Police offer apology for miscarriage of justice 70 years after execution of Cardiff man
South Wales Police have issued an apology to the family of one of the last men to be executed in Wales, who was hanged for a crime he didn’t commit.
Mahmood Mattan, a British Somali father of three, was convicted of killing Cardiff shopkeeper, Lily Volpert in March 1952, and despite protesting his innocence throughout, was hanged in September 1952 when he was just 28 years old.
Now, 70 years on, the police have apologised to Mr Mattan’s family for the “terrible suffering” the miscarriage of justice caused.
Mr Mattan’s wife and three sons campaigned to clear his name for 46 years but have all since died, and responding to the apology, his granddaughter Tanya told the BBC “it is far too late for the people directly affected as they are no longer with us and still, we are yet to hear the words I am/we are sorry.”
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.
Mr Mattan, originally from the former British Somaliland, 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.
Mr Mattan 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.
The impact on his family has been long lasting and tragic, with his widow Laura, who died in 2008, said: “My sons and I have not lived. We have simply existed.”
Granddaughter Kirsty Mattan said: “It’s not just one life they took, three sons went through the stigma of their father being a murderer.
“My dad was a great man, our pillar of knowledge and strength. But they were all in dark places, they all abused alcohol and sadly died from it.
“It affected them mentally. My dad felt the loss of his father, it took its toll and they all died young.”
Jeremy Vaughan, chief constable of South Wales police, said: “This is a case very much of its time – racism, bias and prejudice would have been prevalent throughout society, including the criminal justice system.
“There is no doubt that Mahmood Mattan was the victim of a miscarriage of justice as a result of a flawed prosecution, of which policing was clearly a part.”
The killing of Lily Volpert was investigated by detectives from Cardiff city police, now part of South Wales police.
Although the investigation pre-dates the formation of South Wales police, Mr Vaughan said: “It is right and proper that an apology is made on behalf of policing for what went so badly wrong in this case 70 years ago and for the terrible suffering of Mr Mattan’s family and all those affected by this tragedy for many years.
“Even to this day, we are still working hard to ensure that racism and prejudice are eradicated from society and policing.”
South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said: “The whole criminal justice system failed to ensure that justice was given to an innocent man.
“It’s absolutely right that all of us who are concerned with criminal justice and policing should recognize the wrong that was done, and the damage that it did to a family.”
Nadifa Mohamed, the British-Somali author and journalist, recreated the real-life story of Mr Mattan in her semi fictional book The Fortune Men which was shortlisted for the Booker prize and won the 2022 English language Wales Book of the Year award.
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