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The last innocent person to be hanged in Wales

The last innocent person to be hanged in Wales

On September 3 1952, dad-of-three Mahmood Hussein Mattan was taken from his cell at Cardiff prison and executed for a murder he did not commit.

He was the last person to ever be hanged in Cardiff and the final innocent person to be hanged in Wales.

Born in Somalia in 1923, Mahmood Mattan was a sailor and his job ended up taking him to Wales.

That was when he met Laura Williams from the Rhondda Valley. The couple married just three months after meeting.
The Somali seaman upset many people in the 1950s community of Butetown by marrying a Welsh woman.

On March 6, 1952, Lily Volpert, a 41-year-old unofficial moneylender, was found by a neighbour lying in a pool of blood at her shop in the docklands area of Cardiff.
Her throat had been cut.

Mr Mattan was charged with the murder nine days later.

And within five months he had been tried and wrongly found guilty.

He was told by officers at the time that he would die for Miss Volpert’s murder “whether he did it or not”, and was described in court as a “semi-civilised savage”. He had denied the help of an interpreter.
During the case a prosecution witness had altered his statement and been rewarded for giving evidence.

Laura Mattan, who lived for most of her life in Archer Road, Ely, Cardiff, always stood by her husband’s side as he protested his innocence, but had to stand outside Cardiff Prison with her three young sons, David, Mervyn and Omar, while the sentence was carried out.
Following Mr Mattan’s death, the family campaigned to clear his name and have him buried in a humane fashion.

Two Home Secretaries in the 1950s and 1960s refused to refer the case to appeal, but the family finally won the right to have his conviction reassessed and eventually it was quashed 45 years later on February 24, 1998.

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