True Crime Tuesdays: Murder in the Valleys
Helen Archer | On 01, Mar 2022
Miscarriages of justice are not new to South Wales police, as this four-part series takes pains to remind us. From the Cardiff Three to the Cardiff Newsagent Three – one of whom, Michael O’Brien, is interviewed here – their record is far from perfect, and distrust in authority is high. So when members of the force are implicated directly in the largest murder enquiry in the Welsh history, questions must be both asked and answered.
The killing of three generations of one family in Clydach shocked the community to the core, as 34-year-old Mandy Power, her daughters Katie (10) and Emily (8), and Mandy’s terminally ill mother Doris (80) were bludgeoned to death before their house was set on fire in June 1999. But that shock was aggravated when it was discovered that Mandy had been having an affair with ex-police officer Alison Lewis, who was married to serving police officer Stephen. To compound matters, Stephen’s twin brother, Stuart – also a police inspector – was the first at the scene of the crime, only to leave after 10 minutes and not report the suspicious circumstances, much to the surprise of the members of the fire brigade attending the blaze. Yet almost two years after the murders, it was David (Dai) Morris who was arrested on suspicion of the murders, eventually being found guilty and sentenced to four life sentences in June 2002.
The ongoing fight for answers in one of Wales’ most notorious crimes and has already been the subject of documentaries, books and podcasts – although Morris lost all subsequent appeals, questions still linger about the safety of the conviction. Directed by Tom Barrow – whose previous credits include 24 Hours in Police Custody, Barrymore: The Body in the Pool and Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge – Murder in the Valleys was filmed over 12 months, after a decision was made to review the case in January 2021. This was kickstarted by both improvements in the science of DNA, and by a new witness coming forward – and while the series begins with his recollections, his actual testimony is held back until the final episode. Instead, we look at the case from the very start, as neighbours and friends paint a picture of the life of the family in the lead-up to the murders. Alison Lewis is interviewed over the course of the four episodes, as well as in archive footage, although Stephen and Stuart did not take part and remain opaque. It’s not until the end of the second episode that Dai’s name comes up – a long time after the initial investigation, as South Wales police came under increasing pressure to solve the crime.
Morris did himself no favours in his police interviews – clips of which are included here – changing his story several times, as he tried to first deny then to explain why his blood-soaked chain had been found in Mandy Powers’ burnt-out house. He was also on the radar of the police for his involvement in some local petty crime. Barristers and police interviewed here are insistent on his guilt, while lawyers who took up his case when he was behind bars discuss their efforts to have the case re-examined. Morris’s sister and his daughters have been tenacious in their fight to clear his name, and, despite him passing away in prison during the filming of the documentary, they insist they will continue. Alison Lewis, meanwhile, talks about the way in which the finger of suspicion, pointed directly at her family, has marred her life.
There is a real sadness which permeates the series, an absolute refusal to look away from the horror of the crime. Home video footage of Mandy, Doris and the girls is cut into the programme throughout – an ordinary, happy family with no hint as to the fate which would befall them, nor the sensationalist headlines that would follow their deaths. The series ends with no definitive answers, just an all-encompassing despair at the lives taken that night and the ripple effect it had on the lives of so many others. The programme is unlikely to change the mind of those who think Dai Morris was guilty, and just as unlikely to change the mind of those who think he was innocent. But it is a sensitively handled, detailed study of the intricacies of the case.
Murder in the Valleys is available on Sky Crime. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, for £9.99 a month with no contract. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.