The Clydach Murder Mystery

Nobody lives at 9 Kelvin Place any more. The windows are boarded up and the TV camerashave moved on. One day it may give up its terrible secret

Julia Stuart
Wednesday 05 April 2000 00:00

The sign is still there, attached to the now-rusting railings in front of the house. "A Message From The Family," it reads. "As a family we wish to express our sincere thanks to everyone for the beautiful tributes that have been laid here outside the house. Your kind words and messages have been a source of great comfort to us all, thank you. The floral tributes have now been removed and it is our intention for all the teddies and gifts to be donated to the children's ward of Morriston Hospital. Thank you."

Dandelions now cover the grass where the bouquets once lay. A plank of wood hangs from the roof, and the windows and doors are barricaded with metal sheeting. It has been almost a year since the occupants - two little girls, their mother and grandmother - were bludgeoned to death.

The investigation into the murders in Clydach, a small village in the Swansea Valley, is the biggest on-going murder hunt in Britain outside the Jill Dando enquiry. Experienced officers from around Britain - including the head of the Dando investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell - have attended a forum held by South Wales Police to discuss the case. There have been two appeals on BBC TV's Crimewatch, and 50 officers continue to work on the case.

Yet how many of us remember the crime? Unlike the reporting of Jill Dando's murder, national press coverage of the slaying of three generations of a Welsh family largely dried up after the first few weeks. Detective Superintendent Martyn Lloyd-Evans, who is leading the investigation, isn't surprised. "In general terms, the media tends to concentrate on the Home Counties," he says flatly.

But the people of Clydach have far from forgotten. Their lives continue with the fear that the multiple murderer could be sitting next to them in the village pub, or standing behind them in the queue at the local Spar supermarket. "It's like Leeds at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper," says one former resident. "People are looking at each other and wondering whether they did it."

In the early hours of 27 June last year, firefighters were called to the pebbledashed house in Kelvin Road after neighbours raised the alarm. It soon became apparent that the four bodies they found were not simply victims of a house fire. Mandy Power, a 34-year-old divorcee, her daughters Katie, 10, and Emily, eight, and her mother Doris Dawson, 80, had been clubbed to death with a 4ft metal rod before the fire started. Mrs Power was found naked and had been sexually assaulted.

The murders rocked residents in the close-knit community. Such was the affection for the family that a fund was immediately set up to pay for the funerals. Clydach councillor Denice Preece, who used to take her children swimming with Mrs Power, Katie and Emily, says the mother was a "very happy, jolly girl". "She was loud - if you didn't see her, you could hear her, and if you couldn't hear her, you could see her. That's what people liked about Mandy. She didn't ignore anybody. And she thought the world of her kids. She would do anything for them."

The unimaginable devastation felt by Mrs Power's relatives was compounded by lurid tabloid headlines about her sexuality, made public by the police in a bid to help the investigation. At the time of Mrs Power's death, she was involved in a year-long relationship with Alison Lewis, a mother of two married to an officer in the South Wales Police force. On hearing of the murders, Mrs Lewis, a former Welsh rugby international, jumped out of a window and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She has since left the area.

Det Supt Lloyd-Evans believes Mrs Power was the killer's main target. "I'm sure the key to the investigation lies somewhere in Mandy's past. I still believe that the killer was probably known to Mandy. I am convinced that there are people out there who know who this killer is, and for whatever reason haven't come forward."

The police are desperate to trace a dark-haired woman who called at the house at about 12.50am, and appears to have been let in. "I have no doubt she is the key," says Lloyd-Evans. "It could be she was having a secret affair with somebody, and has no involvement in the murders, but knows of the murders and knows the murderer."

It's possible that the mystery woman may be ignoring appeals to come forward out of a fear of disclosing her sexuality. The Swansea Valley is not known for its tolerance of such matters. One Clydach resident, Graham Davies, says of the village's attitude: "While the youngsters are far more liberal, the older people think you must be one way or the other - and preferably normal. We know they can't help it, it's a fact of nature, so nobody would attack gays - but I don't think the normal person likes to associate with gays. There is a group of lesbians here who are friendly with each other. That's their business. There's nothing we can do about it, is there?"

Lloyd-Evans insists it is only a matter of time before an arrest is made. "I remain completely confident that we can get a result here," he says. But not everyone shares his view that the investigation is going "incredibly well". Graham Davies, one trustee of a fund to erect a memorial to the two murdered girls, says: "People are very upset, very depressed about the whole thing and we're virtually giving up hope. There seems to be no progress police-wise. We feel lost in the fact that 10 months have gone by and there's still no inkling of who did it and why.

"The police say the family are happy with the progress the force is making. I can hardly believe that statement. If I was a member of the family and after 10 months nothing had happened, I would feel very dejected and despondent. People are worried that we will never find them."

During the first few months after the murders, rumours were spreading "like hell-fire", says Mr Davies, who lives near the scene of the crime. "At one time they said it was such a terrible thing to do that it would have to be the work of a very strong man. Then they said it could have been done by a woman, and then by a pair. The only reason you can think of for anyone killing the two little girls is the fact they must have known who the person was. I think the feeling is that it must be somebody local." Indeed, some think the killings were a crime of passion, as the murder weapon was already in the house.

Mrs Preece is also concerned about the time it is taking to catch the killer. "This is a small village - so why hasn't anyone been found? It's nearly a year now. The pubs are empty, people don't want to go out. They say it was a personal thing, but we can't be too careful, can we?" she says. The 36-year-old councillor believes Clydach will be permanently scarred by the murders. "The village will never, ever, get over this. I hope to God that it's not somebody from the village, because it would be World War Three. In circumstances like this, I wish they would bring back hanging." She even suggests justice could be served by letting the villagers loose on the killer.

According to two shop assistants in the high street, Clydach is in a permanent state of anxiety. "I think about the victims every night. It's there all the time. We're just waiting for the police to catch whoever did it. The community won't ever settle until they do. The frightening part is that it could be someone we know."

Lloyd-Evans is keen to defend the accusation that the police are dragging their heels. "South Wales Police in the past have been perhaps criticised for miscarriages of justice. The most important thing is to have an unbiased and open investigation where every aspect is looked at."

But there is no "perhaps" when it comes to criticism of South Wales Police. Last December, the "Cardiff Three" - Darren Hall, Michael O'Brien and Ellis Sherwood - had their convictions quashed for the murder of newsagent Philip Saunders. In 1996, Jonathan Jones's conviction for the murder of his girlfriend's parents, Harry and Megan Tooze, was overturned. In 1992, Paul and Wayne Darvell had their convictions for the murder of Swansea sex-shop assistant Sandra Phillips overturned. And there are others. A local journalist, who knows South Wales Police well, says: "They are desperate to be seen to get it right on this one."

Meanwhile, it is hard to hide the pain. Jean Healey, headteacher of Katie and Emily's school, Craigcefnparc Primary, says that pupils are still reduced to tears when they see photographs of the two girls in school activities. "We very much want to see somebody caught for this," says Mrs Healey. "The thought that there is somebody still out there who could have done such a thing and is carrying on a normal life when people here are still suffering in the community is horrendous. I think we all hoped that something would have happened before now. But the police appear to be very, very confident that justice will be done in the end, and I hope they're right. I think it will be the end of a horror story for us here, and the whole community."

Unless, of course, it turns out that the murderer comes from Clydach.

Anyone with information should call the police incident room on 01792 562731

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