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Jury out in chip shop murder trial

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THE JURY has retired to consider its verdict regarding the trial of a man who is charged with murdering his wife with a chip shop fryer.

Geoffrey Bran, aged 70 from Hermon in Carmarthenshire, is accused of murdering his wife Mavis on October 23 last year, and is alleged to have thrown scalding hot oil over her from a deep fat fryer, which gave her widespread burns and lead to her death later in hospital.

He had also burnt his own hand when he tried to help her remove her jumper, which was saturated in the boiling hot oil, by trying to pull it over her head.

Earlier this week, Bran gave evidence to the court in his own defence. He told the court that there would be arguments about nothing after his wife would drink alcohol and have ‘spells of paranoia moments’ in the day, but claimed he had never hit his wife during a confrontation. He said that Mavis would start drinking early, and would consume two and a half bottles of red wine.

Bran told the court they opened the Chipoteria because Mavis was doing some meals for elderly people in the village, and didn’t like retirement because she was always on the go. He said he built a cabin next to the caravan, which took around a year, because Mavis desperately wanted to open in January. He said he would clean and blanch chips, fry them, and clean the equipment after. Mavis would cook fish and pies, and make sauces.

On the day that Mavis died, Bran said Mavis was in a good mood, but had been drinking from around 9.30am that day. He said she consumed a brandy with two neighbours, and he didn’t notice anything different about her behaviour when she had been drinking.

Bran spoke about an order, for which his wife said the fat wasn’t good enough to cook the fish in. He said: “I said you may as well use my friers, I use you for chips, but you have to turn them down because they’re a bit high for fish.”

He claimed that shortly afterwards, she looking into the fryer and told him he had overdone them. He said: “I didn’t know I was meant to look after them. She said she was coming back straight away.”

With that, he said Mavis took the fish out with tongs and tossed them into a tray, resulting in a ‘waterfall of fat’. He told her he had seen worse on plates, and said he believed she wasn’t going to serve them.

He went on to describe that he went to blanch some chips, but happened to turn around to see that Mavis had fallen, and her head was about nine inches away from the floor.

He said: “I hadn’t seen her falling because I wasn’t looking at that point. I turned around and saw her flying to the floor. In the corner of my eye I could see the fat fryer moving on the table as if in slow motion, but it wasn’t slow motion. At the moment I was going to move I could see the legs … instantly the legs fell off the edge and the weight of the oil tipped the whole thing forwards the whole two tubs came out in one whoosh.

“Once the legs got over the edge the weight of the oil must have moved things fast without the tubs coming out and it was like a waterfall and landed on her chest.

“By this time now the whole unit was going through the air and landing on top of her, pulling the sockets out.”

He continued: “I grabbed her arm, grabbed her other arm, pulled her to a sitting position, and lift all her clothes off. I didn’t know whether I was doing the right thing to be honest. I just thought get the clothes off. She was wearing a thick jumper and a t-shirt underneath. Usually she wears a kitchen apron, but because we had guests that day she had forgotten to change.

“I grabbed the bottom of the jumper and pulled it off her head. I think the jumper came into contact with her face.”

When asked if he felt any pain, he said he couldn’t remember, and was trying to get her clothes off her.

He said: “I walk round her, grab her two arms and pull her to a standing condition. I pulled her to the slabs outside. At that point I forgot I didn’t have a phone. I’d forgotten to bring it down in the morning. We always took the mobile phone back to the house in the night to charge it.”

Bran said he told her to run up the house in order to call an ambulance. He said: “She screamed up the path. She was in shock but she knew what was happening. I could see her arms were peeling. That’s about it really because all the rest was quite red.”

When asked why he didn’t go with her or why he didn’t comfort her, she said he didn’t know and was ‘totally stumped’.

The court heard how when a customer came in, Bran told them there had been an accident, but when he said he could go to Newcastle Emlyn, he said he would serve him. He said that Mavis was in a dressing gown shaking, and her face was white.

Bran was kept in custody until October 24. He was asked if he visited Mavis in hospital, but said he was told he was not allowed to.

He said he wanted to see her to say goodbye, and told the court that he misses her every day.

During cross examination, Bran was pressed as to why he didn’t comfort his wife of 30 years and ask about how she was. He told the court he ‘couldn’t face it’, but couldn’t say why.

He claimed that his wife deliberately lied to paramedics and blamed him for burning her. He said ‘they are all lies’, and said that she would always make things up and blamed him for everything.

Bran was asked, if he had helped to remove Mavis’ clothing, why he didn’t have burns on both hands. He couldn’t answer.

The court heard that Mavis suffered 46% burns to her total body area. The burns were both partial and full thickness.

The front of her body mostly suffered from full thickness burns, including her torso, thigh and neck. Her eyes were closed when she suffered the partial thickness burns to her face. Her eyelids were burned, but not her eyes themselves. There were no burns to the back of her hands, her palms or her fingers, but there were to her inner forearms. They were likely secondary burns, caused by the removal of her clothing.

The burns proved to be fatal when her condition deteriorated. As a result, the burns she suffered caused her death.

The jury retired at 12.51pm on Monday (Nov 18) to consider the case. Judge Paul Thomas QC, said: “Members of the jury I am now going to ask you to retire and consider your verdict in this case. There is no pressure of time. Take as short or as long time as needs be. As far as today is concerned, if you have reached a verdict that is well and good; if you haven’t you will be sent home and return tomorrow.”

The jury has since retired and the court awaits a verdict.

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Union wants council investigation into Councillor Paul Dowson’s conduct

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Councillor Paul Dowson’s public statements criticising the Black Lives Matter movement should be formally investigated by the council, according to UNISON.

The trade union said Mr Dowson’s use of a phrase adopted by the racist Klu Klux Klan was deeply offensive when people around the world were united in protest at police brutality and the murder of George Floyd.

UNISON questioned whether the councillor is fit to hold public office.

Mr Dowson used his Facebook page to attack Labour councillor Josh Beynon’s suggestion Pembrokeshire County Hall could be lit up in support of Black Lives Matter’s commemoration of Mr Floyd’s death.

Cllr Dowson posted that “White lives matter” a White supremacist phrase which originated in 2015 as a racist response to protests against police brutality against Black-Americans in the USA. Councillor Beynon received an online torrent of racist and homophobic abuse.

Manuela Hughes, UNISON Pembrokeshire branch chair said: “The Black Lives Matter movement has shown everyone that racism is rife in society. Black people are more likely to have been subjected to police brutality, more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be unemployed as a result of systemic racism. Their contribution is often written out of the history of this country.

Black workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and in the NHS, care and transport sectors, Black people have paid with their lives for caring for the whole community.

“This is the climate in which Councillor Dowson made his comments. He has brought Pembrokeshire County Council into disrepute. It is important that everyone stands together against racism and the council must formally investigate his behaviour.”

Mr Dowson was criticised for his Facebook comments in April last year that former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, should commit suicide.

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Advice for businesses re-opening

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AS LOCKDOWN restrictions are expected to ease, businesses and building owners are reminded to check the maintenance of their premises as they re-open.

People who manage or own buildings are being asked to follow the latest advice from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Health and Safety Executive (CIEH).

Particular attention should be paid to water systems not used during the lockdown to help minimise the risk from Legionella bacteria as they prepare to reopen following the lockdown period.

Legionnaires’ disease can be contracted by breathing in small droplets of water suspended in the air which contain Legionella bacteria. Symptoms include fever, a non-productive cough and pneumonia.

Prevention work includes flushing through cold water systems with fresh mains water as well as increasing the temperature of hot water systems to above 60°C if possible to achieve thermal disinfection of the hot water system.

This should be undertaken as part of a thorough risk assessment and may require other works to be done.

More information is also available from the Health and Safety Executive website.

The Food Standards Agency also has guidance for food businesses re-opening their operations. It includes information relating to food safety issues as well as COVID-19 expectations. The link is: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/reopening-checklist-for-food-businesses-during-covid-19

To confirm your business has taken the necessary measures and is operating in line with the Government guidelines click on:

https://goodtogo.visitbritain.com/your-business-good-to-go-wales

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Man charged with two robberies a day apart

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A MAN has been charged with two attempt robberies in Pembroke Dock a day apart.

Jamie Rawlinson, of Colley Court in Monkton, is alleged to have committed the second offence just three hours after being released from police custody.

Dyfed-Powys Police arrested the 28-year-old on June 26 on suspicion of attempted robbery after receiving a report he had demanded a man give him money. It was reported that he held a sharp object against his chest. Searches were carried out, but no weapon was found.

Rawlinson was bailed with conditions for the offence, but less than three hours later, police were approached by a vulnerable man who said he had tried to rob him.

He was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted robbery. He has been remanded to appear at Swansea Crown Court on July 31.

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