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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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Permit applications open for Tenby pedestrianisation scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now accepting applications for vehicle access during this year’s Pedestrianisation of Tenby.

The scheme, which is due to start on Monday, July 5 and conclude on Friday, September 10, will again see the walled town divided into three ‘zones’, each having varying degrees of vehicle access.

Whilst all necessary plans are being put in place for it to start and finish on the above dates, the scheme will remain under constant review in light of Government guidance relating to Covid-19, and the Council will provide any updates as necessary.

Possession of an ‘access permit’ does not provide any exemption from Government restrictions, and any regulations relating to travel and the occupation of holiday accommodation or second homes must be observed at all times.

Following the success of last year, the permit application process will continue online, with paper application forms and guidance notes no longer being delivered to residents and businesses.

The application form and guidance notes are available from pembrokeshire.gov.uk/tenby-pedestrianisation

Residents and business within Tenby are encouraged to complete the application process as soon as possible, to ensure that there is sufficient time for the application to be processed.

Permits will be issued approximately 7-10 days prior to the start of the scheme.

For enquiries, e-mail tenby.pedestrian@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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