Who killed Lynette White? Who is Tiger Bay murderer Jeffrey Gafoor, and what happened to ‘Cardiff Five’

BBC Two’s ‘A Killing in Tiger Bay’ crime docu-series will investigate why five men were wrongly charged with the murder of Lynette White

The murder of Lynette White on Valentine’s Day 1988 at the Cardiff Docks led to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the UK.

BBC Two’s latest crime docu-series, A Killing in Tiger Bay, will delve into the historic case and attempt to understand how five men were convicted of a murder they did not commit.

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At the heart of the case was a 20-year-old murder victim, but there are another five innocent victims of 14 February attack, claims Former Chief Constable of South Wales Police Matt Jukes.

So, what happened to Lynette White and who were the Cardiff Five? This is what you need to know.

What happened to Lynette White?

Lynette White was a 20 year old sex worker, who just weeks before her murder had been interviewed by the BBC Wales journalist Tim Rogers. He described White as "probably the most visible prostitute working in Cardiff at the time."

In the interview, she had spoken about being drugged and taken to Bristol by a gang of men who forced her into prostitution, but even after escaping and making her way back to Cardiff, she became stuck in a cycle of prostitution to help fund her boyfriend’s cocaine addiction.

Around five days before she was found dead, she had gone missing and none of her friends or boyfriend knew where she was. It has never been established where Lynette was or who she was with during this period.

Lynette was also a witness at two upcoming trials, one for attempted murder and the other for attempting to procure a 13-year-old for prostitution. She had attempted to lie low in the weeks before the first case was set for court, on 15 February, as she did not want to give evidence.

She had been staying at sex worker Leanne Vilday’s apartment in the weeks before her murder - she used the flat to take clients to for sex. On the night she was found dead in the apartment, Vilday had attempted to enter the flat but didn’t have any keys as she had given them to White.

Vilday went to the police station to raise concerns about the flat and White’s welfare. The police then found White’s body inside the apartment.

Lynette White had been wounded 69 times, with stab wounds to her breasts, face, neck, chest and thighs. Her throat had also been slit severely. The pathologist who conducted her post-mortem determined she had been subject to "a mutilating attack with sexual overtones".

She was found at around 9.15pm on 14 February, her wrist watch had stopped working at around 1.45am that morning - the police considered this to be the likely time of death.

Why were the Cardiff Five convicted?

In the days following the attack, witnesses told police of a white man, about 5ft 8 to 5ft 10, with dark hair and aged in his mid-30s, who was seen in the vicinity of the James Street apartment in the hours after White’s death.

He appeared to have injured his hand and had blood on his clothing.

In a BBC Crimewatch appeal in March 1988, leading officer Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) John Williams told viewers: "This man almost certainly had the blood of the deceased on him."

Despite pursuing a number of leads, including a known sex offender who had used White for her services in the past, the police failed to arrest and charge anyone in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

Five black and mixed race men were then arrested for her murder, after intense questioning and a lack of legal representation. There was no DNA evidence to link any of the men to the scene.

The five charged were White’s boyfriend Stephen Miller, Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi, and cousins John Actie and Ronnie Actie.

Miller, the boyfriend of White who had an intellectual age of 11, confessed to her murder after 19 interviews over four days, for a total of 13 hours, and implicated the other men in his confession. He was denied access to a solicitor for the first two interviews.

The trial began in October 1989 but after the sudden death of Mr Justice McNeill, the trial had to begin again in 1990 before Mr Justice Leonard.

It was at the time the longest murder trial in British legal history, lasting 197 days.

After two years in custody, the Actie cousins were acquitted, and the other three were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, and became known as the ‘Cardiff Three’.

They filed appeals in 1991 but Stephen Miller’s was refused, that is until two witnesses were discovered by an investigative journalist. The witnesses could provide an alibi for where Miller was at the time of the attack.

A public campaign to overturn the convictions, started by families and friends of the three men, reached the Court of Appeal, who in 1992 ruled that a gross miscarriage of justice had taken place.

There, the jury heard how Miller was "bullied and hectored" by police during a "travesty of an interview" and that "short of physical violence, it is hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidating approach by officers to a suspect."

His confession was omitted from the evidence, and all three men had their convictions declared "unsafe and unsatisfactory" and were released.

However, the police failed to apologise for their conduct and claimed the men were guilty and had been released on a “legal technicality”. The police refused to look for any other suspects.

When was White’s murderer finally brought to justice?

In 2001, the case was finally reopened as DNA advancements meant the killer’s profile found on White’s body and clothing was now traceable and more DNA evidence had been uncovered from materials taken from the crime scene.

In January 2002, after the development of the Second Generation Multiplex Plus (SGM+) test, a 14-year-old relative of the murderer provided a partial match for the blood samples taken from the crime scene.

The teen was too young to have committed the crime, but his uncle was a perfect match. Jeffrey Gafoor, aged 18 at the time of Lynette’s death, was arrested and charged with her murder.

On 4 July 2003, at Cardiff Crown Court, he pleaded guilty and was  sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of 12 years and eight months.

Due to his guilty plea, he received less time for his crime than that of the three men who were wrongly convicted.

When is ‘Killing in Tiger Bay’ on TV?

The three-part series begins on BBC Two on Thursday 9 September at 9pm.

The subsequent episodes will air across two consecutive weeks, on Thursdays at 9pm.