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The Llangolman Murders: Cooper and a string of coincidences

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IT’S December in Pembrokeshire – the run up to Christmas – and the bodies of two wealthy siblings are found in their fire-damaged rural home.
Both suffered horrific injuries before their deaths. But, because of the fire, little evidence is found.
We could be talking about Richard and Helen Thomas’ deaths at John Cooper’s hands in their Scoveston Manor home.
But we’re not.
We’re talking about a mysterious double murder that took place almost a decade earlier, in the Pembrokeshire village of Llangolman.

John Cooper kept trophies and keys from his criminal career. Police found hundreds when they searched his home.

Cooper was charged and convicted of 2 double murders, rape and sexual assault in 2011.

Before then, Cooper was convicted of robbing over 30 properties in a crime spree stretching back to him stealing a car, assaulting a police officer and ABH between 1961-65.

Brother and sister Griff and Patti Thomas lived in the small village of Llangolman, near Clunderwen, for over 70 years. Neither married so they kept each other company in their small rural farmhouse, Ffynnon Samson, in the picturesque Preseli Hills.
Their lives passed relatively uneventfully until sometime before 8:25 am on Thursday, December 9, 1976. While on his rounds that day, a local postman, Nigel Rossiter, stumbled across a horrendous scene at Ffynnon Samson.
Mr Rossiter collected what he thought was the outgoing post from the Thomases home. But it was the post he’d placed there the day before. When the postman noticed this, he knocked at Ffynnon Samson’s door to check on Griff and Patti.
There was no reply.
Worried about the elderly pair’s welfare, he let himself in.

The scene which greeted him was horrendous.

“Going into the house, I had to go into a good bit of the room because there was a big chair or something in the way. I could see this charred body in a nest of cushions, and a made-out thing, like, as if it was a nest,” Mr Rossiter told the inquest into the siblings’ deaths.
What Nigel Rossiter saw were the badly charred remains of Griff Thomas on a settle. Mr Thomas’ body was so severely burned that only his feet could be made out.
Nigel, understandably shocked, ran to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm.

It wasn’t until Mr Rossiter returned to the scene with the Police that they found Patti.
Patti Thomas’ body was found slumped over a table on a magazine rack in the parlour.
She had been brutally beaten to death with a heavy dining room chair which was found covered in blood.

When the Police arrived on the scene, they collected 174 items of evidence.
House-to-house enquiries began with over 150 statements taken.
Forensic experts descended on Ffynnon Samson with 430 fingerprints taken from the house.

The local constabulary, headed by Chief Superintendent Pat Molloy, proved Griff and Patti Thomas were both killed sometime between Griff’s last visit to the local shop for his daily paper and some shopping at 4 pm on Tuesday, December 7 and the discovery of their bodies on Thursday.
Griff didn’t make his daily call to the local shop for his newspaper on Wednesday, December 6. It’s, therefore, reasonable to suppose he didn’t because he and Patti were already dead.
Griff’s watch was found to have stopped ticking at 8:20. Dyfed-Powys Police believe that the Thomases met their demise on Tuesday evening.
Of the 430 fingerprints taken from Fynnon Samson, 2 couldn’t be traced.

Locals widely accepted someone else had been in the house that night. Police found Griff’s blood AND one of the unidentified fingerprints on a sewing machine that had had its cover placed back onto it by persons unknown.

They were left-hand fingerprints, but Griff’s left arm was so severely burned that his fingerprints couldn’t be taken.
Although a thorough search didn’t find a murder weapon, it did find £2,700 in Patti’s purse.
That discovery derailed the murder investigation.
Dyfed-Powys Police began treating what happened to the Thomases as a murder-suicide.

When an inquest into the unexplained deaths was opened in Haverfordwest in February 1977, officers stuck to that explanation.

The ’77 inquest heard how it was believed that Griff Thomas had rowed with his sister over ‘pocket money’ she gave to him.

The inquest also heard it was believed that the severely arthritic Griff had beaten his sister to death with a chair before committing the ghastliest of suicides.

How Griff sustained a fractured skull wasn’t explained; nor was how a person of calm temperament suddenly snapped into a murderous rage. Griff’s severe rheumatism wasn’t mentioned.

The inquest’s summary reads: “Something must have happened between the old couple, and it could have been that Miss Thomas provoked her brother by either hitting him or pulling his hair and he then retaliated.

“It was possible that Mr Thomas had provoked his sister by starting a fire. Though seriously injured, he carried his sister from the house’s kitchen into the living room where she was found sitting on a magazine rack. He could have headed back to the house’s kitchen, collapsing in a doorway where his blood was found before getting to his feet and then either falling back into the fire or throwing himself on it.”

On February 17, 1977, an inquest jury deliberated and returned the verdict that Patti Thomas’ death was manslaughter at her brother’s hands. Griff’s death was, however, left open.

Rhydwilym Baptist Chapel in 1976

The Thomases were interred at Rhydwilym Baptist Chapel where both siblings were dedicated members of the congregation attending church the Sunday of both their deaths.

Due to the inquest’s verdict, Griff was, for many years, denied a headstone as it was believed he had killed his sister in a moment of insanity. He now shares a headstone with Patti though.

43 years later and many locals still believe someone else was there that night.
Whatever you might think, it’s believed John Cooper was in the Llangolman area at the time doing fencing work.
We also know for sure that the key for Griff and Patti’s locked bureau was never found.

The similarities between the two pairs of siblings’ death are striking.
We asked whether the Police explored possible ties between the Llangolman deaths and Cooper.
A Police spokesperson didn’t deny Cooper was a person of interest in Griff and Patti Thomas’s deaths.
The said: “Dyfed-Powys Police will examine any specific new information containing detailed knowledge or evidence, and any further decisions would be based on the results of the examination of that new material.
“There is no intention to re-investigate any incidents on speculation alone.”
The day after Cooper’s conviction in May 2011, Dyfed-Powys Police were understood to have been planning to “review the circumstances” of the 1976 deaths.
It seems that review yielded no new information in the decade since. Dyfed-Powys Police must be happy with the way their 1970’s predecessors investigated the deaths at the time.

It’s a shame the evidence taken from Ffynnon Samson won’t be scrutinised with modern DNA testing techniques and the same thirst for justice which saw John Cooper convicted of two double murders some 21 years later despite police not finding much new evidence they didn’t already possess as part of Operation: Huntsman.

As of going to press, Griff and Patti Thomas are no closer to the justice they deserve than they were in February 1977.

When this article initially ran, we printed the picture and named Llangolman Church as being the place of burial for the Thomases and that Griff didn’t have a headstone today. We later found these details to be incorrect, so we have rectified this for the online version of the story.

News

Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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Business

Natural Resources Wales approves Ireland-UK interconnector licence

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GREENLINK INTERCONNECTOR LIMITED says it welcomes the decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to approve its application for a Marine Licence for the Greenlink electricity interconnector project, which will link the power markets of Great Britain and Ireland.

An important project for Pembrokeshire, and the UK as a whole, NRW’s go-ahead is one of several consents required for the construction of the project and covers installation of the marine cable in UK waters.

The approval is a major milestone for Greenlink and joins the onshore planning consents granted unanimously in July last year by Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Greenlink’s proposed 190km subsea and underground electricity cable will run beneath the Irish Sea to connect National Grid’s Pembroke Power Station in Wales and EirGrid’s Great Island substation in County Wexford, Ireland. It will have a nominal capacity of 500 MW.

The Wales-Ireland link is just one of four interconnectors being installed

Nigel Beresford, CEO for Greenlink Interconnector Limited, said: “We are delighted by Natural Resources Wales’s decision to grant this licence. This marks a significant milestone for Greenlink and another important step towards project construction, which we expect to commence later this year.

“The Greenlink team has worked constructively with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh marine stakeholders to find workable solutions to the many technical and environmental challenges facing a large infrastructure project like this, and this has been reflected in the quality of the final proposal.

“The thorough environmental and technical assessments we have undertaken, supported by the practical and value-adding feedback we have received from key marine stakeholders, have ensured that we move forward confident that we are delivering a well-designed project with the interests of the Welsh marine habitat at its core.”

The subsea section of the cable will be approximately 160km in length and uses high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. The preferred route and installation methods were chosen following the conclusion of subsea surveys and consultation with key stakeholders.

In Ireland, a Foreshore Licence application was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Foreshore Unit) in 2019 and the onshore planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2020.

Greenlink is one of Europe’s most important energy infrastructure projects and brings benefits on both sides of the Irish Sea for energy security, regional investment, jobs and the cost-effective integration of low carbon energy. The project will offer important local supply chain opportunities and plans are being drawn up for ‘meet-the-buyer’ events in the local area prior to construction.

Once fully consented, Greenlink is expected to have a three-year construction programme, with commissioning planned by the end of 2023.

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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