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New podcast explores wrongful execution of Somali seaman Mahmood Mattan in 1952

08 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Mattan: Injustice Of A Hanged Man,

A new nine-part BBC Sounds podcast explores the shocking miscarriage of justice which led to the execution of Somali seaman Mahmood Mattan on 3 September 1952.

The series, Mattan: Injustice Of A Hanged Man, launches 70 years after Mattan was wrongfully executed for the murder of Cardiff shopkeeper, Lily Volpert, with the first episode available on September 9.

The father of three, was convicted of the killing in March 1952, and despite protesting his innocence throughout, was hanged in September 1952 when he was just 28 years old.

Last week South Wales Police issued an apology to the family of one of the last men to be executed in Wales for the “terrible suffering” the miscarriage of justice caused.

Mr Mattan’s family never gave up fighting to clear his name and in 1998 his conviction was the first Criminal Case Review Commission referral to be quashed at the court of appeal.

Three years later, in 2001, the Home office awarded the family compensation, but no apology.

Originally from the former British Somaliland, Mr Mattan was arrested within hours of the murder of Lily Volpert, and despite having an alibi, and there being no forensic evidence, he was charged and later tried and convicted at the Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea by an all-white jury.

He was executed by hangman Albert Pierrepoint at the gallows at Cardiff prison on 3 September 1952.

His widow Laura only found out he had been hanged when she went to visit him in jail and saw a notice announcing his death pinned to a door.

Eye witness accounts

Throughout the podcast, listeners will hear exclusively from those who have never spoken publicly before about the events.

It also hears eye witness accounts including Lily Volpert’s niece Ruth, who was in the back room the night of her aunt’s murder. This is a story that has spanned generations and made headlines but the lasting trauma of what happened that fateful night is widely unknown.

Presented by actress, writer and broadcaster Danielle Fahiya, the podcast uncovers the tumultuous highs and lows over the 46 year fight for justice and looks at the impact of generational trauma for those living in the shadow of injustice.

Mahmood Mattan

Danielle Fahiya was born in Butetown and, over the last few years, has been speaking to the family about their story. She says, “This has been a story that I grew up knowing as my grandad was friends with Mahmood Mattan.

“However, this isn’t just a historical tale, it spans 70 years and shines a light on those who have never had the opportunity to speak and Mattan’s wife and sons who fought so hard for justice and never gave up.

“Its significance is important now more than ever when looking at issues like racism and injustice. It has been a privilege to look into and tell their story”.

Radio Wales’ Commissioner, Jeremy Grange says, “This series exposes the prejudice and racism leading to the wrongful execution of Mahmood Mattan but it also goes far beyond that. It explores how this monstrous miscarriage of justice has cast a shadow over a family and a community for decades afterwards.”

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