CRIME & Justice in Wales

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Use the list below to discover historical true crime stories associated with places in each region of Wales. The stories can also be accessed on your mobile by scanning our QR codes at each location. They range in severity from massacre and murder down to publicans being prosecuted for serving booze on Sundays or “harbouring” police officers. You can also read about witch trials, political crimes, riots, raids by privateers, bigamy, smuggling, cannibalism, fraud and executions of priests for religious reasons.

Also featured are some of the police stations, courts and jails where suspects were held and, in Carmarthen, recorded in some of the world’s first police mugshots. You can also read about some of the characters who enforced the law in Wales.

We’ve even created self-guided local tours on related themes in several places:
Abergavenny - Law and Disorder tour
Dolgellau - Law and Disorder tour
Holyhead - Heroes and Villains tour
Newport - Heroes and Villains tour
Pwllheli - Rebels and Riots tour

 

NORTH-WEST WALES

Anglesey
Holyhead - French privateers kidnapped a customs officer in 1710 but were soon shipwrecked
Holyhead - an entire circus, including 83 horses, passed the Stanley tollgate without paying in 1890
Llanfaethlu - Carreglwyd House built 1634 by King Charles I’s Master of the Rolls
Llanedwen - clergyman jailed after lying about the dead baby he’d fathered with his stepdaughter
Menai Bridge - David White Griffith was the island’s chief constable for almost 20 years
Llandegfan - boy aged 13 died from brain damage inflicted by bullies on training ship HMS Clio
Beaumaris - maidservant awarded payments after adultery by her former master, aged 70
Moelfre - shipwreck survivor charged with cannibalism for eating human liver while adrift in lifeboat

Gwynedd
Bethesda - police officially criticised for siding with men who continued to work during 1900-03 quarry strike
Caernarfon - William Foxwist, called to the Bar in 1645, was rewarded by Cromwell’s government
Caernarfon - smuggler arrested in 1838 after scaring residents with his ‘phantom hearse’
Caernarfon - solicitor’s practice founded by Liberal MP who fell out with Lloyd George in 1918
Pwllheli - Riot Act read in 1752 as women tried to steal food from ship for their starving families
Pwllheli - farmers refused to pay tithes to the “foreign” Church of England
Pwllheli - barmaid accused at assizes of sending libelous Valentine’s letters to ship’s captain
Pwllheli - three Welsh nationalists jailed in 1936 for arson attack on an RAF base
Beddgelert - carter fined in 1877 for leaving his cargo of dynamite unattended outside an hotel
Beddgelert - Augustinian prior punished in 1272 after a royal charter was found to be fake
Dolgellau - old court house. 1606 plaster carving shows witch ducking and hanged man
Dolgellau - old police station. Cell occupants included thieving gold miners and a murderer
Dolgellau - barman killed a customer who ‘took liberties’ with his barmaid daughter
Dolgellau - merchant disposed of illegitimate stillborn baby in sea to avoid scandal back home
Dolgellau - serial conman apprehended in 1897 in his bed in the Talbot Hotel, formerly a jail
Dolgellau - landlady cautioned in court for ‘harbouring’ ginger-beer-supping police constable

Conwy County Borough
Penmaenmawr - site of a con-woman’s sensational attempt to fake her death in 1909
Penmaenmawr - where Lady Cavendish grieved after murder in Dublin of her Irish Secretary husband
Conwy - Erskine Hotel landlord was one of the first fined for serving alcohol on a Sunday
Conwy - in 1902 Nantconwy’s Court Leet fined a man £5 for taking estuary gravel, Crown property
Deganwy - farm where a German PoW assaulted a fellow worker here for calling him a Nazi
Llandudno - former police station. Kitchen maid found to have murdered her baby in 1873
Llandudno - Washington Hotel owner fined for speeding in 1899, allegedly at 20mph or more
Llandudno - town’s first magistrates’ court held in 1856 to deal with Town Rate rebellion
Little Orme - cave where Catholics illicitly printed first Welsh book, in 1585
Penrhyn Bay - Catholics of Penrhyn Old Hall evaded capture in 1587. One later executed
Llandrillo yn Rhos - vicar threatened with dynamite after refusing to reduce tithes
Mochdre - Riot Act was read after police and soldiers drafted in to make farmers pay tithes
Mochdre - inn where a renowned Victorian jailbreaker was apprehended while in bed
Colwyn Bay - old court house. Boy from training ship HMS Clio was in the dock in 1909
Colwyn Bay - former police station, with handcuffs carved in stone
Colwyn Bay - HQ of Ministry of Food’s Legal & Enforcement Dept during Second World War
Colwyn Bay – church burned down by tithe protestors, according to vicar who received death threat
Old Colwyn - where King Richard II was abducted in 1399
Abergele - Mormon from Llanddulas ran a Mississippi steamboat and dodged assassination attempts
Glan Conwy - 1594 tribunal concluded Gwen ferch Elis was a witch. She was hanged later
Eglwysbach - burglar stole £8 in gold and silver from home of village bobby in 1887
Talybont - reservoir-building navvies bought illicit beer at their hillside camp
Llanbedr-y-Cennin - pub landlord taken to court in 1903 for harbouring two policemen on fair day

 

NORTH-EAST WALES

Denbighshire
Rhyl - a jilted barmaid’s trial for attempted suicide made headlines in 1893
Rhyl - deputy PM John Prescott tussled with a protestor in 2001 election campaign
Rhyl - baptism place of Roger Casement, British diplomat hanged for treason in 1916
Rhyl - town council was prosecutor and defendant in court case over cleaning The Cut
Rhyl - laundry firm fined in 1909 for making women work longer than Factory Act permitted
St Asaph - court house and police station, where a female murderer was dealt with
Ruthin - former jail, built after prison reform legislation of 1774
Ruthin - former courthouse with gallows remnants. Irish Catholic priest executed here in 1679
Llangollen - Moel y Barbwr hill named after barber hanged for killing his wife in 1739
Llangollen - a mother fed opium to her boys for years
Llantysilio - wealthy man’s coffin opened by people searching for his will
Corwen - two inmates at old workhouse jailed for tearing their clothes

Flintshire
Flint - old court house where judges came for assizes before 1790s
Flint - three boys whipped with birch rod for stealing from foxhounds master
Northop – Sessions House built 1877. Local colliers fined in 1882 for misusing lamps underground
Mostyn - customs officers seized smuggled wine but were overpowered at night by disguised men
Whitford - memorial to aristocrat shot dead in prank during Royal Navy shore leave
Whitford - first Welshwoman transported to Australia was sentenced by Thomas Pennant in 1783

Wrexham County Borough
Froncysyllte - pub landlord charged with attempted suicide after slitting his throat
Holt - castle owned by Sir William Stanley before his execution for failed plot against Henry VII
Ruabon - 18th-century roundhouse lockup. Brickworker held for his nephew’s manslaughter in 1885
Wrexham - suffragettes attacked by crowd for heckling Lloyd George at the National Eisteddfod
Wrexham - WE Jones became an “expert railway thief” after losing his GWR job at Wrexham General
Wrexham - manager of Empire Music Hall fined for assaulting Irish comedian in 1901

 

MID AND WEST WALES

Powys
Welshpool - outlaw ‘Wild Humphrey’ kept evading capture. Later pardoned by King Henry VIII
Llandrindod Wells - hotel landlady fined for breaking blackout law in 1916
Hay-on-Wye – five of the Great Train Robbers supped at the Three Tuns while on the run in 1963
Talgarth - Tower House was described as “the old prison” as far back as the 16th century
Brecon – baker went to court for horse cruelty, driving a car without lights and skimping on dough
Crickhowell - embezzling town clerk caught after detectives tracked him down in western Canada

Ceredigion
Aberystwyth - first language protest by Cymdeithas yr Iaith involved blocking a road in 1963
Llangrannog - vicar’s ribs broken after he testified at Rebecca Riots inquiry in 1843
Penbryn - tithe disputes in 13th century and 19th, when police and protestors clashed violently

Pembrokeshire
Fishguard - American privateer attacked town in 1779 after his ransom demand was rebuffed
Dale - once a smuggling hotbed. 5,000 cases of whisky from shipwreck went missing in 1894
Pembroke - Private James Skone killed a superior in the war and was shot at dawn in 1918

Carmarthenshire
Efailwen - where the Rebecca Riots started in 1839 with destruction of a tollgate
Carmarthen - Victorian custody cells, where you can see some of the world's first police mugshots
Carmarthen - castle ruins were used for 18th-century jail
Carmarthen - Protestant Robert Ferrar burned at the stake in 1555 for refusing to become a Catholic
Llanelli - Riot Act read in 1911 during strike at railway station, where two men were shot dead
Hendy – Toll-keeper Sarah Williams, 75, was killed in a Rebecca Riot in 1843

 

SOUTH WALES

Neath Port Talbot
Neath - pub in former police station is named after town’s unpopular first policeman

Swansea
Swansea - war memorial commemorates local police officers who died in First and Second World Wars
Pontarddulais – three Rebecca rioters sent to Australia after violent clashes at tollgate in 1843

Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil - Dic Penderyn pub is named after a folk hero hanged for an alleged riot offence

Rhondda Cynon Taf
Porth - owners of pop factory prosecuted in 1899 for making staff work longer than legal maximum
Pontypridd - railway station targeted by Victorian pickpockets, one caught hiding in a toilet urinal
Tonyrefail - Sidney Holtham was a Shanghai policeman before his death during Japanese occupation

Caerphilly county borough
New Tredegar - colliers were fined for taking matches or pipes underground or dozing off there
Machen - two youths got 21 days in prison with hard labour for stealing a hen and a cock in 1877

Cardiff
City centre - central market is on site of jail, where Dic Penderyn was hanged in 1831
City centre – Hollywood star Anthony Perkins arrested in 1989 after his cannabis was mis-delivered
City centre  – All Blacks prop Keith Murdoch became a recluse after tussle with hotel guard in 1972
City centre - Ifor Bach kidnapped the Earl of Gloucester, who had stolen some of his land, in 1158
City centre - young Swiss governess threatened to shoot rector who spurned her amorous advances
City centre - woman stole two canaries from pub and later killed them

Newport
Caerleon - Hanbury Arms once hosted magistrates’ court, with cells in the medieval tower
Newport - husband murdered his adulterous wife after returning from the Boer War
Newport - Chartist protest in 1839 resulted in 22 killed and ex-mayor John Frost sentenced to death
Newport - suffragette Nellie Crocker addressed 1908 crowd. Went on hunger strike in prison in 1909
Newport - church where bigamist Samuel Walkley had his second wedding
Maindee - Victoria Cross winner John Byrne shot a colleague before killing himself in 1879
Bishton - headteacher Henry Edsor jailed for attempted fraud in 1895

Torfaen
Cwmbrân - horse cruelty case after paralysed farmer paid one-legged Crimean War veteran to help
Pontrhydyrun – rugby-playing police officer volunteered for RAF in 1941. Killed during 1943 raid

Monmouthshire
Llanfihangel Crucorney - pub landlord fined in 1914 for stealing a spaniel from local artistocrat
Abergavenny - suffragette fined in 1912 for breaking post office window in protest
Abergavenny – a Norman lord massacred his Christmas dinner guests in the castle in 1175
Abergavenny - old police station. Drunken woman brought in by wheelbarrow in 1878
Abergavenny – clandestine attic chapel of Father David Lewis, martyred in 1679
Usk - Sessions House opened in 1877 as venue for quarter sessions court
Usk - 300 of Owain Glyndŵr’s men beheaded after failed attack on castle in 1405
Monmouth - abbot and monk fled captivity in 1232 after using their cowls to make dummies
Chepstow - four men fined in 1880 for throwing a man in the river in a betting dispute