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Book Review: The Clydach Murders: A Miscarriage of Justice

The slaughter of three generations of the same family is the topic for John Morris’ The Clydach Murders and it’s pretty gruesome stuff. For on a June night in 1999 a young mother, her two daughters and 80-year-old mother were bludgeoned to death in the small Welsh town of Clydach in a frenzied, merciless attack. Morris’ book recounts the events of that grisly night and sets out to prove that a miscarriage of justice subsequently occurred.

Mandy Power was a vivacious and seemingly sexually promiscuous 34-year-old who, at the time of her murder, had been involved in a lesbian relationship with a former WPC. Ms Power was also having an on-off relationship with a local builder, Dai Morris. The book thus paints a picture of a somewhat febrile milieu in this working-class Welsh enclave of petty jealousies and rivalries. Clydach was the type of place, so it seems, where everybody knew everybody else’s business.

On that June night somebody entered the Power’s council house with evil in mind. With Mandy and her daughters out, how did the murderer enter the property? It’s a key (no pun intended) question: for the grandmother, the house’s sole occupant, was found beaten to death in bed. Presumably, the killer had let him/herself in with a key. The perpetrator had to be someone close to the victim, very close.

After dispatching the poor old woman, it appears that the killer had laid in wait for the arrival of Ms Power and the children; clearly, he (or she) must have known the victims’ schedule. Upon arrival home sometime after midnight, the killer bludgeoned Mandy Power and her two young daughters to death with a fibreglass pole. In a macabre twist, he/she then placed a vibrator inside the murdered mother.

These then were no random murders. They’d been planned and carried out with psychotic rage. That the murderer had waited in the darkness of the house having just killed an innocent old woman in her bed is quite chilling. Then again, the whole ghastly affair has the power to chill the reader’s bones – even those of the most seasoned true crime aficionados.

Morris relates a tale that beggar’s belief. In his telling of the story, South Wales Police force emerges as a hugely corrupt criminal enterprise. Not only was Ms Power involved with an ex-police office, but the woman’s husband and twin brother, both serving officers themselves, are suggested as being heavily implicated in the crime. What follows is a potential cover-up that makes Watergate seem frivolous in comparison.

According to Morris, Stephen Lewis, the husband of Ms Power’s lover, had been less than pleased by his wife’s lesbian affair and had been heard to make threats against the pretty Miss Power in the weeks before the murder. An e-fit of a male seen near the scene of the crime and which bore a striking resemblance to Lewis was disregarded by police – as were further witness statements confirming the burly officer’s animosity toward Miss Power and her family.

It goes from bad to worse. Into the picture arrives Dai Morris, erstwhile lover of Mandy Power. Arrested in 2001 it transpired that a gold chain found at the scene of the murder belonged to Morris. According to the builder’s labourer he’d had sex with the victim the day before the murder and had absent-mindedly left the chain behind. Inexplicably reluctant to prosecute the Lewis’ and under immense pressure to make an arrest, as far as police were concerned tracing the chain to Morris made him their prime suspect.

Crucially, though some DNA was recovered from the scene none of it could be traced to Dai Morris; the murderer had managed to wipe away virtually all traces despite the bloody and violent nature of the murders. The author plausibly suggests that while members of the public would probably not have the knowledge or wherewithal to conduct such cleansing, serving (or ex) police officers certainly would . . .

Morris’ initial denial of ownership of the chain would come back to haunt him. Apparently, he’d known straight away that the chain would link him to the crime and nervous at how that scenario would likely unfold, had opted to lie. According to the author, witnesses who bore grudges against Morris testified that he had been wearing the chain on the night of the murders; thus, it was asserted that he could not have left the jewellery at Ms Power’s home the day before as he had claimed.

To his credit the author does not conceal the less than savoury facts about Morris and even the victim herself. For a start, at the time of the murders Morris had been co-habiting with Ms Power’s best friend and daughter. Moreover, Dai Morris was a petty criminal and widely disliked in the Clydach area. He had enemies everywhere. In order to garner sympathy from her lesbian lover Mandy Power had sometime falsely claimed to have cervical cancer. No angels then, but completely underserving of their respective fates.

With absolutely no DNA evidence to link Morris to the scene of the crime the gold necklace was all police had. The police version of events thus went something like this: high on alcohol and amphetamines (Morris was a light user of recreational drugs) he had left the pub on the night of the murders in a rage. He had gone to the home of his lover and unleashed fury. Despite forensic evidence clearly showing the grandmother had been murdered first, the prosecution claimed Morris had first beaten Mandy Power after she had rebutted his drunken sexual advances.

In order for the prosecution case to progress it had to convince the jury that there had never been a sexual relationship between Morris and Power – a contention contradicted by their circle of associates. Only then could the sexual rebuttal hypothesis be advanced – after all, why would Morris murder someone who refused him sex if they were already involved in a relationship? While there has always been plenty of evidence, it pointed just one way: not in the direction of Dai Morris either.

Perhaps the most striking contradiction – one of many – is the police theory that having taken so much trouble to wipe the house clean of his DNA – an achievement in itself - Morris then forgot to take his gold chain home . . . The further this book goes, the more convincing its argument becomes. Not only was the lesbian lover a Welsh women’s rugby union international, she also happened to be a karate expert trained in the use of weapons, in particular the bo stick . . .

The Clydach Murders tells a tragic tale that will conjure up many various emotions: pity and anger most prominently. It is a tale compounded by what the author asserts to be the collusion of south Wales police force calculated to subvert justice. I have no idea if author John Morris is related to Dai Morris, but even if he is, the book is scrupulously objective throughout. If there is a tendency toward repetition, such is the power of the story it barely inhibits the narrative’s momentum.

Dai Morris ended up serving a life sentence. At the time of his death in 2021 he was 59-years-old. Given he had determined never to admit to a crime he had always sworn he never committed, death was always going to be the only way he would ever find a ‘release’ from the prison walls within which he had been incarcerated for the last 22 years of his life.

It's a relief to reach the end of the book. But even after the last page has closed a question lingers: how? How on earth can people do such things?