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Police: Thoughts remain with family of Merthyr two

Police have thanked the Troedyrhiw community for their co-operation during an investigation into the deaths of Joanne Thomas and her four-month-old baby Harper.

An open verdict was recorded today at inquest.

This verdict brings what has been an extremely thorough police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of both Joanne and her baby to a conclusion.

I would like to thank the community for their co-operation during what were very tragic circumstances.

Our thoughts, as always remain with the family at this very difficult time.

– Detective Inspector Tudor Thomas, South Wales Police

Read: 'No closure' for mother and baby's family after inquest

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Mother and baby 'had been dead for at least a week'

Joanne Thomas was found in her bed alongside four-month-old Harper

A mother and her baby daughter who were on Social Services' radar had been dead for at least a week before their bodies were discovered, an inquest has heard.

Joanne Thomas was found in her bed alongside four-month-old Harper at their terraced home in Troedyrhiw, South Wales, last July.

Aberdare Coroner's Court heard concerns had been raised weeks before, after 27-year-old Miss Thomas failed to take Harper for her injections.

The bodies were found in a house at Troedyrhiw last July Credit: ITV Wales

A social worker told acting coroner Andrew Barkley he tried to visit Miss Thomas on three occasions before their bodies were found, as well as sending out letters and attempting to contact her family.

The bodies were eventually formally identified via dental records and DNA testing - with a top pathologist saying it was "impossible" to say who had died first.

Police later ruled out foul play, as well as discounting the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning - after "slightly raised levels" were found in the blood of smoker Miss Thomas' blood and her baby.

A coroner was told Miss Thomas regularly complained of feeling unwell in the weeks leading up to her death and may have been vomiting blood.

'Multi million pound investment' for Merthyr and RTC

The Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty, Vaughan Gething, will highlight more than £20 million of Welsh Government investment over the next two years to support Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff's most deprived communities.

Speaking at a special event looking at efforts to address poverty in south Wales, he will outline the number of initiatives in place to help the most vulnerable and improve their life chances.

The Welsh Government is facing unprecedented cuts. By 2015 -16 our budget will be nearly £1.7 billion less than it was in 2010 - 11.

Despite this, we are determined to invest in our most deprived communities to help improve health, education and life chances.

That is why we have a multi-million pound investment support package in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff. We are committed to helping people have a better chance of finding work and supporting parents facing the reality of managing on tight budget.

We know that the UK Government's welfare reform agenda is hitting hard with less help for hardworking parents as cuts to tax credits, cuts in help with childcare costs and the bedroom tax really bite.

The Welsh Government's approach is based on a different set of values and priorities. We know that to make the biggest possible difference to people's lives all of us across the public and voluntary sector need to work together much more effectively.

– Vaughan Gething, Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty

Welsh Govt investment to help deprived communities

More than £20m is being invested to support Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff's most deprived communities Credit: PA

The Welsh Government is investing more than £20 million over the next two years to support Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff's most deprived communities, the Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty Vaughan Gething will highlight today.

The minister will outline the number of initiatives in place to help the most vulnerable and improve their life chances.

The investment includes the Welsh Government's flagship programme to help those living in the poorest areas of Wales, Communities First.

It works to improve health, prosperity and encourages access to education and learning. Communities First in Merthyr Tydfil will receive £1.9 million, while Rhondda Cynon Taff will get £5 million.

The policy works alongside 'Families First' which is aimed at improving the way agencies work together and places a clear emphasis on early intervention for families, particularly those living in poverty, to help stop problems from escalating towards crisis.

Merthyr Tydfil is to receive £1,170,000 for Families First, while Rhondda Cynon Taff £3.8 million.

Both areas will also benefit from the expansion of Flying Start that supports children have the right start in life.

It provides eligible parents free quality childcare for children under the age of four, parenting support, an enhanced health visitor service and help with their children's early language development.

Pontsticill forest fire out after seven hours

A forest fire at Pontsticill, Merthyr Tydfil, which has been burning for much of the afternoon is now out.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said the blaze involving around 180 hectares of mountainside was deliberately set.

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Update Ponstiticill: Fire involving approx 180 hecatres of mountainside now extinguished after over 7hours firefighting. Cause is deliberate

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Firefighters tackle 10km blaze at Pontsticill, Merthyr

Fire crews are fighting a forest fire approximately 10km in size at Pontsticill Reservoir, near Merthyr Tydfil.

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Update Pontsticill: Firefront approx 8-10km being driven by strong winds towards forestry. Forestry Commission in attendance #Wildfire

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Update Pontsticill:3rd Argocat now requested at scene. Wildfire suppression plan being implemented in consultation with Forestry Commission

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Crews have now been fighting forestry fire at Pontsticill Reservoir for 6hours the fire is being driven by high wind 3fire engines 3argocats

IPCC criticises police 'canteen culture' as pair sacked

by Hannah Thomas

Two South Wales police officers have been sacked for gross misconduct. It comes after an investigation into how they handled allegations that a former colleague had sexually abused victims of domestic violence.

The Independent Police Complaints Commisssion said its investigation found a unit at Merthyr police station had a so-called "canteen culture", where inappropriate comments and behaviour were viewed as harmless banter.

South Wales Police apologises for officers' conduct

South Wales Police has responded to the publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report on the way officers dealt with allegations of sexual assault against a former colleague, offering "a sincere apology" to the women affected.

Detective Inspector Phillip Camm and Detective Sergeant Richard Jones have been sacked after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said the force had been "deeply let down" by the officers' conduct.

He said they have now examined thousands of emails, and he is assured that their behaviour with lewd and offensive documents was not more common at the force.

From myself to our front-line, officers of South Wales Police are shocked and feel deeply let down by the behaviour of these officers. Let us be in no doubt, we owe the women affected a sincere apology as the conduct of these officers fell well short of the standards I expect from South Wales Police.

A number of offensive and inappropriate emails and documents came to light which were prepared by Sergeant Jones and seen by Inspector Camm, who failed to challenge them. I have to make it clear that this is behaviour I simply don't recognise within South Wales Police.

We have examined thousands of emails to see if such behaviour was more common. Quite simply it is not and evidently, the vast majority of our 5,000 officers and staff know that there is absolutely no place for lewd and offensive communication and it will not be tolerated.

Everyone throughout South Wales Police knows the values and standards which are expected from them, we train them in these standards and on promotion. I tell every manager that they have an absolute duty to challenge inappropriate behaviour and conduct.

Sergeant Jones and Inspector Camm failed to act in the professional manner that I expect of my officers. Their dismissals show that we will always be robust when it comes to staff misconduct.

At the same time, every year our front-line staff and specialist teams support hundreds of victims of sexual offences. Leaders across the force are ensuring that we do our very best to protect vulnerable people and respond to their needs.

– Chief Constable Peter Vaughan, South Wales Police
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