Murder of delivery driver could have been avoided, says politician
The horrific murder of a parcel delivery van driver who was run over by a hardened criminal who stole his vehicle could have been avoided if firmer action had previously been taken against the perpetrator, a local politician has claimed.
Christopher El Gifari, 31, drove almost half a mile along North Road in Cardiff with Mark Lang, 54, trapped underneath the van. Mr Lang died 18 days after sustaining severe injuries to his body and brain.
Cardiff Conservative councilor Catriona Brown-Reckless has called for an independent inquiry into the case of Christopher El Gifari, who has been given a life sentence for murdering Mark Lang, with a minimum tariff of 32 years before he can be considered for parole.
Cardiff Crown Court heard how El Gifari had 26 previous convictions for 55 offences, including one for dangerous driving.
Months before the murder, Cllr Brown-Reckless had taken up complaints from neighbors of El Gifari, who had been terrorising residents on the Maes y Deri estate in her ward at St Fagans, near Cardiff, where he had been living in his brother’s flat.
Then weeks before the murder, after encouraging the police to step up their presence on the estate, Cllr Brown-Reckless was asked by Cardiff council’s monitoring officer to attend a standards meeting because she “had a disagreement with the police” and had allegedly been “filming”. The meeting stemmed from a Welsh Government initiative called the Democracy Handbook, aimed at improving the standards of behaviour of councillors.
Cllr Brown-Reckless said: “I think the murder of Mr Lang could have been prevented. Six months before the murder, El Gifari barricaded himself into a flat, threatening to jump out, triggering a full armed police response. As well as armed police, I counted eight police vehicles, two fire engines, two ambulances and a gas team, disconnecting the gas supply, that day. Why was El Gifari not kept in prison?
“Eleven days before the murder, residents alleged El Gifari went on a drunken criminal spree around their estate. If we had more police, could they have restrained El Gifari at that point?
“I think housing policy is flawed in relation to people engaging in criminal or anti-social activity. Why did we let El Gifari, who I think belonged in the criminal justice system, live on a lovely family housing estate and terrify people, and why were residents’ warnings ignored?
“I call for an inquiry into the police and criminal justice handling of the El Gifari matters, whether the Democracy Handbook suppressed elected councillors, and the role of housing associations in situations like this. I think housing policy is flawed for people engaging in criminal or serious anti-social behaviour.
“I talked with many residents traumatised by living near El Gifari, such as parents afraid for their children’s safety, and people not speaking out for fear of reprisals, and relayed those stories asking for more policing support”
“What I wasn’t expecting was to be requested to attend a standards meeting under the new Democracy Handbook as I had appeared to be ‘in disagreement with the police,” she added.
Being in disagreement with the police was allowed under the old standards rules – it’s only totalitarian states that ban that – which raises a lot of frightening questions about how they may be using and abusing these new standards rules.
“I also did not think I had done anything wrong, and they wouldn’t provide any basis for this standards matter but left it hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles, so when residents came to me alleging El Gifari had been on another crime spree, I reported that to the police, but I have wondered ever since if I could have pressed harder on whether El Gifari could have been restrained then – just 11 fateful days before the North Road murder – if it were not for having a standards matter hanging over me for having apparently disagreed with the police before.
“I do not blame the police who have done a lot to bring in more policing resource, and I respect the difficult job the police do, and the police have to work with stretched resources as effectively as possible, and councillors have a role in alerting the police to what needs attention.
“I do blame the new so-called Democracy Handbook standards regime, and believe I was wrongly suppressed for allegations that were never substantiated. There can be real-world consequences. My heart goes out to the family of Mark Lang, and they will always be in my thoughts.”
Cardiff council has been asked to comment on Cllr Brown-Reckless’ concerns about the Democracy Handbook.
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