gave you the information in your article on Friday (June 5)?”
When told that that information is confidential, he said: “It was Bill Thomas, he’s the one who gave you that, I’ve got evidence. He’s in trouble too, pass it on to him.
“I’m ex-News of the World, that is libellous. It’s a disgraceful article. The damage is done, there are people ready to put money into this venture, and you may just have destroyed that – that’s how irresponsible you are.
“I don’t know who your editor is, but there’s going to be trouble over this. Our lawyers will be contacting him. Trust me, he’s on his a**e over it. You warn him.”
The meeting commenced at 2.15 pm. Chairman, Ken Rees struggled to control the meeting from the start, and there did not appear to be a clear agenda for discussion.
Numerous members of the public filled the room, seated in front of the lone figure of Mr Rees sitting behind an enormous table. Some stood in the doorway and out in the foyer, such was the interest and concern over the proposals for the park.
First to question Ken Rees was Cllr Jan Williams, who requested that he confirmed the amount of reserves Carmarthenshire County Council held. Councillor Bill Thomas told the meeting that the reserves covered all the schemes in place or ready to be implemented, and it was misleading to say the council had £120 million in reserve.
A member of the public asked why there was a delay from the County Council in answering questions when ‘we are paying them’. Cllr Jan Williams said that the Town Council were waiting for answers from the County Council before they could consider any proposals.
Cllr Bill Thomas said: “We have had meetings with the County Council to begin the process of looking at Parc Howard and other parks. We can’t charge for concurrent services.
“If we were to take on the whole of the parks for Llanelli and be equal to everybody, the cost would be around £400,000. Our precept is £800,000.“Parc Howard costs £200,000 a year to run and the County Council are still paying for the running of Parc Howard.
“The original gift was to the children of the town. The trustees were the council. This is an asset. Last week, the Town Council were placed in an invidious position where a company were requesting a 250-year lease. We have no intention of giving it away. The chairman has been in meetings with a company who intend getting this asset.“Ken Rees brought the people there to speak to our clerk. It is clear that the intention was for them to take a 250-year lease. If they get into difficulty the asset is lost. We have secret meetings going on with a company according to the figures I have seen who have minus £40,000 assets.
“The council must have an opportunity to look at this the same way they looked at Llanelli House.”
Ken Rees said: “My attendance was as chairman of the association. Two meetings were held in public places. I have not been in any dealings whatsoever. I was there as the chairman of this association.”
When Cllr Jan Williams asked: “Did you invite all the members of the association to this meeting?” Ken Rees said: “Had I invited the county councillors I would have involved them in declaring an interest. This company have offered the looking after of the park. The park would remain in the hands of the County Council. What they (Loca Venture Ltd) were looking at was tenure of the mansion house.”
Councillor Thomas said: “You (Ken Rees) arranged that meeting and contacted our clerk.”Katrina, an association member told Ken Rees: “I have challenged you about your association with this company in an ordinary committee meeting and I advised you then that you are in danger of bringing this association into disrepute.
“You are in danger of sullying the objectivity. When you met with them and members of the Town Council, you did so under your initiative. I as a member of the committee, knew nothing about it.
“You were not representing the committee or me. If this situation continues, I personally will call for your resignation at the next committee meeting.”Councillors told Ken Rees that they had questioned the proposals and had only recently had information on the company. Former editor of the Carmarthen Journal, Robert Lloyd asked for clarification on the identity of the company. He asked if company members were in the room.Mr Lloyd said: “All we seem to get is that it is a mystery company with mystery people behind it. In order to be transparent, we need to know who this company is. The County Council have asked this mystery company to investigate possibilities for the park.”
Katrina said: “The council received an unsolicited private request,” to which Ken Rees replied: “They (the company) have met officers of the County Council and they were due to meet Mr Mark James. I understand they have met with Wendy Walters and Mr Jonathan Fern.”Katrina asked Mr Rees: “You asked Mr Lawler to speak to the company (Loca Venture Ltd) on the phone, and what that man (company representative) said was that he was hoping to avoid the tender process.”
Cllr Thomas said: “You know full well that this kind of business has to be tendered. We were made well aware by County Council officers that a tender process had to be followed.
“Last week’s agenda for the Town Council on that was the requirement of the company for a 250-year lease. You had a meeting in the Diplomat and we were not invited.”Cllr Thomas Jr said: “They are looking for freehold and they are looking at moving the museum.”
Ken Rees replied: “They indicated to me verbally that they would open a new museum on the bypass road.”
At this point, Tony Rees stood up and said: “This is a shambles, places like this end up getting boarded up and bulldozed. I am from Porthcawl and I know this area very well.”He was asked if he was a representative of the company, to which he said: “I know some of the people involved.”The chair was asked if he (Tony Rees) was introduced as a member of the company at the meeting at the Diplomat, to which he said he was.
Katrina asked Tony Rees: “What were you doing there if you were not a member of the Association or the Council?”
Cllr Thomas called on the chair to ask Tony Rees to leave the meeting on a number of occasions, stating that he was ‘a representative of the company and was trying to flannel people with promises of what would be done’. Mr Thomas said: “Nobody knows what will happen.”
Nia Griffth MP said: “We need to get things in the right order and understand the democratic process. The park is under the county council and it is only the county council who can make definitive decisions about what happens to it.
“We re-established the association to give our opinions but we don’t own the park. We feel very frustrated but first of all the county has to decide where it is going and the county is exploring this avenue with town and rural councils regarding a number of parks in the area.
“They have to have those talks and then make those decisions about what they do with their remaining assets. If it does want to franchise out, there are all sorts of proper rules and regulations about how that is done.
“If people are meeting with one particular company breaks every rule in the book. We have to get back into doing things in the right order and within the frameworks.”
When asked why the company was seeking anonymity, the chair said he was safeguarding confidentialities and that he was in the meeting with the representatives of the company. Eventually the company were named as Loca Ventures Ltd.
Tony Rees got up to speak, but was interrupted and asked if the company was a limited company.
A member of the public interjected and said: “It seems to me Mr. Chairman that you have a serious conflict of interest.”Tony Rees stood up once more and said he would pass on to the company many of the intelligent questions that were being asked.
The chair was told that allowing Tony Rees to speak was ‘out of order’.
Cllr Thomas insisted: “This gentleman (Tony Rees) has been associated with the company. He has been in a meeting and introduced to members of the committee at the Diplomat hotel. As chairman you should ask this gentleman to leave. He has a vested interest.”
A member of public raised the issue of legality and asked if the county council could sell off the park.
Councillor Bill Thomas said: “We have fought to stop developments here including plans for housing. There is a museum here, the house is here, there are treasures here and there is land here. Every time something comes up we have fought on your behalf.
“Do you think we want to see cars in this park where children cannot play? Do you think we want to see conference and wedding venues at this park? He has made sure that this gentleman (Tony Rees) is in the audience to try and persuade you that things can be done.”
Ken Rees agreed, saying: “You are right Bill, I am not denying anything you say.”Cllr Jan Williams said: “We will defend this park. Your local representatives are here. We will not sell the park.”
Speaking to The Herald outside following the meeting, Nia Griffith said: “It is a priority to have this park for future generations. I want this association to have a meeting with Meryl Gravelle here. She is an executive member who is ultimately responsible. We can put the point to her that we want to keep this park in public ownership for public use.”
Association member, Katrina told Ken Rees: “You have been misguided in what you have been up to and I have to serve you notice that I will ask for your resignation at the next meeting.”
Keith Davies AM said: “Ken Rees has been misled by the County Council and the company Loca Ventures Ltd. I agree fully with Councillor Bill Thomas.”
Following the meeting he said: “The most important thing for me was that an associate of the private company was there giving general advice.
Cllr Jan Williams said: “Tony Rees was masking himself as a member of the public. He did not declare that he was an associate of the company Loca Ventures Ltd.”
As of 2013, Loca Ventures had £973 cash in the bank, and the company director is Mohammed Fiaz Hussain from London.
Man jailed for assaulting three officers during arrest
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.”
Town centre triumph as food festival returns
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.
Police: New scientific evidence shows that David Morris was correctly convicted
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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