Blood, cheese and buttons.

Dr George Jones arrived at Star Stores shortly after Sergeant Richards and PC Thomas and carried out a brief medical examination.

He pronounced Thomas Thomas deceased at 9.45am.

During the course of his exam, the doctor noted that the shopkeeper’s left wrist and hand were covered with blood. There was no blood on the palms and no blood at all on the right hand.

The head was lying in a pool of blood up against a box on his right. The front of the box was splattered with blood.

There was bruising and minor injuries to the right side of the face and temple as well as bruising to the left temple and eye. On the right side of the head, two incisions cut to the bone.

The neck had been punctured in the region of the carotid sheath.

The trousers were unbuttoned except the two last lower buttons. The pants were unbuttoned, and the waistcoat undone at the lower button. The front of the shirt and vest were raised up, as was the Cardigan. The clothing was soaked with blood, but appeared on preliminary examination to be otherwise undamaged.

A lump of cheese was firmly impressed in the palate of the artificial teeth of the upper jaw.

It was the doctor’s view that Thomas Thomas had died approximately eleven hours earlier – around 10.30pm the previous night.


The shop appeared in perfect order, save for the corpse on the floor

The first thing Sgt Thomas Richards noted as he climbed the stairs from the basement back door of the Star Stores to the ground floor rear storeroom was that the safe was open.

The first thing Sgt Thomas Richards noticed was that the safe was open.

The first thing Sgt Thomas Richards noticed was that the safe was open.

There were insurance cards and letters scattered around the floor.

As he looked further through the open doorway into the rear of the shop, he saw the body of Thomas Thomas, the manager.

Thomas was lying on his back, with his head towards the window and feet towards the back of the shop. There was no doubt in the policeman’s mind that Thomas Thomas was dead.

Sgt Richards ordered PC Thomas to secure the premises while he went to examine the body.

The body was flat on its back, the head inclined forwards and to the left so that it looked towards the top of the stairs. The arms lay partly on the body. The right leg was straight, the left leg, partly bent.

There was a deep gash on the left-hand side of the shopkeeper’s throat and blood had pooled on the floor around him and stained the collar of his clothing.

Another deep wound scarred his right temple and there were also cuts and bruises to his left ear.

One of his eyes was discoloured and there was an open wound on his cheek.

The upper part of the dead man’s trousers, the lower part of his waistcoat and a portion of his Cardigan jacket were open.

Richards could see that the waistcoat, shirt and vest had been deliberately drawn up while the trousers had been unbuttoned and pulled down to expose the abdomen.

The clothing was stained dark red.

Lying close to the body – some three or four inches from the left shoulder – was the upper set of a pair of dentures embedded in a block of cheese.

The lower set of teeth lay some six inches away from the dead man’s left knee.

A brass brush-head was also on the floor, about six inches beyond the top of Thomas Thomas’ head. Thick red blood was congealing in its bristles. There were bloody marks on a wooden margarine case a little to the right of the head.

Save for the corpse on the floor, everything seem to be undisturbed.

Save for the corpse on the floor, everything seemed to be undisturbed.

The shop itself appeared in perfect order, save for the corpse on the floor and everything seemed to have been undisturbed.

“You must come at once.”

Police Sergeant Thomas Richards of the Carmarthenshire Constabulary was leaning on the counter of Garnant Police Station filling out the station diary to note an unremarkable night when Morgan Jeffreys burst through the door.

Richards had held the position of sergeant at Garnant since May, 1913, having transferred a month after his promotion while stationed in the village of Ferryside, some 25 miles to the west.

Originally from the small Carmarthenshire droving town of Newcastle Emlyn, he had joined the constabulary in January 1895 at the age of 21 and would also find himself stationed at Llandeilo, Llanelli, Pontyberem and St Clears before making a home for himself, wife Mary Ann and children Maggie, Hubert, Nellie, Emlyn and Gwyneth at the police station in Garnant.

Richards would remain the sergeant at Garnant until the summer of 1936, more than 15 years after the murder at Star Stores. During his 41-year career, the killing of the shopkeeper was the only murder investigation he would take part in.

PS Richards had had an eye on Jeffreys for some time.

The 28-year-old was earning himself a reputation as a drinker – and a committer of the various sins and misdemeanours that walked hand in hand with the bottle.

However it did not take an experienced officer such as Thomas Richards to recognise that something was wrong. It was clear that Jeffreys had run the entire distance from the family home at Commerce Place to the station more than half a mile east along the valley road.

“You must come to the Star shop at once,” said Morgan, before he was fully through the door.

“Mr Thomas, the manager is lying behind the provisions counter.

“His head must have been bashed in, as he was lying in a pool of blood.”

The policeman’s pocket-watch said 9.25am.

PS 69 Richards summoned his only constable, John Thomas, and the pair set off behind Morgan Jeffreys to the open rear door of the Star.

Splashed with that vital fluid.

Morgan Walter Jeffreys was barely a step behind her when Phoebe Jones gave out her awful scream.

She froze stock still as if the horror she faced had drained her of all forward momentum and Mr Jeffreys was forced into an evasive manoeuvre to avoid crashing into the back of the young woman and knocking her flat on her face.

“Mr Thomas!” she shrieked.

There was nothing but silence.

After a heartbeat pause, Phoebe spun on her heels and bustled past Mr Jeffreys in a state of great distress.

The shop assistant had raced down the stairs and out of the cellar door before her landlord had time to catch his breath.

Within seconds of Phoebe disappearing out of the cellar door, Morgan burst in with a look of bewildered panic on his face. Mr Jeffreys turned and, followed by his son, slowly took another step upwards.

As his eye level rose to above that of the top step he too caught sight of the vision that has so terrified Phoebe.

Thomas Thomas lay dead behind the provisions counter. His head was towards the front windows. One leg stretched back towards the rear of the shop, and pushed out of the doorway into the back room closest to Morgan Jeffreys. The other was bent at the knee against a box on the floor. The dead shopkeeper lay on his back and slightly turned so, with eyes wide open, he looked directly into the eyes of those coming up the stairs.

He head had been bashed open and a pool of blood had congealed around him. His shirt front was soaked and his neck and collar were stained dark red. A box nearby was also splashed with that vital fluid.

The safe was wide open and papers and cards and various other items were spread about the back room floor.

Both men, like the female shop assistant before them, were forced to take a moment to comprehend the sight that met them before they were sent reeling backwards down the stair and out into the sharp morning air.

The sound of the two men bursting out of the rear door of the Star Stores startled William Copestake, another resident of Commerce Place who was outside collecting coal for the fire.

Copestake originally hailed from Derbyshire and was another who had made his way to south Wales in search of work.

He had arrived in the Amman valley around 1896, aged about 20. It was not long before made the acquaintance of Margaret Davies, a woman almost twice his age. They married in the summer of 1897 and their first child, a daughter named Mary duly arrived some five months later.

Copestake moved south for work, and by 1901 was underground hewing coal, just as his father had done in the pits of Derbyshire.

The work was hard and life was a struggle. For whatever reason, William was not destined to spend long underground and by 1911 he was working as a farmhand in the employ of Sarah Hicks at Waunwhiad Farm in Glanaman.

While Williams had found bed and board with the widow Hicks in exchange for sweat and labour, his family was not so fortunate.

Margaret, now in her mid 50s, along with Mary, William junior and Annie were residents of the Llandeilo union workhouse.

By the time the two Jeffreys men burst pale-faced and gasping into the sunlight through the rear cellar door of the Star Stars on that chill February morning in 1921, William Copestake was aged 45 – Margaret was passed 60. Despite their past woes the couple were now in residence in rooms above one of the shops at Commerce Place.

William called over to the two men in greeting – it was always good to remain on friendly terms with one’s landlord – but he was made immediately aware that something was wrong.

Mr Jeffreys called him over and told him of the horrors inside the store.

The three men returned inside and climbed the stairs to where William Copestake could see the body of Thomas Thomas.

He was then dispatched to fetch the doctor. Morgan Jeffreys junior was sent to summon the police.