"Oh! What a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."  Sir Walter Scott


Web Mystery Magazine, Summer 2005: Volume III, Issue 1

Satish Sekar holds a BA Hons. degree in Sociology. A freelance journalist since 1990, his work has appeared in The Guardian and The Independent and has been used by television and radio stations throughout England and Wales.

The Lynette White/Cardiff Three case was the first case he worked on; since then, he has worked on several cases, many of which have succeeded. Currently, Mr. Sekar is working on a paper on DNA databasing.  Fitted In: The Cardiff 3 and the Lynette White Inquiry is his first book; it may be obtained by writing to Mr. Sekar.

See Archives for other articles by Mr. Sekar. Direct correspondence to Satish Sekar or to editor@lifeloom.com.


The Downfall of Cellophane Man –
How Legal History in Britain was made when
Forensic Science Solved the Horrific Murder of Lynette White
photo of Satish Sekar
The Crime & Investigation:

             St. Valentine’s Day 1988 fell on a Saturday. In the small hours of Friday, as partiers reveled, the tragically short life of Lynette White came to a brutal end just yards away from the local nightclub, the Casablanca. Stabbed more than fifty times, Lynette's breasts repeatedly attacked and her throat had been slit from ear to ear. The killer had attempted to remove her head. This was then the most brutal murder in Welsh history. South Wales Police were under enormous pressure to solve this crime. Development of the docks area that would transform the landscape of the old seaport of Cardiff was temporarily halted in its tracks.   

             Thousands of statements were taken. Numerous leads were investigated, but weeks turned into months without sight or sound of a breakthrough. A very promising line of enquiry led nowhere as the prime suspect at the time – Mr. X, a white pedophile whose character traits were so similar to the likely characteristics of the murderer that Detective Inspector Graham Mouncher identified him as the prime suspect and had him put under surveillance – was eliminated by DNA profiling.

Lynette White

Lynette White

     

An Easily Preventable & Glaring Miscarriage of Justice:

            The following day a miscarriage of justice that blighted the criminal justice system of England and Wales became all but inevitable. DI Mouncher went on to play a crucial part in securing this miscarriage of justice, having been convinced that the white pedophile was his man just one month before the high profile arrests. There were bloodstains that had been shed by the murderer, among a plethora of other scientific evidence in that flat. None of it tied any of the five men charged with Lynette’s murder to the crime. The alleged eyewitnesses contradicted themselves, each other, and irrefutable scientific evidence irreconcilably. Police had bullied a ludicrous confession out of Stephen Miller, Lynette’s boyfriend and ponce, or pimp – a confession the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor would roundly condemn on appeal. It would become an example of the type of interviewing that Lord Taylor would never want to hear in his court again. Miller was as vulnerable a suspect as could be found, a man of borderline intelligence and high suggestibility who was bullied into telling the police what they wanted to hear. This occurred despite police knowing that he had what amounted to a compelling alibi – an alibi that Miller was totally unaware of.

            Languishing in the unused material were statements that showed Miller was in the Casablanca playing pool within twenty minutes of the time of the murder according to the case presented in court. The murder occurred between 1.45-1.50 in the morning – Lynette’s watch had stopped and evidence showed that shock caused by such a murder could cause that. According to the available evidence these witnesses’ claims meant that if Miller was guilty he had to murder Lynette in such an atrocious fashion. Then he had to clean the flat and victim of all traces of the scientific evidence that could tie him to the crime and he had to do this without interfering with the plethora of scientific evidence in that flat, or showing signs of any attempt to do so. That done, he had to clean himself and his clothes to a similar high standard. This had to be achieved without interfering with the dirt on the white parts of his stonewashed jeans. Then the jeans had to dry without showing signs of having been recently washed. After this he had to go to the Casablanca and play pool without a change in general demeanour. He had to achieve all this with the IQ of an eleven-year-old child.

betting shop

Lynette White's flat was over this betting shop

street

Cardiff Street Scene

             One of Miller’s co-accused, Yusef Abdullahi had an alibi. He was working on a ship throughout the night of the murder. Thirteen people either referred to seeing him on the ship at the relevant time or to work that he claimed to have done that night. There is no evidence that he was checking out what work was done or attempting to concoct an alibi. There is evidence that police pressured witnesses and deceived them in an attempt to break his alibi. They also failed to disclose an alibi statement, claiming it did not support Abdullahi, when it was obvious that it did. The sole corroboration against Tony Paris was a prison informer (squealer) who had been involved in a notorious conspiracy to frame a police officer and had attempted to do so again in another high profile case that remains unsolved to this day. DI Mouncher was involved in the dubious attempt to break Abdullahi's alibi and in obtaining the statement of the squealer.

The Safeguards Fail:

             The Crown Prosecution Service, whose job it was to review the evidence gathered and ensure that it was sufficient to justify prosecution ignored ten of its own criteria for sufficiency of evidence – the other three did not apply. The prosecuting QC David Elfer failed in his duty to only offer admissible evidence. Miller’s defence lawyers failed to protect his legal rights and allowed an unlawful and inadmissible confession to be bullied out of him. They failed to offer what would have been a compelling alibi and at the second trial didn’t even argue that he had been bullied. The two trial judges – the first judge died during his summing-up – failed to prevent inadmissible evidence going before the jury. The jury blatantly ignored the law as they reached contradictory verdicts that sent Abdullahi, Miller and Paris to prison for life while acquitting their co-defendants, the cousins John and Ronnie Actie. Add to this the fact that police were searching for one bloodstained white man seen in the vicinity of the flat on the day of the murder and all the defendants were black (meaning definitely not white) and this case could quickly be seen to be a glaring miscarriage of justice.

The Manipulation of the Scientific Evidence:

             It would later emerge to be far worse. The Cardiff Three went to prison for a crime that any impartial observer could see they did not commit, but scientific evidence screamed their innocence from the rooftops, or rather it ought to have done.Just as multi-locus-probe DNA profiling – the system discovered by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys in the 1980s – had eliminated Mr. X, so it should have eliminated the Cardiff Five as they then were, but it was already too late as they were in prison on remand by this time.

             It was argued – correctly as it turned out – that Lynette had been prematurely eliminated as a possible source of the four band DNA profile that had been thought to have been shed by the murderer. DNA profiling was in its infancy at the time and not yet able to make a telling contribution in this case. While the eliminations of the Cardiff Five could not be relied on, nor could those of anyone else, including Mr. X.

  Steve Miller, Yusef Abdullahi, and Tony Paris

Steve Miller, Yusef Abdullahi,
and Tony Paris

"The Cardiff Three
went to prison for a crime that any impartial observer could see they did not commit."

             At the time one of the major clues was that the murderer had a very rare combination of blood groups. Five areas tested gave positive results for the Y-chromosome. The inquiry rightly proceeded on the basis that the murderer was a male who possessed that combination of blood groups. After the arrest of the five, but before interviewing had finished, police discovered that one of the alleged eyewitnesses Angela Psaila possessed that rare combination of blood groups. A senior forensic scientist described this discovery as ‘one hell of a coincidence.’ Sadly it wasn’t and it was a fact that this scientist either knew well or should have done as his laboratory had obtained blood grouping results on numerous people of interest prior to this. Two of them were men who either possessed very similar groups or in one case an effectively identical one. It would eventually emerge that both these men who included Mr X. were undoubtedly innocent. That scientist undoubtedly lied in his statement when he said that no haptoglobin (a blood group) result had been obtained from the sample on Lynette’s jeans. Laboratory records show confusing haptoglobin results: a mixture consistent with Lynette’s blood and that of her killer. Mr X. was entitled to elimination on this result, but his test was uncorroborated until results from a previous case came to light. Nevertheless, the scientist ought to have reported his results accurately and never should have called Psaila’s results a hell of a coincidence.

             Sadly things degenerated further. All five defendants had given blood samples and it did not match that obtained from the crime scene. They were entitled to elimination on that alone. Instead that same scientist advanced a hypothesis that came to be known as the ‘Cocktail Theory’. The high sensitivity of the test for the Y-chromosome meant that it was possible for a small amount of male blood to mix in with a large amount of that of a woman with Psaila’s combination of blood groups to give the impression of male blood of the requisite combination of groups. This was used to attempt to implicate Abdullahi in particular. Unfortunately it applied equally to every male on the face of the earth. This means that half of the population of the world, including that scientist himself could not be excluded as a partial source of the blood at the crime scene. Similarly if a large amount of male blood of the requisite combination of blood groups mixed with a small amount of any female’s blood, then no woman could be excluded either. And the possibility that only one man with that combination of blood groups was the donor of the crime scene samples was never conclusively eliminated. Consequently, the scientific evidence presented at the 1990 trial – the longest murder trial in British history – was utterly worthless. It was an appalling prosecution that had resulted in a glaring miscarriage of justice. It was an abysmal failure for the entire criminal justice system – one that would damage public confidence for several years to come. It was one of many serious miscarriages of justice in South Wales at that time.

Re-opened, albeit Reluctantly:

             In December 1992 the convictions of the Cardiff Three were quashed on appeal. South Wales Police conducted an internal investigation that outrageously concluded they had done nothing wrong. I first got involved in this case in February 1991 and discovered evidence which contributed to the successful appeal, but their freedom was not enough. The real killer was still out there. He had to be caught. In 1995 I discovered new evidence relating to the elimination of suspects on DNA in the original enquiry. My findings were adopted by Lynette’s mother Peggy Pesticcio: a woman whose courage, integrity and determination in the face of the worst adversity any person could face is in an inspiration to us all. Together with Peggy I demanded justice for Lynette.

             There was now unequivocal evidence that nobody should have been eliminated by DNA evidence at that time. During the appeal it had been argued that Mr X had been eliminated by DNA. This was no longer reliable. And advances in DNA testing systems (Short Tandem Repeats {STR}) and amplification methods (the Polymerase Chain Reaction {PCR}) meant that useful scientific evidence might now be obtained. The case was re-opened. This was in 1995 using the six loci test known as Second Generation Multiplex (SGM). Sadly DNA was not quite ready to make its most telling contribution in this case. By early 1998 no useful results had been obtained. It was time to suspend the testing and wait for a new more sophisticated test to be developed. I had already been arguing for this for some time, but police insisted on finishing the round of testing. It was a mistake that could have had dire consequences. Thankfully it did not.

The Book & Its Impact:

             In July 1998 my book Fitted In: The Cardiff 3 and the Lynette White Inquiry was published. It detailed the miscarriage of justice that blighted the lives of the Cardiff Three. It contained strong criticism of the performance of the entire criminal justice system in this case in the hope that it would prompt change that would prevent repetition of the avoidable errors that occurred in this case. It also detailed the advances in DNA testing systems and the history of the inquiry up to that point. I predicted that sooner or later a new DNA testing system would be developed that would be able to obtain useful results even from seemingly useless samples like those in this case. Much valuable DNA had been used up in unsuccessful attempts to obtain scientific evidence. There was a limited supply of poor quality DNA. It was essential to preserve some pending advances.

             Within six months of my book's publication, the Forensic Science Service announced that the testing system I had hoped for had arrived. It tested at ten loci (genes that are tested at) as well as amelogenin which tests for the Y-chromosome. It was called Second Generation Multiplex Plus (SGM+). Amplification methods were now so sensitive that full DNA profiles could be obtained from a single cell – the smallest carrier of the DNA code. Full DNA profiles could be routinely obtained from amounts of DNA as small as 100 picagrams (100 x 10 to the power of minus 12g). He didn’t know it then, but time had begun to run out for the murderer of Lynette White – a man later dubbed Cellophane Man.

 

Fitted In:
The Cardiff Three

and the Lynette White Inquiry

"Details the miscarriage of justice that blighted the lives of the Cardiff Three [and] contains strong criticism
of the performance of the
entire criminal justice system in this case."

             There were also signs of change within South Wales Police. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had a working group on homicides. A manual on how to investigate homicides had been produced. In May 1999 I called for South Wales Police to hand the investigation over to another force. They declined to do so and announced that they were setting up a new unit to investigated unsolved and unresolved cases in accordance with ACPO's guidelines. It was the first such unit in Britain and the murder of Lynette White was the first case that it investigated. They faced a daunting task. No police force in Britain had ever found the real perpetrator after a previous miscarriage of justice that had been resolved on appeal.

             The inquiry was to be two-pronged. The first part was to appoint a reviewing officer from an external force. Bill Hacking, the retired head of Lancashire Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was that officer. His job was to review the original inquiry to establish best practice and any new leads. I didn’t know it then but my book had played an important in this process behind the scenes. The second part was to utilise developments in forensic science.

             Together with two of the lawyers involved in the original case I met the head of that unit, Assistant Chief Constable Tony Rogers. It soon became clear that there had been a fundamental change in the attitude of senior officers in South Wales Police. I had been a persistent thorn in their side over this case because I was so sure that the original case was unjustifiable, but also because I was certain that it could still be solved and nothing less would do. Rogers wanted this inquiry to be open with people identified as stake-holders. The two lawyers, Peggy and I were among the stake-holders. The approach of this unit was to identify the most persistent critic and try to convince them that things had changed, believing that if they could convince such people that things had changed, they could convince anyone. In this case, that was me. I was prepared to give them the chance to convince me that things had changed.

             The review began in June 1999. It was concluded in September 2000. Rogers also appointed a Lay Advisory Panel. This consisted of individuals from the community who could observe them at work and ensure that things were done properly. The Hacking Report found evidence that there had been warts in the original enquiry, but it also found lines of inquiry that needed to be investigated. Police decided that they would not publish the report then as it could hamper the search for Lynette’s murderer. That was understandable.

The Power of DNA Testing:

             Rogers then committed resources to finding Lynette’s murderer. A team of seventeen officers were put onto the case. Forensic Alliance, who had been commissioned to do the DNA tests, had already established that there were items that were suitable for DNA testing. Led by Angela Gallup, they began painstaking investigations of the crime scene samples. Over 900 items had been taken in the original enquiry. Many of these were tested again using the new techniques. The sock that Lynette wore on her right foot had been known to have the murderer’s blood on it. In 1988 it was insufficient for DNA testing. Now it yielded a full DNA profile. The jeans yielded a full DNA profile after novel methods were used to remove the inhibiting factor – the dyes used on it. Other items of her clothing such as her leather jacket also yielded full DNA profiles. It had not been known previously that the murderer had shed his blood on it. Samples of wallpaper and blood on the skirting board also yielded full DNA profiles.

             To their immense credit police and Forensic Alliance did not leave it there. Full DNA profiles were obtained from samples on the wall in the flat, on the way down the stairs and on the front door of the flats. Dr. Gallup and her team managed to get a full DNA profile from blood found between the skirting board and the wall. A full DNA profile was obtained from a piece of cellophane found in the flat. This was the item that led to the murderer being dubbed ‘Cellophane Man.’ However; perhaps the most impressive work of the forensic scientists was to obtain a full DNA profile from the skirting board even though it had been painted over. Layers of paint were carefully removed, revealing blood that resulted in a full DNA profile being obtained. Consequently, several samples, both ones obtained during the original enquiry and those discovered during this investigation had finally yielded useful DNA profiles. All of these DNA profiles were identical. Police announced that they had the DNA of a male whom they believed ‘was directly involved in the murder.’ The hunt for Cellophane Man had begun.

Eliminating The Innocent:

             The discovery of the DNA of Cellophane Man did not mean that Lynette’s murderer would be caught. That would require some luck and excellent detective work. It did, however, all but ensure that there would not be a second miscarriage of justice in this case. But who was Cellophane Man? While it was important to answer that question, it was also important to establish who he wasn’t.

             Police decided to conduct intelligence-led screening. Among those they asked to voluntarily provide buccal swabs for DNA testing were all of the original defendants and all four alleged eyewitnesses. The original defendants sought and received assurances regarding the taking of these samples. The buccal swab was taken in the presence of their lawyers who accompanied the samples to the testing laboratory along with the police and witnessed it being signed into the laboratory and stored. It was an important step that secured the co-operation of the people who had the best reasons of all not to trust South Wales Police. These were among many samples obtained during the inquiry. The results conclusively established that the DNA of all of the defendants and that of the alleged eyewitnesses had not been found in the flat where Lynette met her untimely end. There was absolutely no doubt anymore: the Cardiff Five had nothing to do with the murder of Lynette White and the alleged eyewitnesses had lied both about having witnessed the murder and having been in the flat at the relevant time. The flaws of the original inquiry were now undeniable, but would not be addressed – yet. They were entitled to a full apology which was not forthcoming. Meanwhile, the search for Cellophane Man continued.

The Search for Cellophane Man:

             The first thing that the police did was to consult the National DNA Database. But Cellophane Man was not among almost two million people whose DNA was stored on the Database. This meant that Cellophane Man had not committed a crime that allowed his DNA to be stored on the database since it came into being and he had not been arrested or charged with any offence since the law was changed in 2001.

             It had been fourteen years since Lynette’s murder. While it was possible that Cellophane Man may still be in the country, it was also possible that he had emigrated. It was easy to check the DNA Databases of all countries that had them. This could be done quickly by requesting Interpol to have them checked. At my request South Wales Police asked Interpol to do so. But Cellophane Man’s DNA was not stored on any database. Nor, it would subsequently emerge, was it ever likely to be solved by waiting for him to do something that would enable his DNA to be stored on the database. This would require some excellent police work to discover the identity of Cellophane Man. South Wales Police, particularly Detective Constable Paul Williams were not prepared to wait and hope for the murderer to make a mistake.

             Williams realised that the absence of a complete hit from the National DNA Database was not the end of the story. He examined the results again. He noticed that one allele position was only occurring in one in every hundred profiles examined. This meant that 99% could be eliminated immediately. He then expanded the search to eight allele positions – a full SGM+ DNA profile consists of twenty alleles. This narrowed down the results of potential importance further. He then expanded the search to twelve alleles. This was enough to narrow down the search significantly. There were matches at twelve alleles on the National DNA Database, but none at all twenty. Williams had narrowed down the search significantly. He then concentrated on the South Wales area. One twelve allele match stood out immediately.

             It belonged to a fourteen year old boy. Police were closing in on Cellophane Man. It was now realised that Lynette’s murderer was a male relative of this boy. Police began by asking the boy’s father to voluntarily give a buccal swab. He did so. It established that he was not Cellophane Man. Eventually police asked Jeffrey Gafoor for a buccal swab. He said that he had had sex with Lynette a week before her murder. He asked if it was from semen. His question was not answered, but it aroused the interest of the police. Gafoor was trying to set up an explanation for the discovery of his DNA at the crime scene, but the DNA obtained from the crime scene had not come from semen – it had come from blood. The long and often frustrating search for Cellophane Man was all but over. Gafoor voluntarily gave a sample. Meanwhile, Gafoor had resigned himself to the fact that his past had caught up with him after fifteen years.

             He was put under surveillance – a decision that saved his life. Gafoor bought paracetomol from different shops. He took sixty-four tablets and waited to die. Meanwhile police received confirmation that security guard Jeffrey Gafoor was indeed Cellophane Man. Police had intended to keep him under surveillance for a week prior to arresting him. His suicide attempt ended that. His door was knocked in. He was taken to hospital under arrest. He told both police and the ambulance staff: “Just for the record I did kill Lynette White. I sincerely hope to die.”

Cellophane Man:

             By March 7th Gafoor had been interviewed under caution. He admitted that he was Lynette’s murderer, but didn’t want to talk about it. He never explained why he did it. He was charged with Lynette’s murder. His combination of blood groups matched that obtained in the original investigation. This was an outstanding piece of police work. Jeffrey Gafoor was the most frightening of killers, one whose characteristics could not have been predicted.

            Prior to Lynette’s murder Gafoor had no criminal convictions at all. Nobody could have predicted that such a brutal murderer would not have a criminal record. He was a loner who went to extraordinary lengths to avoid unnecessary human contact. Even after Lynette’s murder he only had one brush with the law. In December 1992 – coincidentally the month of the successful appeal of the Cardiff Three – Gafoor received his only criminal conviction prior to his conviction for Lynette’s murder. It was for an assault on a work colleague. He received eighty hours community service. Until his arrest this February, more than ten years later, he never came to the attention of the police again. No witnesses could link Gafoor to Lynette, or to the area. But for the advent of SGM+ there would have been no chance of catching him at all. And but for the determination and persistence of DC Williams, Gafoor would not have been caught.

 

Jeffrey Gagoor

Jeffrey Gafoor:
Murderer of
Lynette White

             Nobody could have predicted these character traits in 1988. How could killers like Gafoor be predicted? Hopefully there are no other killers like Gafoor at liberty as they are next to impossible to detect. Had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes been sent through time to Cardiff in 1988 and given all the resources he wanted and hand-picked his team of investigators he still could not have solved the mystery of who killed Lynette White. In 1988 nobody could have solved it. This case should have remained unsolved until now. The murder of Lynette White required advances in DNA testing systems – namely SGM+ – to solve it.

History is Made:

             July 4th – a poignant day in American history – is now a very important day in the history of justice. Through his QC, Gafoor acknowledged that he had killed Lynette on his own and that the original defendants had nothing to do with Lynette's murder. He apologised to both them and Lynette's family.

             He claimed that it had happened because Lynette refused to return his £30 after he changed his mind about having sex with her. He claimed that during an argument about this she pulled a knife on him. They struggled and he pulled out the knife he carried for 'protection'. He stabbed her and then he just lost it.

             This does not ring true as the medical evidence suggests that the throat wounds were the first offensive injuries. Gafoor avoided cross-examination by his guilty plea. He has yet to answer questions about what happened and why. It also emerged that Gafoor had no connection to the docks area of Cardiff which had been so villified during the 1990 trial. Gafoor's actions on that terrible night not only ended Lynette's life, it sounded the death knell of a whole community.

             Sadly the Chief Constable did not issue an immediate apology to the original defendants. A written one was forthcoming a few days later, but Sir Anthony Burdon failed to take responsibility for the actions of his force during the original inquiry. He has ordered an enquiry in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service into what went wrong in the original inquiry, but this is unlikely to satisfy growing demands for a fully independent public inquiry into this and other similar cases in South Wales. Unfortunately, Sir Anthony has so far failed to issue any apology to Lynette's family, especially Peggy, for the fifteen years of torment that they have endured. Jeffrey Gafoor, now 38, pleaded guilty to Lynette’s murder. The guilty plea by Gafoor was the greatest triumph of South Wales Police. But it also emphasised their greatest failure. It was the first time that a notorious miscarriage of justice had been resolved by the conviction of the truly guilty in Britain. It involved some of the finest detective work in any case. DC Williams was commended for his work by the judge, Mr. Justice Royce – deservedly. If he remains a detective constable after this it would be a miscarriage of justice.

             Williams has shown that detectives do not need to wait for a full twenty allele hit from the National DNA Database. They can investigate particular allele positions to narrow down partial hits on the database. They can gradually increase the number of allele positions investigated. This can result in very promising lines of enquiry. In this case it resulted in the discovery of the identity of Cellophane Man. They can also easily search DNA databases throughout the world. This case has revolutionised the use of DNA databasing, but an important question remains unanswered: what would have happened if Gafoor’s criminally active nephew had been law-abiding? It would have meant that the murder of Lynette White could not have been solved in the absence of a complete National DNA Database. It would also have meant that the original defendants would have had to continue to endure a thoroughly unjustifiable whispering campaign.

             South Wales Police did an excellent job this time. This investigation should serve as an inspiration to police forces throughout the world. It has established how innovative policing can solve even the most difficult of crimes. But let us not forget that it cannot absolve the force of responsibility for a shameful miscarriage of justice that blighted the lives of the five original defendants, their families, Lynette’s family, especially Peggy, and society as a whole. Nothing can ever change that. Let us hope that the lessons have been learned and that this is the first of many cases where miscarriages of justice are resolved by the conviction of the truly guilty. And let us remember that these techniques can be used to solve many cases without miscarriages of justice occurring at all.

Copyright 2003 by Satish Sekar 


 


"Oh! What a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."  Sir Walter Scott

Web Mystery Magazine (ISSN: 1547-9609) is an on-line quarterly
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