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Crime

Chip shop owner in tears as he is cleared of killing his wife with boiling oil

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A CHIP SHOP owner has been cleared of killing his wife after he was accused of pouring scalding hot oil over her.

Geoffrey Bran, 71, was accused of pushing or throwing a deep fat fryer onto Mavis Bran at the Chipoteria in Hermon, Carmarthenshire, on 23 October last year.

Mrs Bran, 69, died six days after suffering “horrific burns” to 46% of her body.

Before her death she told a friend and paramedics that her husband had “flipped” and attacked her with the fryer because she had been “nagging him”.

Mrs Bran: Died of horrific burns

But Mr Bran has been found not guilty of the murder or manslaughter of his wife.

Mr Bran was in tears when the verdict was read out after his week-long trial at Swansea Crown Court, before judge Paul Thomas QC released him from the dock.

His wife of 38 years died from multiple organ failure after developing sepsis, hypothermia and undergoing surgery to remove some of her burned skin.

Gareth Davies, a friend who lived with the couple, told the court Mrs Bran returned home naked from the waist up with “crimson” peeling skin.

He added she was shouting “I’ve been burned” and “I’ve had boiling hot fat all over me”.
Mrs Bran then rang her friend, Caroline Morgan, telling her: “Geoff has thrown boiling oil over me. Please get here, I need you now, help.”

Miss Morgan said she found Mrs Bran “shocked” and “shaking” and told Mr Davies to call for an ambulance, before telling Mr Bran, who was still serving customers, to shut the chip shop.

Mrs Bran: Chipoteria opened in January 2018 in a cabin near couples home

Miss Morgan told the court Mrs Bran said: “I was nagging him and he flipped.”

She was taken by air ambulance to the burns unit at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Mr Bran was initially arrested on suspicion of assault and denied attacking his wife, telling police: “She got burned with the chip fryer. She slipped and it came off the top and went over her. Don’t ask.”

The couple, who had no children together, owned around 10 businesses in South Wales, including the Chipoteria which opened in January 2018 in a cabin situated next to their home.

The financial pressures of their various businesses would sometimes put a strain on their marriage, leading to arguments about money, the court heard.

People who knew the couple were said to have described them as having “short tempers” and “always argued, swearing and shouting at each other”.

Mrs Bran was taken by air ambulance to the burns unit at Morriston Hospital

A friend of Mrs Bran had noticed the couple’s relationship had been “deteriorating” in the months leading up to her death, with Mrs Bran phoning friend Miss Morgan in tears saying “he’s getting nasty”.

Mr Bran claimed his wife had previously spread lies about him, and suggested she was “halfway” to being drunk after drinking glasses of red wine on the afternoon she was injured.

Paramedics found she had a blood alcohol reading of 108mg/dl, higher than the drink-drive limit of 80mg/dl.

Mr Bran said his wife must have been “confused” when blaming him but said he “couldn’t find an answer” as to why he then ignored her for more than two hours after she was hurt.

He told the court he loved and missed his wife, despite telling police in an interview: “It’s a miracle we lasted that long.

“But we used to get on OK. We’ve had our ups and downs.”

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Crime

Eight bungling police officers ‘raided’ home of autistic child ‘by mistake’

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THE FATHER of an autistic child has told of his horror as police officers smashed down his front door to execute a search warrant.
But it soon became apparent that as many as eight bungling officers had carried out the raid near Cardigan on the wrong address.
Michael Williams, 32, has taken to social media to share his experience, which he says has left his non-verbal son, 7, having nightmares.
Michael explained that when police smashed their way into the property they shouted for the father and his special-needs son to ‘Get down on the floor’.
“It was a frightening experience, seeing the door come in – and to be forced onto the floor without an understanding of what was going on,” said Michael.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Michael posted onto Facebook about the incident, receiving hundreds of shares. He said: “Where [can I] start with this mess – at 9am last Saturday (Jan 21) the police broke through my flat door with a warrant for a drugs search which in-fact was the wrong address and wrong person.
“You’ve effectively broke into my house with no warrant for the wrong person and address!
“My son was next to me on the sofa when this happened- anyone that knows me, or my son knows he is autistic and non-verbal. He is now Petrified of the police, he now has nightmares, the set back this is going to be for him is massive, we can’t ask him if he’s okay, we can’t explain to him how the force we pay to ‘protect’ us forced their way through our door with no valid reason or warrant (again the address on the warrant was across the road)
“For any child [this would have been] frightening for a child that’s nonverbal and autistic well it doesn’t bear thinking about!
Michael added: “Not once did the police check the Council Tax records or electoral board which would have shown mickey as a vulnerable child due to how complex needs.
“The police have offered no satisfactory reason to why they didn’t check things properly!
“I have seen the warrant the warrant address is in fact for across the road from me!
“I still have a door that won’t shut properly I probably have a child now that will be scared to come back because of the damage our fine ‘police force’ have done.
“How the hell the police forced entry in to a house (around 8 officers) with no warrant – there is more which I’m not ready to disclose until the ‘investigation’ is over, then again the police will always look after the police and that was evident today when I was told ‘the police done nothing wrong’
“Dyfed Powys police should hang their heads in shame! It’s disgusting what’s happened!
Michael finished his Facebook post by saying: “I would love this to be shared so no other child is made to jump out of their skin in their own home!
“The explanation you’re offering to this blunder isn’t good enough!”

I DON’T FEEL SAFE AT HOME

Michael now says has handed his notice to his landlord, stating that he no longer feels safe in his home and that it’s not a safe environment for his children.

Michael added that all he wants is answers. He would like to be able to sit down and speak to the officers responsible, instead of via email.

POLICE RESPONSE

Dyfed-Powys Police responded to the incident with a brief official statement. They said: “We can confirm that the Professional Standards Department has received a complaint, and this is currently in the process of being assessed and formally recorded under the Police Reform Act 2002.

“The Professional Standards Department will be in contact with the complainant to explain how the complaint will be handled, and the matter will be allocated to a suitable complaint handler for review.

“The outcome will be communicated with the complainant who will have a right to review if he is dissatisfied with the outcome”.

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Crime

Prolific child rapist from Pembrokeshire jailed for life

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A PEMBROKESHIRE man who raped and sexually assaulted young children, and posted images of the abuse to other paedophiles on the dark web, has been jailed for life.

Martyn Armstrong was identified after specialist National Crime Agency investigators reversed distortion filters he used to disguise his face in the images. The abuse began 17 years ago in June 2005 and continued to February 2011.

The 50-year-old was stopped and arrested by South Wales Police officers while driving on the M4 on 30 July 2022, following a request by the NCA.

Law enforcement partners across the world had been trying to identify the man in the abuse material ever since it was posted in 2010.

The images were referred to the NCA by Australian Federal Police in 2013, after they established they had been posted on dark web site, The Love Zone.

Some of the images showed the rape and sexual abuse of a toddler but, at that time, the perpetrator could not be identified because the images had been distorted.

In 2017 Italian investigators linked the name “Martyn” to the person who took the images, but they were unable to progress the case further.

In the same year a French investigator adopted the case and worked on identifying a beach which had been seen in some images linked to the offender.

After conducting significant research on the geology of the landscape, he established that rocks on the beach in the photo must either be in Ireland or Wales. He compared them to images of over 60 beaches before striking an exact match on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

The case remained unsolved until 2022, when NCA investigators created a new programme which finally disabled the image distortion technique. This revealed the face of the offender but his identity, and that of his victim, was still unknown.

The NCA team worked on the name “Martyn” and established that a Martyn Armstrong had links to the beach, by matching an image from his social media profile with the abuse images.

It was discovered that at the time of the abuse, Armstrong lived in Derbyshire but he had sold his house in January 2022 and moved close to the same Welsh beach identified by investigators.

Officers compared and matched pictures from the estate agency listing for the Derbyshire house to some of the original abuse images taken in 2009.

Following his arrest, NCA investigators found a number of devices in Armstrong’s home, including one of the two cameras he used in 2010. This was forensically matched to the camera which took the images.

The original indecent images of children (IIOC) he’d posted were also recovered from a laptop.

Investigators also discovered material showing Armstrong abusing two previously unknown child victims saved on his devices. All three victims were spoken to and safeguarded.

Armstrong was charged with 20 counts of rape on a child under 13, one count of assault by penetration, three counts of sexual assault, five counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, and one count of making and one count of distributing 204 category A (the most serious) IIOC.

He pleaded guilty to these offences at Cardiff Crown Court on 21 September 2022.

He then pleaded guilty to further charges on 10 November, including being in possession of 4,105 IIOC (in categories A-C), two counts of assault by penetration, one count of sexual assault, one count of making and one count of distributing IIOC in relation to the second victim and one count of making and one count of distributing IIOC relation to the third victim.

At the same court today (4 January), he was sentenced to life in prison with no minimum term.

NCA Operations Manager Martin Ludlow said: “It is over 17 years since Armstrong began to abuse these young children. I don’t believe he thought he would ever be caught and that the distortion techniques he used would protect him.

“However, the NCA and our international partners were determined to ensure his evil actions did not go unpunished.

“Our commitment to identifying him was unwavering and ultimately, NCA officers developed a completely new programme which led to his unmasking. Investigators did a remarkable job in piecing together limited information to finally reveal that Armstrong was the person in these images.

“We will continue to work together and do all we can to bring offenders like Armstrong to justice and protect innocent children from child sexual abuse.”

Lucy Dowdall of the CPS said: “The abuse that Armstrong subjected his victims to was horrific.

“Despite the passage of time and the steps he had taken to hide his identity, the CPS built a robust case against him resulting in guilty pleas.

“The investigation conducted by the NCA officers was exceptional, and we thank them for their diligent work.

“The CPS are committed to bringing those who sexually abuse children to justice, whenever our legal test is passed, and we will continue to work with our partners in the police to do so.”

BOX OFF

Charge sheet

For victim one (between December 2009 and February 2011):
20 x of rape of a child under 13
One x assault by penetration
Three x sexual assault
Five x causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity
One x making indecent images of children (204 category A images)
One x distributing indecent images of children (204 category A images)

For victim two (between January 2005 and January 2007):
Two x assault by penetration
One x sexual assault
One x making indecent image of a child
One x distributing an indecent image of a child

For victim three (in August 2010):
One x making an indecent image of a child
One x distributing an indecent image of a child

General possession of IIOC (between January 2005 and July 2022):
One x category A (789 images)
One x category B (989 images)
One x category C (2,327 images)

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Crime

20 months for woman who kept drugs hidden in a hedge

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A NORTH Pembrokeshire woman would make trips to get drugs hidden in a hedge adjoining her property, and from a blue Jewson’s bag in her front garden, as part of a UK-wide drug running operation, Swansea Crown Court heard.

Leonie James, 33, admitted being involved in conspiracy to supply cannabis as part of the Pembrokeshire- Dorset drugs ring busted earlier this year during Operation Rookley.

The court heard on Friday (Dec 16) that James’ home in Precelly Crescent, Goodwick was put under police surveillance between July last year and January 2022.

Officers witnessed drugs being delivered by couriers to the home that James shared with ringleader Shaun Lucas. The court heard that James was present at the home ‘on many occasions when such supplies were taking place’.

The drugs were then stashed outside the house, in the front garden and in a hedge adjoining a neighbouring property.

James was seen making frequent trips from the house to these stashes with these trips coinciding with visitors coming to the house to buy drugs.

The court was then given details of occasions in September last year when James had either gone to the hedge of the Jewson’s bag within minutes of a visitor arriving at the house.

“The defendant was taking drugs from the stash and being concerned in the supply to other persons,” said Jim Davies, prosecuting, saying that she had acted as Lucas’ ‘assistant’.

James had also travelled to Merseyside with Lucas in February of this year on what was described as a ‘drugs related trip’.

Mr Davies stated that the known amount of cannabis involved was in the region of 40 kilogrammes.

Police had also seized £26,000 and £15,000 from two separate couriers involved in the operation.

James was arrested on March 14 this year and gave a no comment interview before pleading not guilty to conspiracy to supply both cannabis and cocaine.

On November 24 this year James changed her plea on the cannabis charge to guilty. The crown then offered no evidence on the cocaine charge and a formal not guilty verdict was recorded.

In James’ defence it was said that she had already spent nearly five months in custody and two months with an electronic curfew.

A probation report said that there was a significant prospect of rehabilitation and a low prospect of reoffending. She had one previous conviction for driving while under the influence of cannabis and an unrelated caution going back to 2012.

“She has her own difficulties and health problems that she is battling with,” said her barrister, adding that she was a mum of four young children.

He maintained that she had a ‘lesser role and a relatively limited function under the direction of those running the operation’ and that there was a ‘degree of naivety on her part’.

“It wouldn’t be right to say that there was no influence from those above in the chain, she was in a relationship with one of them,” he said.

Judge Her Honour Catherine Richards KC said that she would not send James back to prison as ‘it would be unjust on you and those who depend on you’.

“You supported your partner in his enterprise,” she told James. “There is no evidence of an operational or controlling role. You helped supply customers and allowed drugs to be stored on your premises and handled cash when needed.

“You have spent a considerable time in prison already and time on curfew.”

Judge Richards handed down a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months with a 25 day rehabilitation requirement.

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