Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Murder In Carmarthenshire

The case of Ronald Lewis Harries stirred great interest in the county of Carmarthenshire, and indeed in the town itself, when he appeared at the Carmarthen Assizes on 16th March 1954. Town records report:

Harries sat in the dock with arms folded. He wore a navy blue suit, white shirt and collar and a maroon tie, and he had a white handkerchief in is breast pocket.
Crash barriers of trestle tables and rope were erected overnight on both sides of the street outside the Shire Hall. A queue was formed at 3:30a.m and many of the people had blankets and flasks of tea. Among the early arrivals were relatives who had come from a village 13 miles away.

Ronald Harries, 26, lived at Ashwell Farm in Pendine. He was charged with the murder of John Harries, a distant relative from Derlwyn Farm, Llanginning, whose body (along with that of his wife Phoebe) was unearthed from a shallow grave in a field at Cadno Farm, the home of Ronald Harries's parents. Despite the discovery of two bodies, Harries was only tried for one murder, as the The South Wales Evening Post explained:

It is the practice of the courts that if a man is charged with the murder of two persons, he is never tried for both murders together. The prosecution always proceeds with one charge alone.

The facts of this case were slightly confusing. Sometime between 8:00p.m on Friday 16th October and 16th November 1953, John Harries and his wife disappeared from their home. The prosecution alleged the dissapearance had actually occurred that first Friday night. What is certain is that there had been no sighting of the couple after they returned home from a chapel thanksgiving service on 15th October.
The investigation was conducted by Superintendent John Capstick of New Scotland Yard. As a matter of routine he interviewed Ronald Harries at St Clears police station and was far from happy with the answers to his questions. Harries was evasive and contradictory in his statements and immediately became a suspect.
Although the accused was only distantly related to John and Phoebe Harries, he had always called them 'Uncle and Aunt'. Harries insisted that he had driven the couple to Carmarthen train station the morning of 16th October, on the first stage of their trip to London where, he claimed, they were heading for a holiday. Yet those close to the missing couple were adamant that this had not happened - they had not gone on holidays for over twenty years, they claimed, and would not have done so without first informing family and friends.
There were other concerns regarding Ronald Harries. First he had taken the cows from his uncle's farm soon after the disappearance and was known to covet the stock, implements and property of Derlwyn Farm. And in the days following the disappearance his Land Rover was constantly seen coming to and from the farm.
Hundreds of locals joined a intensive three week search of the area, and on 16th November, police discovered the bodies of John and Phoebe Harries, buried in a field of kale at Cadno Farm. They had been killed by repeated blows from a circular blunt instrument about one and a quarter inches in diameter. Harries owned just such a hammer and that evening he was arrested and charged with murder.
When the guilty verdict was passed, Harries continued to protest his innocence. Nevertheless it was reported that:

When Harries left the Shire at 6:15p.m handcuffed to a prison warder, the crowd generally booed him, though some sections were cheering. As he entered the taxi he smiled at the crowd and, as it drove off, raised his hand to acquaintences standing nearby.

Ronald Harries was executed at Swansea on 28th April 1954, and a crowd of around 150 held vigil outside the prison gates. Despite having been quite blase after his conviction, Harries collapsed when executioners Albert Pierrepoint and Robert Stewart arrived at his cell, and had to be assisted to the gallows.

1 comment:

  1. This case I knew a relative of Ronald Harries he lived in park all Colin Hamid post man for years in town the RAF club you would see him number 129i think he was written a book it was years of work trying to prove he was set up ,Colin was a nice man good heart and friend. I had a chance to look and read few lines it was hundreds of sheets of paper he wanted it published I donk know if it ever did does anyone no if he had it printed, Colin allways said he never done the murders He kept looking up to the top field from the back door on the farm never helped him Colin was so sure. ,that's something to read if published,