An abomination to the eyes of God.

Armed with mops, buckets and brushes, a deputation of village matriarchs arrived at the Star.

Armed with mops, buckets and brushes, a deputation of village women arrived at the Star.

With Sergeant Richards attending the post-mortem examination of the body at the dead man’s lodgings and the men from Scotland Yard not expected to arrive in Garnant for another 18 hours, PC Thomas was given the relatively straightforward task of securing the Star Stores.

News of the crime had spread through the Amman Valley faster than a firedamp explosion underground and crowds had begun gathering outside the shop immediately rumours of the murder had begun to emerge.

All day Sunday and throughout Monday morning ghoulish sightseers had gathered along the valley road, exchanging titbits of information and speculation while attempting to peer past the drawn down shades of the Star’s front windows.

PC Thomas had been left with strict instructions to ensure that none gained entry to the shop and with the lesser, more hopeful task of encouraging those gathered outside to disperse.

While the two doctors were cleaning the wounds of Thomas Thomas less than a mile away from scene of his grisly end, a determined knock at the front door of the Star drew PC Thomas’ attention from the darkening pools of congealed blood behind the provisions counter.

He opened the front door a little to see the general crowd had pulled back, allowing a small gathering of formidable-looking women armed with buckets, mops, rags and brushes to present themselves on the doorstep.

The deputation was led by a number of the village matriarchs, women grown strong and determined by brutal lives spent dealing with husbands and sons hardened by long days underground and loud evenings in the pub.

Faced with such a fearsome mob of housewives, PC Thomas’ protestations bore little likelihood of success.

While the men of Garnant defined their lives down the pit, on the sports pitch or in the pub, the women were governed by far higher powers.

Each Sunday, the many chapels of the Amman Valley were filled with the faithful while fire and brimstone ministers preached Hell and damnation from the pulpits.

PC Thomas was told in no uncertain terms that for the blood of Thomas Thomas to have been left to go cold and dry on the floorboards of Star Stores was ungodly, unchristian and quite simply unacceptable.

The authority of the Carmarthenshire Constabulary or even Scotland Yard paled into insignificance compared to that of the Almighty.

To the woman of the Garnant, every drop of blood on the floor of Number Two, Commerce Place, was blasphemy and an abomination to the eyes of God.

Faced by laws of the good book and women who feared the policeman’s uniform no more than they did the fist of a tired, drunken husband, David Thomas was powerless.

His arguments were dismissed and he found himself pushed aside as the women streamed in, galvinised metal mop buckets clanking and screeching as they were laid out and pushed with soapsuds overflowing around the Star as the women set about their pious chores.

Thomas sent word to Sgt Richards to come at once, but he knew his effort would be in vain – by the time his senior officer received the call and returned to the shop, the last of Thomas Thomas’ blood would be gone.


The warm glow of home

The unmistakable flickering of flames in the night.

The unmistakable flickering of flames in the night.

Shortly before 11pm on Saturday, February 12, Priscilla Davies’ attention was caught by a flickering light at the rear of the row of properties known as Lamb Buildings.

At the time she was completely unaware of the dramas which had infolded just a few minutes’ walk down the road at Star Stores and which would remain undiscovered until the following morning.

The block, a row of low cottages with a couple of larger buildings at the western end where Upper Station Road joined the valley road, had been built by Priscilla’s father William ‘The Lamb’ Thomas after he had taken out a lease on the plot from Lord Dynevor in 1874.

Over the following years, William had transformed himself for coal miner to property developer to Baptist minister.

The Thomas family were one of Garnant’s oldest, with William – who was born in nearby Llandybie on the outskirts of Ammanford in 1833 – setting up home at Nantmain Cottage on the valley road sometime in the early 1850s.

Priscilla was born in 1876 – the seventh child of the household – and married builder Thomas Davies in 1909. The couple had daughter Hannah in 1911 while living with at Anchor House, the detached property at the end of the row built by her father. Mary Ray had followed in 1915 during the young family’s short stay in the nearby town of Pontardawe.

By 1921 however, they had returned to Garnant and were back in one of the Thomas family properties – this time at Lamb House, next door to Anchor House – which was now being rented out to paying tenants at 18 shillings a month – and the building in which Priscilla had been born.

As Priscilla peered out through the window into the darkness on that cold February night she could see the source of the unmistakable flickering light.

It came from the rear of Anchor House, where despite the hour and much to her surprise, her neighbours were having a small bonfire.

It seemed however that the fire would not last long for, from what Priscilla could make out by the light of the dancing flames, all they were burning was a few rags.