The Daily Telegraph
One of the ‘Cardiff Three’ convicted of murder in 1990 in a notorious miscarriage of justice
TONY PARIS, who has died aged 65, was one of the so-called Cardiff Three, victims of one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice of the last halfcentury.
In the early hours of St Valentine’s Day 1988, Lynette White, a 20-year-old prostitute, was hacked to death in her seedy one-room flat in the red light area of Cardiff ’s docklands. None of the occupants of the neighbouring flats had seen or heard anything and no effective DNA profiling was then available.
Police initially began hunting for a lone white man, seen bloodied and leaving the scene, but their inquiries drew a blank. In November, nine months after the killing, a woman came forward and claimed that she had seen a group of black men standing outside the entrance to the flats on the night in question.
The woman, whose story turned out to be a complete fabrication, named one of the men as John Actie, and before long a number of other names were in the frame including Actie’s cousin Ronnie Actie, Stephen Miller (Lynette’s boyfriend and pimp), Yusef Abdullahi, and Tony Paris, a steel industry worker and nightclub doorman, and a married man with two sons.
The men were arrested and taken into custody, where detectives turned up the pressure. Miller, who was reported to have a mental age of 11, denied being involved in murder some 300 times, but then, bullied and hectored for 19 hours over five days, he “confessed”, also implicating Abdullahi and
Paris. Other witnesses, including two prostitutes, were, it emerged later, also “bullied and browbeaten” into corroborating the fictional version of events.
On December 8 1988 all five men were charged with murder and all pleaded not guilty. Due to the sudden death of the first judge involved, and the illness of the second, the trial at Swansea Crown Court turned out to be the longest criminal trial in British judicial history. It ended in November 1990 with the acquittal of the Actie cousins but with Miller, Abdullahi and
Paris sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
Almost immediately a campaign to free the “Cardiff Three” was underway, led by brothers of Abdullahi and Paris, and in February 1992 the BBC’S Panorama broadcast a damning indictment of inconsistencies in the prosecution case. Among other things, researchers found 22 statements taken over four months after the case – 19 of which were alibis for Paris.
The men were freed on appeal in December 1992, their flawed conviction revealing police techniques which were described by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, as “almost passing belief ”.
The murder might have remained unsolved had it not been for a cold-case review that looked at the evidence using the latest techniques in genetic fingerprinting. Police had known that besides Lynette’s blood there was blood from her killer, who had been cut during the frenzied attack. New samples were recovered from beneath wallpaper in the redecorated flat.
Despite his lack of trust in the police, in 2002 Paris was the first to volunteer to give a DNA swab for testing. The results confirmed his innocence. The sample from the flat did not match any on the national DNA database, but in 2003 was found to partly match that of a 14-year-old youth arrested for a minor offence who had not been born at the time of the murder. Police subsequently found that their DNA sample was a perfect match for the boy’s uncle Jeffrey Gafoor – who immediately confessed to the crime and was subsequently sentenced to life for murder.
Later, eight former South Wales Police detectives stood trial accused of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by agreeing to “mould, manipulate, influence and fabricate evidence”, but were found not guilty when the trial collapsed in December 2011 due to disclosure failings and the discovery that crucial papers had been destroyed by one of the corruption investigation officers.
Paris, who was born in Cardiff on August 21 1957, had been known to police before his arrest, but for minor offences including two shoplifting convictions and a car fine. Otherwise he was known for avoiding trouble, particularly when violence was involved. People who knew him before his conviction described him as “happy-golucky” and “a fun-loving guy about town”.
He was paid £250,000 in compensation, but never really recovered from the trauma of his false imprisonment. Though he continued to live in Cardiff and gave evidence at the police corruption trial, he became something of a recluse. “Sometimes people look at you and you know they are thinking ‘is he one of them?’” he said in 2002. “It hurts to have people thinking this – it would be different if it was something I’ve done... It’s never going to go away.”
Tony Paris had two daughters and two sons.