THE HERALD’s attempt to examine the police investigation into the deaths of Griff and Patti Thomas has been thwarted by Dyfed Powys Police.
The police have refused a Freedom of Information Act request made by The Pembrokeshire Herald that requested access to witness statements and records of interviews relating to the elderly couple’s 1976 deaths at their Llangolman farm.
Its Freedom of Information office claimed that the request would be unduly burdensome on the force as it would involve the examination of individual documents page-by-page.
Dyfed Powys Police makes that claim even though its own officers are currently re-examining the case and liaising with members of the Thomas family regarding it.
The documents The Herald wants to see will have already been read by those involved and the time claimed as unduly burdensome will have already been spent and the relevant information collated.
The original investigation into Griff and Patti Thomas’s deaths was fundamentally flawed. That conclusion’s justification arises from comparing the content of the report delivered to the HM Coroner in February 1977 by the investigating officer with remarks he made to the press within three days of the deaths.
The report to HM Coroner paints a picture of a painstaking investigation of wide scope, extreme diligence, and a thorough examination of the evidence before the investigating officer reached a carefully considered and balanced conclusion.
That is simply untrue.
Within a few days of the deaths and long before any forensic examination or evidence-gathering exercise began, the officer in charge of the case, DCS Pat Molloy, was telling the press that the incident was a murder suicide.
Examination of the press records of the time establishes that, from an early stage, DCS Molloy drip-fed local and national papers with titbits about the case and his thinking regarding it.
On Wednesday, December 15, four days after the bodies’ discovery, The Western Telegraph reported: “The Police are waiting for forensic experts and a Home Office pathologist to tell them whether they have a double murder hunt on their hands. Or whether 73-year-old Griffith Thomas battered to death his 70-year-old sister, Martha, before setting fire to himself.”
There was nowhere else that could have come from but Pat Molloy, whose report to the Coroner repeats that line almost word-for-word.
The following day, The West Wales Guardian reported: “Retired farmer Griffith Thomas battered to death his spinster sister Martha before committing suicide at their North Pembrokeshire farmhouse.”
Again, there was nowhere else that could’ve come from but Pat Molloy.
The same article quoted Pat Molloy: “We now have to fit together their behaviour pattern and I am hopeful of finding an answer.”
The subsequent report to HM Coroner is a masterpiece of fitting evidence into a frame and trimming out the bits that don’t fit the picture the painter wants to show.
The word ‘frame’, of course, has other connotations in criminal law.
Dyfed Powys Police is now undertaking a re-examination of the case following pressure to do so from family and acquaintances of Griff and Patti Thomas.
They are eager to correct what they view as an injustice of the worst sort perpetrated against the memory of someone unable to defend themselves.
The problems of the Police reviewing the Police’s own conclusions are well-rehearsed.
It is clearly in the public interest that the Police provide a chance to examine the contemporary record of the investigation to examine it against material and information we have.
Dyfed Powys Police is now conducting its own investigation; any argument that it is “unduly burdensome” to retrieve information already retrieved does not hold water.
That is, assuming the re-examination is more than a public relations exercise,
We have asked for the decision’s review and reserve our position in taking the matter further through the Information Commissioner’s Office.