‘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
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.
Peter and Avril Griffiths outside Cardiff Crown Court
Peter and Avril Griffiths
Barry Road in Barry, where the couple lived