Sergeant Richards had been far from idle as he awaited the arrival of the men from Scotland Yard.
After carrying out the search of the field to the rear of the Star Stores, he set about – as best he was able – cataloguing the day’s events leading up to the murder of the frail little shopkeeper.
His task had been made somewhat easier by the fact that two of his children – 17-year-old Nellie and 14-year-old Emlyn – made up almost half of the Star’s five surviving members of staff.
From the information he could ascertain, the day had proceeded without any major incident save for a minor accident and the appearance of a number of customers late in the afternoon who appeared to have been slightly intoxicated.
Thomas Thomas had opened the shop at 9am as usual and the morning’s trade had progressed without any event of note. Also present from opening time onwards was the first hand Phoebe Jones, grocery assistant Nellie Richards and the two boy assistants Henry Morris, aged 15, and Emlyn Richards. The errand boy Trevor Morgan spent the day in and out of the shop, delivering orders on his bicycle before returning to collect his next load.
The shop had been no more and no less busy than was usual on a Saturday morning with numerous customers appearing to buy provisions, place orders or pay outstanding debts for goods already delivered. No one out of the ordinary had appeared and no member of the staff could recall serving anyone they considered a stranger.
Sometime between 10am and 11am the minor incident occurred when Mr Thomas knocked over a window display of tin cans, breaking the street window behind the provisions counter. Trevor Morgan, who was waiting for Nellie Richards to put together his next delivery, was sent down to the cellar for a piece of wood to cover the broken pane.
Mr Thomas himself had fastened the wood over the hole and cleared up the broken glass.
At 1pm the shop was closed for a lunch break, re-opening again on schedule at 2pm.
Late in the afternoon, Nellie also left the store to make a number of deliveries of her own, returning at around 5.45pm.
During her absence, various individuals entered the shop slightly inebriated.
Mr Thomas, a rather religious man, did not approve of those who consumed intoxicating liquor, but had been willing to serve the customers and take their money as none appeared to be in a state of drunkenness despite smelling of alcohol.
They individuals in question were all local men and regular customers at the Star who had attended the rugby match played earlier at Cwmamman Park.
At about 6pm the various members of staff – apart from Mr Thomas – took their turn to leave the shop and go home for a short tea-break. The boys and Nellie had all used the side entrance when leaving while Phoebe had gone out through the cellar door to make the short trip to her lodgings with the Jeffreys family at nearby Commerce House.
Sometime after Phoebe had returned, though she could not offer a specific time, Thomas Conway Morgan, an occasional customer at Star Stores, had entered through the main street door and spoken with Mr Thomas about the possibility of taking a wooden box.
Mr Thomas often allowed customers to reserve boxes to fill with their purchases and it was not in any way unusual for him to allow such customers to go unaccompanied to the cellar and select a box of their choice. These customers would usually then leave the shop by the cellar door.
Phoebe had a clear recollection of Mr Morgan going to the cellar in search of such a box as she was not altogether comfortable in the presence of the man who had a reputation as ne’er do well. A deformity to his right hand only added to her unease in his company.
On Saturday night, at least half a dozen regular customers had gone down into the cellar to choose a box and then left either by the cellar door or returned up the stairs to leave by the main entrance.
Shortly after 7.30pm, Mr Morgan Jeffreys, the landlord of Star Stores, had entered the shop and purchased various items. He was on the premises for ten to 15 minutes before leaving, but none of the shop staff could recall whether he had left by the main door or had gone out through the cellar.
Between 7.45pm and 8pm, Mr Thomas Mountstephens and his wife Lily came into the shop and remained for approximately ten minutes during which time they settled a bill for goods which had been delivered earlier in the day by the errand boy. The couple, though they did not speak with any member of staff save for the shop manager himself, were well known to the various assistants as Mr Thomas lodged with the couple at Glanyrafon Villas.
At 8.15pm Thomas Thomas closed the shop for the day and doused the two window lights to ensure any late arrivals hoping to gain entry were left in no doubt that they had missed their opportunity. The shop’s remaining 14 gas lights would not be extinguished until Mr Thomas left for the night.
As was the norm, Henry Morris then fixed the portable gate at the front door and Mr Thomas locked the front door.
For the next 30 minutes or so, the three boys working in the shop set about brushing the floor and generally clearing up while Nellie Richards tidied the grocery area. She shut and locked the window behind the grocery counter before pulling down the blind. Mr Thomas did the same to the window behind the provisions counter – checking as he did so that the wood covering the broken pane remained fastened in place.
The boys cleared their sweepings into a bucket which was then carried to the cellar and emptied into a wooden box kept near the rear door for that purpose. Emlyn Richards then leant the shop broom, with the head uppermost, against the wall next to the safe as usual.
At approximately 8.45pm, just before she left for the day, Nellie ran a quick errand for Phoebe when she went – via the cellar door – to Commerce House and spoke with Mrs Jeffreys regarding a dress she was mending which Phoebe intended to wear that evening to a concert at Stepney Hall.
Nellie was gone for no more than five minutes and when she returned she secured the cellar door. She informed Phoebe that her dress was ready and left for the night by way of the side door, along with the three boys.
Phoebe, meanwhile, made up the shop ledgers and reckoned the day’s takings from the receipts. The job took her a little over an hour to check and then double-check, as demanded by Mr Thomas.
The shopkeeper took off his apron and shop coat, placing them on a hanging near the warehouse door, before he emptied the tills of money and settled behind the grocery counter with the shop cash book and the weekly accounts.
At 9.45pm, with her work for the day over, Phoebe left by the side door leading up the small alleyway on to the valley road. Before she departed, as was his habit, Mr Thomas asked her to check the cellar door was locked.
Phoebe went to the top of the cellar stairs and, from where stood – despite there being no light in the cellar – she could, thanks to the illumination of the shop lights – clearly see that the door had been both locked and then bolted with an iron bar used specifically for that purpose.
She then left by the side door, slamming it hard behind her to ensure the bolt caught in the latch meaning it could only be opened from inside.
Mr Thomas was still standing at the grocery counter with the cash book, the day’s takings and the two small tins into which he would eventually place the cash, laid out in front of him.