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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. They were never caught or 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 walk to Charing Cross Stores some 20 minutes 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 hung up 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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Simon Hart MP says that First Minister is ‘reckless’ to say that the UK is ‘as it is, over’

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THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WALES, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, said that the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford is wrong to suggest that the United Kingdom has had its day in its current form.

The First Minister’s exact words were “the UK as it is; is over”.

Mr Drakeford’s has said a new union should be created to reflect a “voluntary association of four nations”.

In his conference speech, the Welsh Labour leader called for “home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom”.

In a strong rebuke of Mark Drakeford’s comments Simon Hart MP said on the BBC’s politics Wales programme on Sunday (Mar 7) that his suggestions was “reckless” and “an overt act of flirtation with Plaid Cymru.”

Mr Hart added: “I think he realises if he wants to remain first minister he has to do a deal with Plaid, it’s the only option on the table. He hasn’t denied that, I’ve heard.

“In order to do that he has to start making noises about the union that has to appeal to his Plaid Cymru colleagues. I think it’s quite a reckless thing.”

Mr Hart explained that the UK “benefits” Wales and that the UK-wide procurement of Covid-19 vaccines proves this. He added: “It demonstrates just one example that the UK is a positive influence but it doesn’t mean that some of the other arguments are not valid”.

Plaid Cymru wants to hold a referendum on Welsh independence if it wins May’s Senedd election, but the power to do so lies at Westminster.

There has been a growing interest in more independence for Wales in the last few years, with a huge surge in membership of the non-political Yes Cymru group since the start of the pandemic.

Plaid leader Adam Price, speaking on the same programme, said: “We sincerely believe that independence is ultimately the only sustainable way whereby Wales can achieve its incredible potential as a nation that isn’t being delivered at the moment and whereby we can achieve social and economic justice for everyone that lives in Wales.”

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Thursday, which The Herald was invited attended via a Zoom, Mr Drakeford explained said his idea of home-rule meant “the powers we have, and the devolution settlement we develop, would be guaranteed and would not be interfered with in the way we have seen so vividly in recent months”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I do think the effect of the pandemic and last 12 months has been to polarise opinion in Wales about how Wales should be governed.

“There are some people who take a lesson that we would be better off handing Wales back to Whitehall, there are some Conservative candidates standing in the Senedd elections who apparently take that view.

“It has undoubtedly strengthened interest in those people who believe Wales should be taken out of the United Kingdom altogether.”

The company which runs The Pembrokeshire Herald, Herald News UK, has recently launched a national news website for Wales which is sympathetic to Welsh independence.

This is something which could not have happened without a shift in feeling by many in Wales that as a nation it should have more autonomy.

Speaking on ITN’s News at Ten on Thursday (Mar 4), Herald.Wales South and West Wales Editor, Tom Sinclair said: “From our test marketing we can see that there certainly is a huge appetite for news that is about Wales, made in Wales, and owned by a company which is actually Welsh.”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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