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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 Saturday, December 11, 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 two days 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 Detective 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 Saturday.

Griff didn’t make his daily call to the local shop for his newspaper on Wednesday, December 8. 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.

44 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’ deaths at Llangolman and Scoveston 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.

They 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 any 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.

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A40 closed at Scleddau due to collision between car and motorbike

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EMERGENCY SERVICES have shut the A40 at in Scleddau due to a serious road collision.

The accident happened just before 2pm. The Herald understands that the collision involved a motorcycle and car at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

Police said: “Emergency services are currently on scene and dealing with the incident. Please find an alternative route if possible. Update to follow.”

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Moley’s Ambassador March to support those who have lost a child

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ON SATURDAY (Jun 19), Andrew Cole (aka Moley) will set off on a 24 hour walk around Pembrokeshire with the aim of doing as many miles in as little time as possible. 

Moley is proud to have recently been made ambassador of the charity ‘2 Wish UponAa Star’ an organisation dedicated to supporting families that have lost a child under 25 years of age.

He will be setting off at 6am in the morning from Neyland and walking all day and night, finishing at 6am the following morning.

2 wish upon a star was set up by Rhian Mannings, who set up the charity after losing her own son.

By celebrating the lives of those lost, and offering support to families through their grief; Rhian and her team offer an essential service to the community and those families who have suffered the devastation of losing a loved one.

Appealing for support from the people of Pembrokeshire he said: “Please give generously to support the wonderful work of Rhian and her team. Also, if you happen to see me in the day, feel free to give me a beep of encouragement’

“If you would like to donate to Moley, and support the charity, you can visit his JustGiving page.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/moleycole

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Lifeboats and chopper in major air sea rescue off the coast of Tenby

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TWO RNLI lifeboats from both Tenby and Angle stations have been launched to assist a coastguard helicopter which has been scrambled from MOD St Athen.

It is understood that a search for a missing person or persons is underway.

Paged this morning: Angle Lifeboat is currently involved in the search south of Tenby

The alarm was raised before 10am this morning (June 18).

Tenby’s Y-boat is also involved in the operation, The Herald understands.

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Rescue underway: Coastguard chopper position at 1030HRS on Friday, Jun 18 (Pic MarineTraffic)
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