“The whole thing still burns. The memory of what happened to my brother, Tony, to Yusef Abdullahi and to Steven Miller has never gone away,” says Lloyd Paris.
He was speaking the day after news came through last week that five retired policemen had been arrested.
They were being questioned on suspicion of false imprisonment, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office. The arrests were a result of an inquiry into the original investigation of the murder of Lynette White.
Four of the officers arrested last week were detective constables at the time of the original investigation. The fifth was a uniformed inspector, police said. One had become a chief inspector by the time they retired.
Lynette White was murdered in Cardiff in 1988. Tony, Yusef and Steven were jailed for life for her murder before eventually being cleared on appeal. In 2003 another man was jailed after admitting he had killed her.
“The campaign began as soon as the three were convicted,” says Lloyd. “We had a meeting in Butetown Community Centre, with about 150 people. Many came from the local community, but also there were campaigning groups and political parties.
“We were driven by this raw and painful sense of injustice. After Lynette White’s murder the police said they were looking for a white man who had been seen covered in blood near where the murder took place. Ten months later they arrested five black men!
“Two of them were acquitted, the rest went down. The media played their role in creating a belief that the boys were guilty. It was very important that we got the unions on board from the start. A man called Terry from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was crucial for that.
“I went all over Britain speaking at rallies and meetings — London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and lots of others. The National Council for Churches in England and Wales gave us a large donation.”
Samantha Shaw, a friend of Lloyd, became involved in the campaign. She says, “There were letters supporting the campaign from all over Europe and even from the miners’ union in South Africa. But the most important people were in Cardiff and Britain. In Butetown Park you can still see ‘Free the Cardiff Three’ on the wall.
“Nobody would dare take it off because it represents the way that campaign brought us together, black and white, in defence of these people who had been treated so badly. If it wasn’t for the campaign those three would still be inside.”
Lloyd says, “We played the game hardball. We were ready to use the media, even though we knew their interests were not exactly the same as ours.
“We were on Panorama, Channel 4’s Black Bag, Week In Week Out and many other programmes.
“I believe there are more chapters to tell in this story. Vulnerable people were used to construct the case against the boys.
“Steven Miller gave a confession, but they intimidated and threatened him until he confessed. Other promising lines of inquiry were abandoned once the police were convinced they had got their men.
“Steven was questioned 19 times by police over four days. He later retracted his confession. He told them over 300 times that he didn’t know anything. But after four days with hardly any sleep or food, his main object was to get away from them.
“And there were other people who gave evidence who were heavily influenced by the police. It wasn’t a matter of just one or two bad officers. It was the whole culture of their approach. Of course racism was part of that, real institutionalised discrimination which had been going on for a long time.
“But the campaign was all about black and white together, I went to a black caucus meeting somewhere with Julian, an SWP member, and they said he couldn’t come in because he was white. I wasn’t having it so I stayed outside until he came in as well. We were united.
“You know, the boys are suffering still. OK, they were released eventually — but they had been very damaged by what went on.
“And when they came out, the police said they weren’t looking for anyone else. So what message did that send?
“I can remember when the Cardiff Three were released. It was a bittersweet moment. Everyone was in the Paddle Steamer pub, drinking and being happy, but I couldn’t get into that.
“All I could think of was that they shouldn’t had been inside in the first place, and how my whole family, especially my mum, had suffered. I gave up working as soon as the boys went inside, and even after they came out I couldn’t get a job.
“I look back at what happened and think, ‘How did I get through all that?’
“I was in my mid 20s and had no experience of any sort of organising. The people around me were crucial, their energy and commitment was so important.
“They were quality people. People like that, with that unity and love, could run the country!”