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Llangolman: A double-murder Cooper didn’t do?

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THE MYSTERY over the 1976 deaths of Griff and Patti Thomas deepened this week.

The Herald received intriguing new information which counters the long-held belief in John Cooper’s involvement in the siblings’ death.

Rumour, gossip and convenience placed Cooper in the Llangolman area around December of 1976 doing work for a fencing contractor.

We spoke with a source who has an intimate knowledge of the area and community. Vitally, they know about the fencing contractors and workers active in the Llangolman area at the time. They dismissed the suggestion John Cooper was in the area as ‘nonsense’.

They said contractors from outside the area would’ve ‘stuck out like a sore thumb’. The presence of an outsider, they continued, would’ve been remembered by the remote, close-knit, Welsh-speaking community. In 1976, they added, anyone coming to the area from further south than Haverfordwest would’ve been seen as ‘down-below-ers’.

Our source told us that supply runs by ‘outsiders’ to local merchants for things like nails or timber for fencing posts did not occur. It would’ve been improbable, they added, that ‘boys from Milford’ would come to the area with every item to complete a job.

As for the possibility that Cooper might’ve been ‘hobbling’, our source told us that Cooper’s accent alone would’ve been considered ‘exotic’. So incongruous that if Cooper went to a pub for a pint and a game of darts or visited the local shop, he would’ve been remembered at the time of the original inquiry.

Large jobs would’ve meant working alongside local workers. We were told none of them recalled working with John Cooper. Even when directly and repeatedly asked over the years since Cooper’s conviction for the Scoveston Manor and Coast Path killings, no local workers placed him in the area.

Poor weather during November and December meant that large jobs would not have been planned for those months. In context, this was just after the long and hot summer of 1976.

Any emergency fencing work would’ve been done by locals as, in those days, ‘boys from Milford’ would’ve taken too long to get there.

Another source claimed that John Cooper’s connection stems from a local, unrelated family with the same surname and vivid imaginations.

Whatever you choose to believe, no eyewitness testimony placing John Cooper in the Llangolman area in the weeks or months leading up to the deaths has been seen by anyone with even a passing interest in the bizarre deaths of the Thomas siblings.

We will, of course, keep an open mind and if anyone has information that definitively proves Cooper was there and when, we’d be very eager to see it.

Whilst we might be able to cross off Cooper’s name for the deaths of Griff and Patti Thomas. Indeed, those we spoke to this week were clear that we could. However, that leaves a terrifying alternative. Someone local, someone who knew Griff and Patti, was capable of a double murder and they were never even questioned by the Police.

Griff Thomas (background lady unknown)

The Herald has heard enough information that, we believe, whittles down the list of possible suspects to just two individuals. Both lived in the area at the time and knew the victims well enough. Both, it seems, knew of Griff’s daily journey to Charing Cross Stores a short drive away.

Our sources sketch out an alternative scenario. Someone known by both Thomas siblings entered Ffynnon Samson, knowing Patti would be on her own. They planned to steal the money they believed was kept in the house bureau by the ‘tight’ brother and sister.

When Griff returned, nothing would’ve seemed amiss until he entered the parlour. There he found his younger sister critically injured. A confrontation followed, during which the thief struck Griff fracturing his skull and Griff’s blood ended up on the doorframe.

With Griff incapacitated, the settle was pulled down on top of him, and a fire started to cover the killer’s tracks. The murderer then fled the property through the back door. They took enough money to ‘sort Christmas out’ but not so much to raise others’ suspicions with them.

They left the Thomas siblings to die. Patti died first from her injuries, her body showed signs of smoke inhalation from the burning settle, but not enough to end her life.

Griff died second, the post-mortem discovered that he died primarily from burns and the contemporaneous description of the crime scene supports that scenario.

Martha/Patti Thomas: Griff’s younger sister

It is at least as likely as the one advanced at the subsequent inquest.

For the account given to the inquest to work, belief needs to be suspended. A profoundly religious elderly man, known to be a timid personality, and who had arthritis of the spine, slew his sister by picking up heavy furniture and striking her with it. Repeatedly.

Somehow, he fractured his own skull in the process. He then covered up a bloody thumbprint from an unknown third party by replacing the cover on a sewing machine, staggered to the kitchen and set fire to himself whether by accident or design.

Or a third party committed the offence and got away with it in a scenario similar to the one presented to us.

If that wasn’t enough, there are other details which raise questions.

Specifically Griff’s coat, which was found with the cheese he’d brought from the shop still in his pocket, had Griff come home to an argument, he’d surely still be wearing his coat and had the killer not arrived until later, Griff and Patti would’ve eaten the cheese discovered in Griff’s coat pocket as they had planned to have it with dinner.

The Sewing Machine. Who put the cover back on it? Whose finger-print was found, alongside Griff’s blood, under the replaced cover?

Why, according to locals, were the footprints in the snow around the farmhouse not properly investigated until after police had thoroughly inspected the property and the footprints had started melting?

We hesitate to describe the Police investigation as ‘botched’. No matter how unlikely the inquest verdict, we cannot say it’s ‘unsafe’. We can say the case looks as though a theory was formed and the evidence made to fit its frame.

An unlikely link to John Cooper has prevented a full view of the facts. Dyfed-Powys Police’s refusal to re-investigate ‘based on speculation’ prevents any final resolution being reached anytime soon.

However, once lockdown is over, we’ll be back on the case going through the records to see how close we can get to the answers.

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Pembrokeshire Leisure welcomes back school swimming

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PEMBROKESHIRE Leisure is welcoming back school swimming lessons around the county for the first time since March 2020.

Swimmers from over 20 schools will be attending in their class bubbles to enjoy learning vital water competency skills in Pembrokeshire Leisure’s six swimming pools.

In a county which is surrounded by beautiful beaches and coastline, being safe in and around water is a potentially life-saving skill.

The programme of school swimming lessons helps to achieve the Welsh national priority that every child is a swimmer by the time they leave primary school.

The National Curriculum requirement which has been designed in line with this is that every key stage 2 child should be able to:

  • Swim 25 metres with clothes on (shorts and t-shirt), then tread water for 30 seconds and demonstrate an action for getting help and move into the Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P)
  • Demonstrate a shout and signal action to attract attention.

The first school to return was Ysgol Glannau Gwaun at Fishguard Leisure Centre and there are now 20 primary schools which will be attending swimming lessons around Pembrokeshire.

On Monday 14 th June, Coastlands County Primary School attended and their Head Teacher Sonja Groves said: “We are delighted to finally get back to swimming after such a long time away. The children were so happy to be back in the water learning and enjoying. Swimming is a vital life skill which helps to keep the children of Pembrokeshire safe in and around all types of water.”

Leisure Services Manager Gary Nicholas said: “It is fantastic to be able to safely welcome back school swimming to our facilities. Primary school aged children have missed over a years’ worth of swimming lessons and Pembrokeshire Leisure are committed to supporting the aim of every child a swimmer by age 11.

“We will continue to do this by delivering quality school swimming lessons following the Swim Wales Nofio Ysgol programme, using the Free Swimming Initiative to provide targeted sessions for the most deprived swimmers and by continuing to provide swimming lessons at all sites in our Learn to Swim programme.”

For more information about how you can book your child swimming lessons and support their journey to becoming a competent swimmer, contact your local leisure centre.

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Landmarc flies the flag at local training camp to celebrate Armed Forces Week

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TO CELEBRATE Armed Forces Week 2021 and the contribution made by local military personnel, Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc) has raised the Armed Forces Day flag at Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire.

Following an unprecedented year for the UK’s troops as they responded to the challenges raised by the pandemic, Landmarc, which manages the UK Defence Training Estate in partnership with Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), wanted to extend an extra special thank you, by flying the official Armed Forces Day flag at military training estates across the UK, including local camp, Castlemartin.

Landmarc employees were joined by Armed Forces personnel and staff from DIO to witness the raising of the flag, where it will fly proudly until Armed Forces Week comes to a close on the 28th of June.

This Armed Forces Week, Landmarc has pledged its support and sponsorship of Team Emotive in its mission to complete one of the world’s most difficult ocean rowing challenges – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – all in the name of raising money for mental health charity, Veterans at Ease.

Made up of four Armed Forces veterans, including one Landmarc employee, Team Emotive is preparing to travel 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua. Rowing two hours on, two hours off for forty days, this challenge will push the team to its limits both physically and mentally. 23 rd June 2021

In addition, Landmarc has also announced its official partnership with the Armed Forces charity, SSAFA, working together to support veterans as they transition into civilian life.

Mark Neill, Managing Director at Landmarc, comments: “Each year, every one of us at Landmarc gives thanks to our troops during this special week. As part of the 25 per cent of veterans and reservists that make up Landmarc’s workforce, I know first- hand how important this event is for morale within the Forces community.

“It’s always fantastic to see so many people and organisations come together each year for Armed Forces Week, but the events of the last fifteen months have heightened our gratitude. The efforts from our servicemen and women have been immense and impossible to ignore in the nation’s fight against COVID-19; with our own staff working alongside the military to support the demands of the training estate as it hosts troops from across the country.”

For more information on Landmarc Support Services, please visit www.landmarcsolutions.com.

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Endurance runner tackles Pembrokeshire Coast

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ENDURANCE runner Sean Conway has successfully completed his epic series of marathons in the UK’s National Parks.

On Thursday, June 17, Sean tackled the Pembrokeshire coast, running from Newport to Dinas Head and back, fuelled by sports nutrition brand ‘Grenade’.

Sean, who is from North Wales, has ran the length of Britain before but says this was the longest stretch of days where he has had to constantly do a marathon every day.

Speaking of his run in Newport, Sean said: “It was so hilly. Honestly, the weather was amazing. It wasn’t too hot and there were some nice views along the way. At Dinas Head, it was amazing looking down at the lagoons and there are some amazing rock formations.”

He took six hours to complete his marathon but there was little time for recovery as he moved on to his final run in Snowdonia the day after.

“This was my second-last marathon so my body was feeling pretty battered and I’ve had to do it fully self-supported so I was doing one run out then back to the car and then out again”, Sean added.

“With covid we’ve all been staying at home more so I wanted to show off how amazing the National Parks are.

“There will be more of us visiting as restrictions are eased but we don’t want to ruin it by being silly.”

Sean was provided with his nutrition for the runs by Grenade and he said he ‘would not have been able to survive without them’.

In the morning he would have an energy drink which contained vitamins and electrolites and he would also mix this in with his water for some of his runs.

Sean would also have protein bars to give him an extra boost as he tried to keep on top of his protein intake.

“Pembrokeshire was so scenic. When I announced the runs this was the run that stood out online and I was really looking forward to doing it. We’ll definitely be coming back soon” Sean concluded.

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