On Valentine's Day, 1988, 20-year-old Lynette White was found brutally murdered in a flat on James Street in Butetown, Cardiff.
The horrific event tore the city's docklands apart and changed the lives of five innocent men forever, with three of them wrongly convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.
The new BBC documentary A Killing in Tiger Bay tells the story of the murder and the shocking miscarriage of justice which followed. It comes after Shreds: Murder in the Dock – a BBC Radio Wales podcast – was released in 2019 and also focused on the case and its injustice.
Read more: Have a look at all our stories on the Lynette White case here.
A campaign spearheaded by the families of those wrongly imprisoned, determined on setting them free, was launched immediately after their sentencings.
A year later the campaign saw a historic march by hundreds of people from Butetown all the way to Cardiff prison in the city centre and was even attended by the legendary Baptist minister and black rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton.
The harrowing story behind the demonstration is mired in the corruption and institutionalised racism within the South Wales Police force at the time.
Lynette, who was a well-known sex worker in the area, had been stabbed about 50 times. Upon the discovery of her body the race was on to find the killer.
At first the prime suspect was a white man seen outside the flat after the murder, whom a witness described as having blood on his hands as he mumbled incoherently and wept.
A video clip from Crimewatch in the documentary shows detective chief inspector John Williams, who initially led the investigation, call the suspect "very distinctive" with "dark brown greasy hair".
But as the months went on, with a change in the investigating team and the pressure on South Wales Police to get a result now "almost intolerable", attention turned to local male residents.
Five black men from the area ended up being charged with the crime in December that year despite no forensic evidence connecting them to the crime scene.
Known as the 'Cardiff Five' they were Stephen Miller (Lynette White's boyfriend), Tony Parris, Yusef Abdullahi, and cousins John Actie and Ronnie Actie.
During police interviews officers were hellbent on getting the men to confess to the crime – shouting, screaming, and banging tables as they accused them of stabbing Lynette and attempted to coerce them to tell the "truth".
Genuinee alibis – such as the 13 eyewitness statements that confirmed Yusef was on a boat called the Coral Sea in Barry on the night of the murder – were seemingly dismissed.
However false and damning eyewitness statements from two of Lynette's fellow sex workers – who said the five men had involved them in a ritual killing – were used against the suspects.
Stephen Miller, who was just 22 and had a mental age of an 11-year-old at the time, was subjected to 19 interviews over five days. He cracked under the pressure of the relentless police interrogation – in which officers convinced him he was high on alcohol and drugs at the time of the murder – and provided a false confession, which implicated himself, Yusef, and Tony in the crime.
The subsequent murder trial, which at the time became the longest murder trial in British history, was held in Swansea Crown Court.
With an all-white jury the prosecution, which hinged on Stephen's confession and painted a negative picture of Butetown and its residents, prevailed. Tony, Stephen, and Yusef were found guilty, while Ronnie and John were acquitted.
Immediately after the sentencings the Free the Cardiff Three campaign headed by Lloyd Parris (Tony's brother) and Malik Abdullahi (Yusef's brother) began.
Knowing that their brothers were innocent and dead set on getting them out of jail today Lloyd admits in the documentary that "the campaign consumed me and Malik's life totally".
Going through all 2,500 statements they found racist elements to the case as well 23,000 pages of unused material and 22 statements handed over four months after the case – 19 of which were alibis for Tony.
"Beside Stephen Miller's confession, everything is hearsay and uncorroborated evidence," says Malik on the documentary.
So began the campaigners' long journey from the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal. There was no positive media coverage supporting the campaign except the TV programme Black Bag – a Channel Four show which was borne from the so-called race riots of the beginning and middle of the 1980s. It re-examined and cast doubt on the convictions of the Cardiff Three.
But the campaigners knew they needed an even greater platform and to get people of even more influence on their side. They successfully sought the backing of civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, who had been involved in similar cases in the USA.
He arrived in Cardiff in November 1991 – all the way from Brooklyn, New York. The Shreds podcast explains how a press conference was held in one of the pubs in the Docks in which the activist called for their release.
Scenes from the documentary show the minister marching with more than 300 protesters, holding banners depicting the Cardiff Three, from Butetown to the city centre a year after the Free the Cardiff Three campaign was first launched.
Demonstrators can be heard both on the documentary and podcast shouting: "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" as they walked to Cardiff prison where they paused to pray for the Cardiff Three. The protest was so powerful that Tony recounts how he even heard it outside the window of his cell.
The podcast reveals how the freedom march ended in Cardiff's civic centre, next to the Crown Court and central police station, where the Reverend Al Sharpton addressed the demonstrators for the final time.
However the podcast reveals that the demonstration was also met with "derision and disapproval by many" – including former Cardiff MP Gwilym Jones, who believed it was a matter to be solved by "British justice, not crude emotions causing problems on the streets of Cardiff".
The march and Al Sharpton's attendance proved pivotal and opened up the campaign to the world stage, with high-profile figures lending their support to the cause. A BBC Panorama episode in February 1992 highlighted the allegations that the investigation was fundamentally flawed.
Two years after the trial an appeal date was finally set for the Cardiff Three and renowned barrister Michael Mansfield got involved in the case. During the appeal the taped interviews with Stephen Miller, that revealed the hostile and intimidating approach of officers, were deemed inadmissible as evidence.
The appeal was successful and all three men were told they were released. The actual killer – Jeffrey Gafoor – was caught after DNA identified him as a suspect when the investigation was re-opened in September 2000. He was given a life sentence in 2003.
You can read more about where the Cardiff Five are now here.
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