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Volunteers’ struggle to maintain park

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'Children have been wonderful'

‘Children have been wonderful’

TWO volunteers from Burry Port who have been instrumental in taking over one of the County Council’s assets in the town say that they have been on a steep learning curve and have been left with uncertainty as to the long term future for the town’s remaining play areas.

Sharon Evans and Debbie Edwards form part of the Park’s Appeal Committee and have been working tirelessly for a number of years to ensure the town’s children have a place to play.

The Herald asked the two volunteers how they got involved with the asset transfer.

Debbie told The Herald: “We have taken over a small area of the main memorial park. It is the children’s play area and the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).

“We signed a 21-year lease with the County Council. It was done with the view that the Town Council would take over the responsibility. It was in a terrible condition when we took it over. It was a huge task to take on. It would have been nice to have it handed over in A1 condition but we went ahead because it was the only chance we had as parents to save a play area.

We asked how the committee had raised the money to make good the play areas. Sharon answered: “We did a lot of fund raising and the children themselves told us what they wanted. There was a community consultation. We applied for a number of grants and got 4 grants. Two were from the Welsh Government, one was from the council and one was from an environmental company.”

Debbie explained the amount of paperwork and effort concerned: “Each of the grant applications I sent away filled two lever arch files; it took a long time to put them together. We had to do a lot of community consultations. We had plans that the children looked at.

“It is a massive ask to do this. We had support from the County Council in grant applications but it takes people with time and skills to do the work.”

The Herald asked the volunteers if they thought that people in other communities would follow suit and do as County Councillor Pam Palmer had asked and not take what they had for granted.

Debbie told us: “I don’t see many people coming forward to do this. It is a huge project to undertake. We did have a boundary we were working within and that was quite small. Some of the assets are much bigger.

“We normally go down and check the equipment but the children and the community of Burry Port actually look after it very well. There is wear and tear and sometimes there is rubbish and glass we have to clean up. We are working with the Town Council regarding the maintenance. People see us as being responsible for the park and the maintenance. If we had not done anything it would have all vanished.”

The Herald asked the volunteers how important the areas were in keeping communities healthy. Sharon was eager to stress the facilities’ importance to the community: “The play areas are so important and this is why we started up the group. My own children were just being pushed around from area to area by the police. There is a community link to petty crime. If the kids have nowhere to go they will get into trouble. The initial meeting we had highlighted the state of the park. Some people said it was a waste of time and that the park would be vandalised. It has been open now for three years and there has been no vandalism. When we have put on events the children have been wonderful.” The Herald asked the volunteers what lessons they had learned from taking over the asset and if they would now do things differently. With the benefit of hindsight, Debbie said: “We would have liked more insight into what we were taking on. We did not get support around the financial aspects. We had an issue in relation to VAT. We were led to believe we would not have to pay VAT and we ended up paying VAT. That was a big chunk of additional cash we had to raise. I would have liked the County Council to have worked closer with the Town Council to make sure their commitment to take it over was there.”

She continued: “It would be in the county’s interest to appoint someone to unify the county and town council and people wishing to take over the assets.

“We started off with one group of councillors who were supportive and then we had an election in between and the next group of people had different interests. We would like the council to sign up to a charter for communities where they guarantee that people are helped to take over the assets and that the work is recognised, and sustainable.”

Across Carmarthenshire, town and community councils have taken responsibility for facilities by raising their Council Tax precept, we asked whether the volunteers saw much appetite for the same thing in Burry Port.

Sharon was sceptical: “I am not sure if people in Burry Port would want to put £1 or £2 on the precept if that was put towards play areas. We are a very small handful of volunteers trying our best to keep this asset as it is. We don’t have a voice to do anything regarding the precept. The Town Council are paying the insurance and undertaking the maintenance but we do get called on and we continue to fundraise.”

She concluded: “The playing areas are central to the health and wellbeing of the children in Carmarthenshire and there should be a unified approach from the councils and organisations to ensure they remain. The youth need the spaces to be out playing in a safe environment and not on the streets.”

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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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Moving the Welsh Economy Forward: “A Team Wales recovery, built by all of us” – Economy Minister

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will pursue a progressive economic policy that focuses on better jobs, narrowing the skills divide and tackling poverty, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, will say today.

At a hybrid Economic Summit, the Minister has invited businesses, trades unions and local government leaders to discuss how Wales can create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future.

In setting out his vision to move the Welsh economy forward, the Minister will commit to extending a Team Wales model to offer ‘as much certainty as possible’ for businesses facing a volatile recovery.  

He will promise a new era of partnership to strengthen regional economic development, a delivery plan to back the everyday economy and wide ranging support for workers in a fast changing economy.

The Welsh Government will work with unions and business to develop it’s ‘something for something’ approach so that Welsh public money is wedded to action on fair work, decarbonisation and skills.

The Minister will also start a conversation about the long term demographic challenge facing the Welsh economy. The proportion of the population aged 16 to 64 years old in Wales has been decreasing year-on-year since mid-2008 – and could be just 58% of the population by 2043.

In response, Welsh Ministers’ approach will be geared towards creating an economy where more young people feel confident about planning their future in Wales thus supporting job creation and more dynamic local economies.

The Welsh Government will set out a vision of what makes Wales an attractive place to live, study, work and invest – including the quality of life in an inclusive, open and green nation.

The Welsh Government will also call on the Chancellor to demonstrate the UK Government’s ambition for Wales by honouring promises made on EU successor funds, backing major renewables such as tidal energy and investing in Welsh research and development.

Later, the Minister will visit a family-run business that’s received Welsh Government support to grow, before delivering a speech to a predominantly virtual audience of business, trades unions and local government leaders and other partners at Transport for Wales’ new HQ in Pontypridd.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government is taking bold action to build a stronger, fairer, greener Welsh economy. It has taken a Team Wales effort to keep Wales safe and we will deliver a Team Wales Recovery, built by all of us. 

“A strong Welsh recovery will be based on the principles of fair work and sustainability as we invest in the industries and services of the future.

“As we face the headwinds of Brexit, I am determined that our credible plans will offer as much certainty as possible to help businesses plan ahead. 

“A new era of partnership for stronger regions, a young person’s guarantee, a plan to back our everyday economy and collaboration with world leading, advanced manufacturing. This is the cause for optimism for the future we are building in Wales.

“My ambition is to make Wales a place where more young people feel confident in planning their future here. You don’t have to get out to get on, make your future here in Wales.”

The Welsh Government’s approach includes:

  • Investing in our people – through the Young Person’s Guarantee and a strong employability and skills offer, including Apprenticeships;
  • Supporting those furthest away from the Labour market to find work. The upcoming Employability Strategy will highlight the support available for individuals, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic and furthest away from the labour market;
  • Accelerating the adaptation to new skills which are required for skilled, secure jobs, not least in the area of low carbon. The current recruitment challenge has also shown there is a need for some quick action on skills in certain sectors;
  • Exploring how we retain our graduates and talent in Wales by building strong linkages with universities, and between universities and businesses;
  • Support start-ups, including graduate start-ups, with possible incentives in some areas;
  • Ensure we have firms grounded in Wales who can provide future opportunities;
  • Wales can also benefit from the opportunities for far greater remote working and flexible commuting options.
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