Les Spence was a remarkable man who kept an astonishing journal. For almost four years he risked his life to keep a daily record of hardship, courage and endurance in prison camps run by the Japanese. He and his fellow prisoners faced starvation, disease and cruelty. They kept up their spirits by playing sport, listening […]
The second programme in the series – ‘Voices from the Front’ – pulls together a range of archive interviews with veterans from the battle for Mametz Wood.
The interviews, mainly conducted in 1987/1988, describe in frightening detail the vicious fighting which took place on the approach to the wood.
The programme also features a rare broadcast interview with conscientious objector Ithel Davies.
In the first programme pupils from a Port Talbot school track down the stories behind the faces on the memorial in their main hall.
The third and final programme features the story of the Monmouthshire soldiers who fought a terrible battle at Ypres, a tribute to air ace Ira “Taffy” Jones and amazing footage from the sinking of a schooner from Porthmadog.
The footage was filmed by the U-boat crew which sank the boat.
Important documents, whose disappearance led to the collapse of Britain’s biggest ever corruption trial, have been found in boxes held by South Wales Police.
Yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, ordered a full inquiry into the collapse of a trial of eight police officers accused of perverting the course of justice during the 1988 hunt for the murderer of Lynette White in Cardiff.
The trial collapsed in December and the officers were acquitted after the judge ruled they could no longer get a fair trial as certain documents were thought to have been shredded.
Then later yesterday IPCC commissioner Sarah Green released a statement to say they had not been destroyed after all.
“The Independent Police Complaints Commission has now verified that the documents that the Lynette White trial at Swansea Crown Court on 1 December 2011 was told may have been destroyed have been discovered and were not shredded as first thought,” she stated.
“The court was told that some enquiries had been made about documents relating to complaints made to the IPCC itself and that it seemed that these documents may have been shredded on the orders of South Wales Police Senior Investigating Officer Chris Coutts.
“The documents were found in the original boxes that the IPCC had sent through to SWP as part of the trial disclosure process in 2009. These boxes were still in the possession of SWP and have subsequently been verified.
“The IPCC investigation has not yet concluded and will also need to establish what happened to these two files of documents. The IPCC will also continue to liaise with the review being carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We have of course informed the Director of Public Prosecutions about the discovery of these documents.
“The IPCC will of course publish its findings in due course.”
A friend of one of the men originally accused of Lynette White’s murder during the botched investigation told The Guardian: “The whole thing gets more bizarre by the minute. Did this whole trial collapse because they lost a box or two of documents? It beggars belief. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so depressing.”
And a close friend of another of the men, Tony Paris, who was wrongfully jailed for the murder and had given evidence to the police corruption trial before its collapse, said: “This is just unbelievable. How much pressure can they put these men under? It all defies belief.”
The question for the authorities now is whether, following the discovery of the “shredded” documents, the police officers can be re-tried.
Welsh serial killer Peter Moore will be kept in jail for the rest of his life, judges at the European Court of Human Rights have ruled.
Moore and two other convicted killers – Jeremy Bamber and Douglas Vinter – had asked the court to rule on whole life sentences.
The murderers said condemning them to die in prison amounts to “inhuman or degrading treatment”. They argued all sentences should be regularly reviewed.
When convicted the applicants were given whole life orders, meaning they cannot be released other than at the discretion of the Secretary of State on compassionate grounds, for example, if they are terminally ill.
Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, all prisoners whose tariffs were set by the Secretary of State are able to apply to the High Court for review of that tariff.
Cinema owner Peter Moore, from Bagillt in North Wales, was convicted of murdering four men for his sexual gratification during a bloody three-month crime spree in 1995.
During his trial he was described by prosecutor Lord Carlile as the most dangerous man ever to set foot in Wales. He was jailed in 1996.
The High Court found that his case involved the murder of two or more people, sexual or sadistic conduct and a substantial degree of premeditation and that there were no mitigating circumstances.
The European court has now held that in the case of each of the three men the High Court had decided that an all-life tariff was “required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration”.
All three applicants had committed particularly brutal and callous murders, said the court, and it did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment.
There had, therefore, been no violation of Article 3 in the case of any of the applicants.
Bamber, who was jailed for shooting five members of his family dead in Essex in 1986, has always protested his innocence, claiming his schizophrenic sister shot the victims before turning the gun on herself at their farmhouse at Tolleshunt D’Arcy.
Douglas Vinter, of Normanby, Teesside, killed both his wife and a work colleague.
The 77th HAA (Heavy Anti Aircraft) Regiment was created to provide air protection for Cardiff, Newport and Barry, and surrounding districts.
Many of its members were local sportsmen who joined up together, such as Les Spence, who been Cardiff Rugby Club captain during the 1936-37 season, and his team-mate Wilf Wooller.
Other sports stars in the 77th included Ernie Curtis who had been the youngest member of Cardiff City’s 1927 FA Cup winning side.
This photograph shows Les Spence (sitting, second from left) as he poses with other members of a rugby squad which is presumably related to his membership of the 77th. Wooller is sitting between the two uniformed officers.
Standing third from the left is Ken Street who would be killed in a train crash in Java in February 1942.
But where was the photo taken and who are the other players?
* Throughout the horrors of prison camps in Java and Japan, Les Spence kept a secret diary. From his camp near the city ofNagasaki, he was able to record one of the most momentous moments in history: the dropping of the plutonium bomb on Nagasaki.
“We had uneventful train journey to Nagasaki and then we saw the result of the atomic bomb. It was simply astounding, nothing left standing for miles, everything flat and burnt out.”
Les – who was later to become president of the WRU – risked his life to write the diaries. They will be published next year.
A new report into young people’s experience of custody paints a bleak picture of their hopes for going straight on their release.
The report, published jointly by Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and the Youth Justice Board, sets out how young people aged 15 to 18 describe their own experience of imprisonment in 2010-11.
When asked if they had done something during their time in custody that would make them less likely to offend in future, only half of them answered positively.
This was despite high levels of them saying they wanted to stop offending: 92 per cent of young men and 93 per cent of young women.
And although getting a job was cited by young men (and by 52 per cent of young women) as most likely to stop them offending, fewer than half of young people said they knew who to contact for help with finding employment.
The report, ‘Children and Young People in Custody 2010-11: an analysis of the experiences of 15 to 18-year-olds in prison’, found that the number of children and young people held in young offender institutions continued to fall during 2010-11 from 1,977 to 1,822.
However, more than half of the young men, 53 per cent, said it was their first time in custody, up from 39 per cent in 2009-10.
The report also found that the proportion of black and minority ethnic young men in custody continued to rise; that over a quarter of young men and over half of young women said they had spent some time in local authority care; and that almost a quarter of young women and 13 per cent of young men had children of their own.
It’s been another mixed summer – but the sun always shines on Britain’s energy companies.
Test cricket sponsor npower is the latest to hike up its prices – today announcing a 15.7% rise in gas bills and 7.2% for electricity.
This despite its parent company, RWE, having just celebrated a 130% increase in profits for the first half of 2011. Its British operations made operating profits of £309 million in the six months to the end of June.
As Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said today: “Given such healthy results, people are bound to wonder why their domestic bills have to go up this much.”
Throughout the summer the big energy suppliers have been queuing up to drive up their prices: Scottish Power by 19% (gas) and 10% (electricity); British Gas by 18% and 16%; SSE by 18% and 11%; and E.ON 18% and 11.4%.
Mr Lloyd added: “The Bank of England has predicted that rising utility bills will drive inflation to 5% by the end of the year, which will put more pressure on already squeezed households.”
The investigation into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly might be reopened, according to the Daily Mail.
The newspaper says new Attorney General Dominic Grieve is considering a review of the suicide finding of the Lord Hutton inquiry.
The Daily Mail says the Government might also reconsider the fact that there has still been no inquest, the usual procedure in sudden or violent deaths.
Last September, for a programme called Wales This Week: The Welsh Connection, I interviewed a friend of Dr Kelly’s, author and security expert Gordon Thomas.
He disagreed with Lord Hutton’s suicide conclusion and led calls for the inquest. The Daily Mail also claims that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is considering a request from campaigning doctors to release medical files relating to the death.
As reported here in February the previous UK Government had claimed that the post mortem examination report into the death of biological weapons expert Dr David Kelly was being kept secret to protect his family.
Campaigning MP Norman Baker had asked then Justice Minister Michael Wills who had made the decision that medical reports and photographs connected to the death of Dr Kelly should not be closed for 70 years.
He also asked on what legal basis the decision was made.
Mr Wills told him: “No determination has been made that the medical reports and photographs connected to the death of Dr. David Kelly should be closed for 70 years.
“Rather, Lord Hutton noted in his statement on 26 January that he had requested that the post mortem examination report relating to Dr. Kelly not be disclosed for 70 years in view of the distress that could be caused to Dr. Kelly’s wife and daughters.”
Welcome to the website of freelance journalist Greg Lewis. Please use the above links to find out about my work in television, newspapers and writing books.
The blog entries are imported from my previous blog, whatiswales.blogspot.com
A campaign has been launched to hit back at criticism of the NHS by right-wing American politicians.
The internet campaign group Avaaz says President Obama’s “movement for change” is at “risk of collapsing in large part because of lies about healthcare in the UK”.
Say campaigners: “US healthcare is run by large corporations – it’s the most expensive in the world, but ranks 37th in quality, and 40 million Americans can’t afford any care at all. It’s an awful system for people, but corporations make enormous profits, so they’re fighting to keep it.
“We need a huge popular outcry to show the truth – how proud and grateful we are in the UK to have a public healthcare system that works, despite its imperfections.”
Avaaz is hoping to get enough names on its on-line petition in support of the NHS to “cause a stir in US media”.