‘THEY SEEMED NOR­MAL... IT JUST MAKES YOU SICK’

Stunned neigh­bours have say as ‘Fred and Rose West’ of Barry are found guilty of child sex crimes

Wales On Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA CLE­MENTS Re­porter laura.cle­ments@waleson­line.co.uk

THERE was of­ten a van parked out­side the well-kept but non­de­script semide­tached house. At night, at around 10pm, neigh­bours said it would of­ten be driven off by Peter and Avril Grif­fiths.

Now those neigh­bours are left won­der­ing what hor­ri­fy­ing events took place later on those nights af­ter the van’s own­ers were re­vealed as se­rial rapists so no­to­ri­ous they were dubbed “the Fred and Rose West” of their town.

Their house is on a long and well looked af­ter street in Barry, made up largely of semi-de­tached houses which sell for some­where in the re­gion of £190,000.

But neigh­bours re­mem­ber the slightly odd things that hap­pened at the Grif­fiths house, where Avril could be seen fully naked in the up­stairs win­dow as she changed clothes.

They say they of­ten saw po­lice vans pull up out­side the house. And on Mon­day night, in the back gar­den of the Grif­fiths’ house just days be­fore they were con­victed of mul­ti­ple rapes and sex­ual as­saults, there was a fire.

“Heav­ens knows what they were burn­ing,” says one neigh­bour.

None of this, how­ever, was a sign of what the cou­ple were ac­tu­ally do­ing. That was re­vealed in a Cardiff court­room, where the cou­ple were found guilty on Thurs­day of rap­ing and in­de­cently as­sault­ing three young chil­dren.

Ju­rors heard Peter Grif­fiths used his “sug­gestible” wife Avril, who has a very low IQ, as bait to groom the chil­dren with al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes be­tween the 1970s and 1990s.

Pros­e­cu­tor Caro­line Rees QC told the court the cou­ple took one of the girls “dog­ging” and would “have sex with her in the back of a van while oth­ers looked on”.

The court also heard one of the girls was taken on a boat in the Bris­tol Chan­nel where she was raped by Peter Grif­fiths and that Avril Grif­fiths also al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted the girl on the boat.

The girl later told po­lice she had been “ripped apart phys­i­cally” af­ter suf­fer­ing in­juries.

One vic­tim told how she was dressed up in short skirts and heels and taken in a van to car parks at Castell Coch and Porthk­erry Park in Barry where she would be raped by Mr Grif­fiths and other men. The pair de­nied all the charges. Two days af­ter their con­vic­tions (they are yet to be sen­tenced but have been warned by a judge they could be look­ing at life terms), peo­ple on Barry Road, the street where they used to live, were go­ing about their morn­ings as nor­mal. Some­one was mak­ing the most of the late sum­mer sun­shine and mow­ing their front lawn.

An­other strolled back from the cor­ner shop with the week­end pa­pers tucked un­der their arm.

It could be just an­other Satur­day morn­ing. But be­hind closed doors, peo­ple are still reel­ing from the fact that, un­til two days ago, two child rapists were liv­ing among them. Not that they were well liked. Dur­ing the trial, one vic­tim said: “I think if you ask most fam­i­lies in Barry, they’d hate them.”

The cou­ple lived on Barry Road for 40 years. The peo­ple who lived around them don’t want to dwell on the sto­ries of sys­tem­atic abuse. But they did speak of their shock.

One res­i­dent said he was used to see­ing a van parked up out­side the Grif­fiths’ fam­ily home. He said: “The van was al­ways there, parked up [the van is not nec­es­sar­ily the same one in which sex­ual abuse took place]. They of­ten used to drive off late at 10pm at night. Look­ing back now, per­haps we know why. It is only look­ing back that we have thought about it.

“There was al­ways a boat out­side too, which we used to see him work­ing on. But it was all taken away last week­end.

“Over the years, we saw po­lice vans parked up out­side the house. We never knew why. But hear­ing what was said in court, it makes you won­der.”

At their trial, the court heard Peter and Avril Grif­fiths were a “sex­u­ally-driven” cou­ple who in­dulged in swing­ing, dog­ging, sex­ual pho­to­graphs and home­made porno­graphic films.

It also heard about the boat, which was moored in the Bris­tol Chan­nel. The court heard sex par­ties were held on the boat, dur­ing which Mrs Grif­fiths was said to have dressed as a “kisso­gram”, wear­ing long boots and sus­penders un­der­neath a coat.

One com­plainant al­leged she was sex­u­ally abused sev­eral times on a boat but Peter Grif­fiths told the court he had a “good mem­ory” of ev­ery­thing that hap­pened on board be­cause that was how he earned his liv­ing, tak­ing peo­ple on fish­ing trips, charg­ing £8 per per­son.

The court heard he some­times took po­lice of­fi­cers on fish­ing trips, which were ar­ranged through the South Wales Po­lice so­cial club. He said he pro­vided tea and cof­fee, not al­co­hol, and could pro­vide equip­ment like fish­ing rods if re­quired.

Ad­dress­ing in court the al­le­ga­tion there were “sex par­ties” on the boat, his bar­ris­ter asked him: “I’m go­ing to ask you a blunt ques­tion. Did you ever pro­vide any­thing other than fish­ing rods and drinks, such as girls?” The de­fen­dant replied: “Never.” Peter and Avril Grif­fiths first met in the 1960s, when Avril was only just 14. Peter was four years older.

Be­fore she had turned 16, Avril was preg­nant by him, and was taken into care. By 18, the cou­ple were mar­ried, de­spite warn­ings the match was il­lad­vised.

By the time they were in their twen­ties, they had be­gun “work­ing as a team” to tar­get the three “young, vul­ner­a­ble” teenagers. The home they moved to around 40 years ago

has few plants or gar­den fea­tures, and is sep­a­rated from the road by rail­ings with black peel­ing paint. On the week­end af­ter the trial, the win­dows are blacked out by heavy ma­te­rial.

Even though Peter and Avril Grif­fiths had lit­tle to do with their neigh­bours, mut­ter­ings that they were a bit “odd” were rife.

Mrs Grif­fiths stopped go­ing to the lo­cal shop – where she used to pop in nearly ev­ery day to buy cig­a­rettes – around 18 months ago and was rarely seen out af­ter this.

One neigh­bour said: “I heard the sto­ries over the years. The main one was that he used to pros­ti­tute her out at ser­vice sta­tions. And she used to get changed at the front bed­room win­dow with the cur­tains open for all to see.

“When you hear things like that, in the nude for all to see, you just think ‘that’s wrong’.

“They seemed just nor­mal but when you think what they were get­ting up to... it just makes you sick.

“Now, you won­der if they were go­ing back and do­ing those things. Yes, we had heard the sto­ries, but never imag­ined it was some­thing to that ex­tent.”

An­other neigh­bour said: “None of us liked them. We thought they were odd.”

Ac­cord­ing to her, the cou­ple were go­ing back and forth to their prop­erty ev­ery night in the week be­fore their trial. She said: “On Mon­day, there were gi­gan­tic flames in the back gar­den – we thought some­one had set fire to the house. But they were just hav­ing a fire.

“I am just dis­gusted, all of the street are. My kids have been in their house. When I think how close to dan­ger I was, it’s just fright­en­ing, re­ally fright­en­ing.”

An­other said: “Just see­ing the van parked out­side and know­ing what went on there is just fright­en­ing.”

Peter Grif­fiths was found guilty of eight counts of rape, two counts of tak­ing an in­de­cent pho­to­graph of a child and three counts of in­de­cent as­sault.

Avril Grif­fiths was found guilty of five counts of rape, two counts of tak­ing an in­de­cent pho­to­graph of a child and two counts of in­de­cent as­sault.

Avril, 61, did not give ev­i­dence in her de­fence.

But a psy­cho­log­i­cal re­port was pre­sented to Cardiff Crown Court by a con­sul­tant clin­i­cal and foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist.

It stated her IQ was “ex­tremely low”. In 1972, she was as­sessed when she was 15 years old and was found to be some­one who failed to un­der­stand “what was re­ally be­ing said to her” and was “ter­ri­bly sug­gestible”.

The 1972 as­sess­ment “still stands”, the court was told.

The pair will be sen­tenced on Oc­to­ber 18.

WALES NEWS SER­VICE

Peter and Avril Grif­fiths out­side Cardiff Crown Court

WALES NEWS SER­VICE

Peter and Avril Grif­fiths

PETER BOLTER

Barry Road in Barry, where the cou­ple lived

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