Llangolman: Herald finds new lead in 45-year-old crime
• Griff and Martha ‘Patti’ Thomas were found dead by their postman in December 1976
• DCS Molloy’s press leaks show “thorough” investigation was anything but
• Evidence was discounted if it did not fit with police’s murder/suicide theory
• God-fearing Griff labelled a lunatic and a killer following shambolic investigation
SATURDAY, December 11, 1976. It’s a quarter-to-nine in the morning.
The postman delivering letters to Ffynnon Samson Farm near the village of Llangolman notices the occupants hadn’t collected the letters he’d dropped off two days earlier.
Concerned about the welfare of the elderly brother and sister, Griff and Patti Thomas, he enters the house.
In the living room, he finds Patti Thomas’ body. Her head is covered in blood, and she is propped up with a blanket over her legs.
A television – still switched on – is on its side near her corpse.
In the kitchen, he finds the remains of her brother, Griff.
Mr Thomas’ body was severely charred, having been partly consumed by a fire, a fact which has a bearing on the case’s future conduct.
A police inquiry takes place into the deaths.
At an inquest the following year, guided by a report from the senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Molloy, an inquest delivers its verdict.
It finds Mr Thomas had killed his sister and records an open verdict about his death.
A CAUSE FOR QUESTIONS
We have asked Dyfed Powys Police for access to the statements and records of the Police’s interviews in what DCS Molloy describes in his report to the Coroner as a comprehensive inquiry into the Llangolman deaths.
For various interchangeable reasons the Police don’t seem particularly keen to let us access the original paperwork, which it holds in a central location.
You can read the full, excruciating exchange with Dyfed-Powys Police regarding our Freedom Of Information Act request here.
Earlier this year, in Clebran, a local papur bro, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn suggested the case needed further examination.
Our request to interview Mr Llywelyn, initially made in May, remains unfulfilled over six weeks later.
Dyfed Powys’ Policing Board discussed the case at its meeting in May.
Its minutes won’t be published ahead of the next Board meeting.
REPORT STEEPED IN CONTRADICTIONS
In place of proper access to the records or the opportunity to determine why Dafydd Llywelyn said what he did to Clebran, we have the report that DCS Molloy provided to the Coroner.
The report is a shoddy piece of work. Assertion replaces clear evidence, and inconvenient facts, issues, and proof are omitted or glossed over.
DCS Molloy also claimed he spoke to all members of the Thomas’ family and interviewed all the villagers about the brother and sister.
Our investigation is confident that, far from being a reclusive and isolated pair, the Thomas siblings were popular, well-liked, and far from the picture DCS Molloy paints of them.
The best place to start with DCS Molloy’s report to the Coroner is its conclusion.
“I have found no evidence that anyone but Mr and Miss Thomas were in the house when their deaths occurred. From the totally negative outcome of this extensive outside investigation, from my own study of the scene and from the scientific and pathological evidence provided I consider the possibility of a third party being involved is so remote as to lead me to the conclusion that Mr Thomas killed his sister and died in a fire started by himself.”
However, from the outset, DCS Molloy’s report has a fatal flaw. Its content discloses that he focussed his investigation on establishing a motive for the killings ahead of other priorities.
Having failed to find a motive, he turns to the most straightforward explanation possible.
For reasons he cannot explain, although he has a good go at selecting evidence to fit his theory, he decides that the brother and sister argued with fatal consequences for both.
He makes no effort to consider an alternative to the brother killing the sister. However, the reverse position is also arguable from what DCS Molloy claims to have found at the scene.
Instead, we have a flaw in DCS Molloy’s methodology and conclusions.
THE MISSING FACTS
When he considers his scenario, he ignores facts about Griff Thomas that could’ve led him to an alternative conclusion.
Griff Thomas had debilitating arthritis. He suffered with it in his back, arms and, most tellingly, his left hand.
Had Pat Molloy been thorough, he would’ve noted that Mr Thomas’s arthritis was so severe in his left hand that he could not form a grip with it.
Our conversations with villagers and relatives established just how bad Mr Thomas’s left hand was. He could not turn the hymnal pages in the local church he and his sister attended. He could barely use the gear shift in his car.
And yet DCS Molloy concludes that a seventy-three-year-old with such disabilities lifted a heavy chair and beat his sister to death with it before moving her body from the kitchen to the living room.
He doesn’t even attempt to explain how the television next to Miss Thomas’s body was toppled over if the deadly assault occurred in the house’s kitchen.
Considering Mr Thomas’ known disabilities, the primary limb of Pat Molloy’s conclusion falls to pieces on even the most cursory consideration.
And that ignores DCS Molloy’s most puzzling observation.
THE ROGUE THUMBPRINTS
In the kitchen of Ffynnon Samson was a sewing machine.
The body of the sewing machine was coated in Mr Thomas’ blood. But someone had replaced its cover.
Not only does DCS Molloy not explain how Mr Thomas’ blood came to be on the sewing machine, but he also doesn’t account for the circumstances in which – if his conclusions are accurate – an unidentified person replaced the cover.
So, we come to the cover of the sewing machine itself.
The Police carried out extensive fingerprinting of the house, lifting 400 prints.
Police found matches for all, bar two: a blood-stained fingerprint on a picture in the living room and a second blood-stained fingerprint on the sewing machine cover.
Both fingerprints come from the thumb of a left hand.
We have already discussed Griff Thomas’s problems with his left hand and the evidence of those who knew him best regarding his frailties.
To assert that the thumbprints belong to Griff Thomas, Mr Molloy argues from absence.
He claims no way existed to establish whether the thumbprint came from Griff Thomas because Mr Thomas’s left hand was one of his body parts consumed by the fire that damaged his corpse.
Therefore, without any basis for the claim, he concludes the thumbprints must’ve been Mr Thomas’.
But forensics examined 398 other fingerprints in the house.
It beggars belief that having found two left thumbprints in areas associated with the crime, there were no other left-hand thumbprints elsewhere in the house that anyone could reasonably assert to be Mr Thomas’s.
For example, in his bedroom, on his possessions, in his car, and on furniture.
The odds against finding any other thumbprints matching the two rogue ones are astronomical given the number of fingerprints collected.
Mr Thomas would’ve needed a remarkable presence of mind to eliminate his left thumbprints from around the house and a spontaneous remission of the chronic arthritis that rendered his thumb all but useless.
In short, DCS Molloy makes the problematic thumbprints fit his conclusions and breezily explains them away thanks to the damage to Griff Thomas’s body.
A CASE PREJUDGED AND LEAKED
Pat Molloy’s report leaves plenty of other questions unanswered, unasked, or ignored altogether. The weight of his conclusions crumbles under the contradictions in his logic without even getting to other material factors.
It is, therefore, little surprise that examination of the press records 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.”
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.”
The same article quoted Pat Molloy: “We now have to fit together their behaviour pattern and I am hopeful of finding an answer.”
And yet, at the time DCS Molloy was making those statements to the press, the forensic investigation was nowhere near complete.
In the same fashion in which we quote his report to the Coroner in this article, those articles suggest that DCS Molloy put his conclusion first, found evidence to fit it, and ignored evidence that didn’t.
THE PUBLIC INTEREST
It is clearly in the public interest that the Police provide the chance to examine the contemporary record of the investigation.
At best, an examination will vindicate DCS Molloy’s conclusions.
At worst, it will throw doubt on those conclusions’ safety.
Hiding behind a wall of silence is the worst of all possible worlds for Dyfed Powys Police.
We have the Coroner’s report, and so do others.
We have found new material not mentioned in the Coroner’s report.
Examining the report’s content in isolation damns the investigation as a shambolic effort to make the facts fit the crime and impugn the reputation and memory of a potentially innocent man.
AN INCOMPLETE INVESTIGATION
Local sources and family members have told The Herald of other factors that also contradict Pat Molloy’s claims to have spoken to all close and extended family members.
A member of Griff and Patti’s family, who was untraced by both the initial investigation AND by the probate proceedings that followed their deaths, contacted The Herald earlier this year with intriguing new information.
That information paints a very different picture of how Patti and Griff Thomas lived and made us aware of a bitter dispute with a ‘ferocious’ third party in the fortnight before their deaths.
If Pat Molloy’s investigation were as thorough as he claimed, that family member would have been questioned and that dispute would be in his report.
Its absence suggests his investigation was less exhaustive than he led the Coroner to believe.
The Herald’s investigation has allowed us an insight into the actions that Dyfed-Powys Police are currently taking to address the serious concerns still felt by Llangolman residents and by family members of Griff and Patti.
Last week we directly asked Dyfed-Powys Police if they had temporarily assigned a detective to the case and does that indicate a re-opening of the investigation into the deaths?
Six days later they replied: “We are continuing to identify and confirm what material has been retained.
“The family will be kept informed of any developments.”
When we hear back from Dafydd Llywelyn about an interview and get a final response to our Freedom of Information Act request, Herald readers will be the first to know.
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