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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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Cllr Dowson asks police to stop UN-backed anti-racism day protests

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THE UNITED NATION’S Anti-Racism Day has upset a Pembrokeshire County Councillor, and he has written to the police in an attempt to stop demonstrations locally.

March 20 2021 is UN Anti-Racism Day – but Pembroke Dock Councillor Paul Dowson thinks events should not go ahead as planned in Penally, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest.

The controversial UKIP councillor who has been defending himself against accusations of racism of late. He also has had to defend the actions of a fellow UKIP member who has had his YouTube channel, in which he participated, blocked after a BBC and S4C investigation concluded that there was racist content.

The UN event he is opposing is being supported all over the world, will be marked, according to its organisers, with an online national rally with speakers representing the broad alliance of communities and organisations that make up the anti-racist movement.

“We will come together united against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism. We will stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants”, a spokesperson said for the cause.

A ‘national day of action’ in support of the UN’s efforts is being championed by the worker’s union Unison in the UK.

The plan for Pembrokeshire is laid out on social media. According to the Facebook group ‘Stand up to racism Pembrokeshire’ is a series of ‘socially distanced events’ starting at 11am on the day in Penally, which the group calls ‘Solidarity with refugees’.

That is to be followed by the online rally at 1pm organised by Stand Up To Racism. Then at 2.30pm there will be an event in Pembroke Dock described as ‘an event light the town in purple and declare it racism free’

The International UN Antiracism Day online rally starts at 5pm.

Similar demos have taken place before locally (Pic Herald photographer)

The Facebook page then goes on to say that at 5.29pm at Haverfordwest Picton Fields demonstrators will ‘Take the Knee with Louisa Calderon’ at the same time as Swansea and Cardiff footballers before their game – in solidarity with BLM

“We will be all compliant with Covid regulations… Please wear a mask and socially distance” it says.

In this letter to the police Cllr Dowson wrote: “As County Councillor for The Pembroke Dock Central ward, I am concerned about the fact that a public protest has been scheduled to take place.. in breaching tier 4 lockdown regulations.

“I am reliably informed that there are people attending from outside the county and outside Wales.

“The posters advertising these events also state the same.

“Like all other towns in the country, we have a section of the community who are more vulnerable to Coronavirus than others and it is the duty of all of us to ensure that we do not place these people at risk by adhering to the COVID-19 lockdown legislation.

“These planned social gatherings are wilfully and deliberately intended to ignore legislation. If I were to do the same I’m certain I would be reported for the offence. The people attending this planned gathering on the 20th March have no justifiable excuse for placing local people’s lives in danger.

“I would appreciate your reassurance that this mass gathering will be dealt with according to Welsh Government legislation on tier four lockdown.

“I’d also be grateful for your confirmation that any person travelling from outside the permitted area will be reported for the offence and sent back home.

“As a County Councillor people are looking to me for reassurance… that [the demos] will be prevented from taking place and penalties will be issued accordingly.

An organiser told The Herald: “The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a fresh spotlight on the horrific levels of racism around the world. With the Coronavirus crisis intensifying, structural racism & health inequalities mean the epidemic is continuing to disproportionately impact Black communities.

“On March 20 2021 we will come together united against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism. We will stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants.”

Last month Cllr Dowson hit back at the BBC – calling the broadcasting company a ‘shambolic mess’ following a news report where fellow UKIP members were accused of displaying racism on their YouTube channel.

The controversial who represents the Pembroke Dock Central Ward has also taken aim at what he calls online ‘bullies’ who have set up Facebook groups with the sole intention of harassing him, simply because he doesn’t agree with their views.

The county councillor has come out in defence of the Voice of Wales hosts Dan Morgan and Stan Robinson after the BBC and S4C broadcast a news item last week where accusations were made by senior politicians from the Senedd that ‘unacceptable’ language and hate speech had been used by the YouTubers and guests on their channel.

In 2020 the controversial councillor denied he shared images on social media that were racist, hateful to women and people of different religions.

Dowson said the images, alleged by the union Unison to have come from his Facebook account, were “manufactured” by political opponents.

Speaking at the time he told a reporter from BBC Wales: “Give me 24 hours and I could come up with the same screenshots in your name.”

Mr Dowson “categorically” denied sharing the allegedly offensive posts. He also denied he was racist. Elected with a majority of just four votes to represent the Pembroke Dock Central ward in 2017.

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Fr. Liam Bradley to become Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police

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THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in Haverfordwest will see some changes over the coming weeks as Father Liam Bradley, who has been the parish priest for seven years is to move from his post to become the Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police.

From Cardiff, Archbishop George Stack said in a statement: “Fr. Liam Bradley has given outstanding service as volunteer chaplain to the police in Haverfordwest over recent years.

“So much so, that he has been seconded by the Diocese of Menevia to become Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police with responsibility for a team of volunteer chaplains. He will be engaged in this work of spiritual care and pastoral support of police officers and civilian workers for a period of three days each week. He will be based at Dyfed-Powys Police Headquarters in Carmarthen.

“Whilst this means that Fr. Liam will have to stand down as parish priest of Haverfordwest, I am pleased to say that he will continue to have responsibility as chaplain to the staff and patients at Withybush Hospital for two days each week. In addition to this, he will also offer his services to the Cistercian community at Holy Cross Abbey, Whitland.

“I am grateful to Canon Pius Valummelmalayil for his invitation that Fr. Liam should take up residence at St. Mary’s Presbytery, Carmarthen.

“I have asked Fr. Matthew Roche-Saunders to assume pastoral responsibility for the parish of St. David and St. Patrick, Haverfordwest and the Immaculate Conception, Narberth, for the foreseeable future. These changes will take place after Easter.

Writing of this appointment, Fr. Liam said on the parish’s social media page: “Whilst I am sorry to stand down from the role of parish priest at Haverfordwest and Narberth, I give thanks for serving the community for the last seven years. The huge need for spiritual and pastoral support of those who work at the front line in serving our communities and keeping us safe lies behind this appointment. My voluntary work with the police has taught me how much they value such support.

“I offer it on behalf of the Catholic Church to those of all faiths and none”.

Fr. Matthew added: “I wish Fr. Liam every blessing in his new role of bringing the service of the Church to the wider world. His gifts for such outreach have been recognised in this appointment. I am pleased that he will continue to remain in contact with parishioners in Haverfordwest through his work as hospital chaplain.

“I am grateful for the mutual support and friendship we have enjoyed over the last two and a half years and look forward to it continuing”.

“Please do keep me and Fr Matt in your prayers. Pray also for each other, and treasure in each other the may gifts that each brings to our community of faith.

“This is the closing of one chapter, but beginning of something new and exciting too.

“In all things let us give glory to God who guides us by his divine providence, and supplies what we need to complete his work.”

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Failures over use of ‘filthy’ barracks for asylum seekers – inspectors

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THERE were “fundamental failures” over accommodating asylum seekers in former military barracks, parts of which were “filthy”, inspectors have said.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons visited Penally Camp in Pembrokeshire and Napier Barracks in Kent. They said both sites were “run-down”.

In a preliminary report seen by The Herald the inspectors said at both locations residents described feeling trapped in poor conditions. They feared that if they moved out they would jeopardise their only source of support and possibly their asylum cases, it was concluded.

Inspectors added: “We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all of those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some points.

“At both sites about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.”

Home Secretary has been asked by Plaid Cymru to consider her position (Image: File)

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel and immigration minister Chris Philp have both previously defended the use of such sites.

There have been repeated demonstrations in both Pembrokeshire and in Kent by people from both ends of the political spectrum, and by local residents, causing security costs to spiral.

On Monday evening (Mar 8), the department repeated its assertion that “it is wrong to say it is not adequate for asylum seekers”

Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at British Red Cross, said: “These sites are completely inappropriate and inhumane as housing for people fleeing war, persecution and violence.

“The people we’ve spoken to in Penally have told us that they didn’t receive health screenings, were given little or no information about what was happening to them, and simply do not feel safe in the barracks.

“Our worst fears about the impact on people’s mental health have been realised.”

The cost of policing the camp has been higher than expected, running into millions of pounds (Pic Herald)

The BBC is reporting Labour has said the findings are “utterly unbelievable”, and Plaid Cymru called for Home Secretary Priti Patel to “consider her position”.

Inspectors said both sites – which witnessed protests over living conditions in January – were “run-down and unsuitable”, but particularly criticised Napier.

They said given the cramped, communal conditions, “once one person was infected with Covid a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable” at the site.

Many men said they were depressed, and a survey found a third of respondents at both sites had mental health problems, while a third at Napier had felt suicidal.

Reacting to the findings, Detention Action director Bella Sankey said: “This is the sort of report that should make decent people consider their positions.”

She called for the barracks to be closed immediately and for “those responsible fully held to account”.

Police and protestors in stand off in Penally in 2020 (Pic: Herald)

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “At a time when the Home Secretary and Permanent Secretary have told us they are making major changes to improve the culture and the humanity of the department in response to the Wendy Williams Windrush review, this report shows they haven’t yet learnt the lessons.”

Shadow immigration minister, Holly Lynch, said: “The Home Secretary has recklessly put the lives of all those staying at the sites, those working there, and the surrounding communities, at risk during a pandemic.”

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said Ms Patel “must consider her position” in the wake of the report, which highlighted “fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office”.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “During these unprecedented times we have met our statutory duty to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation and three meals a day all paid for by the British taxpayer.

“We expect the highest possible standards from our service providers and have instructed them to make improvements at the site.”

The Home Office has said people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach rather than making the crossings, and has said illegal migrants are being returned to safe countries.

The Home Office also said it had instructed service providers to make improvements to both camps. The government department has also said it is winding down use of the camps. In Pembrokeshire the policing costs alone have exceeded a million pounds.

Rooms in the camp were said to be too small for social distancing (Pic: Camp user)

 

Penally camp: Unsuitable in its current condition, said inspectors

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