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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.

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Funding secured for volunteering support at Paul Sartori Hospice at Home

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PAUL SARTORI Hospice at Home, a Pembrokeshire-based charity, is delighted to announce that they were recently awarded £29,814.00 by the Pembrokeshire County Council Enhancing Pembrokeshire Scheme. The charity has been awarded a grant to develop the “We Care: Volunteering Support” project, which will improve the volunteer infrastructure and support the volunteer community.

The project will combat issues around Second Home ownership by increasing community engagement and opportunities to connect people through training, open days, new social events and wider community outreach and communication. The first phase of the project has been completed with the successful recruitment of Eleanor Evans, the We Care: Project Officer. Eleanor joins this part of the charity, on a secondment basis, and brings a wealth of
experience, not only within the charity but also working with volunteers throughout the county.

The charity has experienced challenges over the last 12 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new project will enhance the existing volunteer structure within the charity, develop incentives to increase volunteer engagement; support volunteers by providing increased training opportunities and develop a new social culture to decrease loneliness and isolation. Recognising that the pandemic has been a difficult time for many, improving and increasing community communication will also be a key aim.

Furthermore, the Sartori Stores throughout Pembrokeshire, have been through a difficult year, closing, opening and closing again. Most volunteers have gracefully assisted the charity, often at the drop of a hat, to open the stores.

Unfortunately, the charity has witnessed a decrease in the number of available volunteers to help, due to the pandemic. So therefore, another key objective will be to recruit and train more volunteers to assist in generating vital income and supporting areas within the clinical services.

“I am very excited to join this area of the charity and am looking forward to this new role. Having worked within the retail sector previously, I know how a lack of volunteers within a store can have a detrimental effect on the opening days and times. This will be where I will be concentrating my recruitment efforts on initially,” stated Eleanor Evans, We: Care Project Officer.

“Here at Paul Sartori we work hard to deliver a rewarding volunteer experience – we
ensure that adequate training is given to all volunteers. Our managers provide training and invest time with our volunteers to ensure they have the skills to work in many areas across the charity. Our stores can be a very busy, fast-paced environment, which offers a great opportunity for the environmentally conscious individual who wishes to help out a local charity selling pre-loved goods,” added Eleanor.

Cllr Bob Kilmister, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said the Council were pleased to support Paul Sartori deliver their We Care: Volunteering Support project.

“This project will add to the wide range of essential services Paul Sartori already provide to people in Pembrokeshire, improve their volunteer infrastructure and support the volunteer community,” he said.

“This is such a difficult time for charities and local organisations to maintain their services and volunteer activities and it is important to support them to strengthen their volunteer base, especially at this time when Covid is increasing the incidence of isolation and loneliness.”

The Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant, using funds raised via the Second Homes Tax is available to provide funding for new projects that help address the negative impact of second homes and in doing so adds value to our communities.

“This grant has come at a good time for the charity. Assisting our valued volunteers; recruiting more active volunteers and investing more in our existing training programme will ensure that the charity is financially sustained for many years to come,” said Judith Williams, Grants Coordinator at Paul Sartori Hospice at Home.

Paul Sartori Hospice at Home provides a range of services to Pembrokeshire people living in the final stages of a life-limiting illness, including home nursing care, equipment loan, complementary therapy, bereavement and counselling support, under 18’s anticipatory grief and bereavement support, physiotherapy, advance care planning and training.

The services provided by the Paul Sartori Hospice at Home enable people in the later stages of any life-limiting illness to be cared for and to die at home with dignity, independence, pain free and surrounded by those they hold most dear, if that is their wish. All of the services are free of charge and are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to the generosity of the Pembrokeshire Community. Further information on the charity and its services can be obtained by visiting their website www.paulsartori.org, or by phoning 01437 763223.

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Police at scene of RTC – officers seeking witnesses

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POLICE in Milford Haven are making door to door enquiries in the Great North Road area following an accident involving a pedestrian and a vehicle.

It is understood that CCTV in the area was not pointing in the right direction so police are appealing for help with the case.

There is still a large police presence in the area as of 11.20am this morning (Feb 26).

MORE TO FOLLOW…

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Crime Commissioner continues to secure funding for organisations that support victims of domestic and sexual violence

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THE POLICE and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys Police is again making the offer for organisations that support victims of domestic and sexual abuse to bid for additional funds.

Funding was made available last year, in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on organisations supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence.

It was part of a £76 million package of support made available by the UK Government.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “Thanks to this additional funding, we can ensure that victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence in Dyfed-Powys can access specialist services for support, at a time when they are needed the most.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in domestic violence during the pandemic and victims need help now more than ever and I am grateful for the work of all the service providers across the Force area that help these men, women and families who are most in need.

“I want to reassure anyone who is in an abusive situation or relationship that you do not need to suffer in silence, and I urge anyone to report abuse to the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

“This funding is open both to providers whom I currently commission and those that I do not currently fund. However, unlike the extraordinary Covid-19 funding provided in 2020/21, organisations do not need to be a registered charity, a charitable incorporated organisation, or a social enterprise to be eligible for this funding. They must, however, provide support services which have the purpose of helping victims of sexual violence or domestic abuse cope with the impacts of crime and, as far as possible, recover from the harm they have experienced. We would also encourage applications from small specialist organisations that support groups with protected characteristics.

“If you wish to submit a request for this funding, further guidance is available on my website, and can be requested via the office e-mail address.”

Closing date for submissions is close of play on Friday, March 12, 2021.

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