A murder carried out almost a decade before her birth, and which her family should have had no connection to, has long cast a shadow for Cassie Justice Parris. 

The 24-year-old only found out through anxious curiosity how her father, Tony Paris, had been dragged into what would become Britain’s longest running murder trial, unwilling to wait until she was older to be let in on what appeared to be a secret in her father’s past. 

“I googled his name when I was around nine-years-old and found everything. I would read endless articles about what happened to my dad without him knowing I knew,” says Cassie. 

There would be no shortage of articles. The murder of Lynette White was horrific and the pressure was on South Wales Police to catch the killer. 

The 20-year-old, who earned a living as a sex worker, had been brutally stabbed to death in a flat above a bookies on James Street in Cardiff’s Butetown – the old docklands that in 1988 was on the cusp of its redevelopment, and gentrification, from Tiger Bay to Cardiff Bay. 

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Police had initially been hunting a lone white man, seen bloodied and leaving the scene on Valentine’s Day, but ten months later would arrest five black and mixed-race men. 

Tony Paris, already a father of two, was now tied to a notorious murder case. With Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller, he would be convicted of Lynette’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1990. 

Cousins John and Ronnie Actie had been cleared at trial but all five had already been held for two years on remand. 

A campaign swung into action to clear the names of the men, known as the Cardiff Three, at a time when there was heightened concern over miscarriages of justice across Wales and England, and which had led to high profile convictions being over-turned. 

The campaign would eventually be vindicated in December 1992 when the convictions were quashed as a trail of coerced and false statements and intimidatory behaviour was laid before the Court of Appeal. 

But though all five men now had their freedom, and Tony would go on to father two daughters, Cassie and her younger sister Kyra, the trauma of a wrongful incarceration, the detachment from their families and stigma would haunt all five. 

“My mum has told me how hard it was for him to adjust when he came out of prison. Things like shower times and eating; he kept the same hours and portions as if he was still inside. He couldn’t go outside alone and his sleep was affected,” says Cassie who was born five years after her father’s conviction was quashed when he was aged 35. 

“My brothers dealt with a lot because they were growing up when it was all happening. Me and my sister came after but even still, I am affected by my dad’s trauma. 

The National Wales: Cassie as a baby with her dadCassie as a baby with her dad

 

“I’ve struggled with my mental health since around the age of 12. I don’t know if everything going on with my dad subconsciously was the cause of it but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was."

The circumstances, not least of which was Lynette’s murder, which had turned the lives of all five upside down were also unresolved.

In 2002 police announced an arrest on suspicion of murder with the real killer Jeffrey Gafoor convicted the following year. It was revealed he had been caught by chance due to a 14-year-old relative’s DNA being linked to a crime scene from before he was born. 

With the real killer behind bars attention turned to the police investigation which had seen five innocent men blamed for a crime they hadn't committed. 

Following the prosecution and jailing of vulnerable witnesses the police corruption probe placed a number of South Wales Police officers in the dock. 

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But what was described as Britain’s biggest police corruption trial collapsed in 2011 over missing evidence. No police officers, who had all denied wrongdoing, have ever been convicted of any charges in relation to the case. 

All the while five innocent men, and their families, were still coming to terms with their own trauma. Ronnie Actie died in 2007 and Yusef Abdullahi in 2011. 

Cassie eventually confided in her parents that she had discovered her father’s past out of fear her connection would be exposed when a teacher said her class would look at Welsh miscarriage of justice cases. 

“In year seven my history teacher said we were going to look at famous Welsh cases and it was like everything went into slow motion. I was terrified of my friends finding out.

"I went home and told my parents that I knew. They spoke to my school and we didn’t look at my dad’s case in the end.

"I don’t know if my parents consciously made the choice not to tell us but I think they saw what my older brothers went through and since me and my little sister were born years after my dad got out of prison they didn’t want us to experience the same.” 

The National Wales: 14 year old Cassie with Tony in Legoland 14 year old Cassie with Tony in Legoland

 

The case, which has never really dropped off the Welsh news agenda over the past three decades, will receive renewed attention this week. The BBC will air a landmark television documentary examining the case. 

A Killing In Tiger Bay will follow the story from the wrongful arrests to the trial which eventually led to the collapsed police corruption case. 

It follows the acclaimed 13-part BBC Wales podcast, Shreds, produced and presented by Ceri Dawn Jackson, which 31 years after the murder, recounted the story in forensic detail. 

Cassie says she is pleased that the podcast had been produced because it had helped examine not only the arrests and wrongful convictions but other factors in the injustice, including race and how the lives of sex workers, like Lynette, can so often be undervalued: “I was happy that a wider audience would know of the case. It has so many things that we need to have serious conversations about from sex workers’ rights, health and safety, to racism to police brutality and corruption, and how the law can be abused. 

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“As a fan of true crime I know it can be exploitative so I was concerned, but the creator Ceri Jackson has been a light throughout all of this.

"She didn’t just contact my dad wanting to drain every detail of his trauma out of him then leave, she became part of the family. My dad loves her like a sister. Even to this day we are in contact.

"She understands ethics when dealing with sensitive stories. I really appreciate her.” 

As a result of looking at her father’s case holistically, Cassie says there are lessons to be learned from the case of the Cardiff Three, on race, police accountability and sex workers rights, which she is a campaigner for. 

The National Wales: Cassie ParrisCassie Parris

Cassie Parris

 

“The officers never saw a day in prison but my dad faced life. Accountability is everything.

"It teaches us about an often dismissed side of Welsh and British society. Racism isn’t something exclusive to America. We have our fair share of injustices and all we can do is use them as teachings tools to make sure future generations know their rights and don’t repeat the past. 

“I became passionate about sex worker’s rights about four years ago. I never claim to know all the ins and outs and I never speak over sex workers, I just echo their voices.

"I reached out to the English Collective of Prostitutes and found out they campaigned on behalf of Lynette at the time.  

“I use my social media to push for decriminalisation as there is countless evidence that supports this as the best option for sex workers.

"Wales has an ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach regarding sex workers but I hope to help end the stigma they face and will continue to advocate for their rights, health and safety.” 

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For truly radical reform Cassie believes laws in Wales need to be made in Wales: “Wales definitely needs to have the power to make its own decisions. It doesn’t make sense to have London rule controlling our laws. 

“100 per cent a country should have all power over said country with no outside influence.” 

Cassie, who describes her father as her “best friend” and who she is very protective of, said he had always taught her that not all police are bad but she feels her family has experienced the sharp end of racism and the power of the police. 

“Racism is so deeply ingrained into society that it gives people in power, like police, a way to play out their individual prejudices with the confidence that other police officers will back them. They protect their own so we need to protect our own too.” 

The first episode of A Killing In Tiger Bay will air on BBC Two and BBC One Wales at 9pm on Thursday, September 9. It is also available on the BBC iPlayer. 

Additional reporting by Siriol Griffiths

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