Remembering Mahmoud Mattan: The last man to be hanged for a crime he did not commit

In 1952, a father-of-three was hanged after being convicted of murder.

Mahmoud Mattan was the last man to be executed in Wales. He was just 28 years old.

The Somali seaman was found guilty of murdering shop worker Lily Volpert.

Mahmoud's widow Laura and his relatives fought for years to prove his innocence.

Lily Volpert was murdered aged 41 in her shop

In March 1952, Lily Volpert's throat was cut in an attack at her shop in Cardiff. Mahmoud was arrested within hours of the murder.

Harold Cover was the key witness giving evidence at the trial. He said he saw Mahmoud leaving the shop.

However, there was evidence that the jury and defence did not hear about. Four other witnesses who had been around the shop on the evening of the murder did not pick Mahmoud out at an identification parade. This evidence was withheld for many years.

Mahmoud's family fought for years to prove his innocence

In 1969, Harold Cover tried to murder his own daughter by cutting her throat with a razor. She survived and he was sentenced to life in prison. It was also revealed that Cover was paid to give evidence when he named Mahmoud at the trial.

Cover had also seen another Somali, Tehar Gass, at the time of the murder but this information was withheld from the court. Gass was tried for murder two years later and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. According to the judge, Gass was prone to violence against women.

Four and a half decades after Mahmoud's death, Appeal Court judges overturned his conviction and he was found to be innocent.

Lord Justice Rose said the case was “demonstrably flawed” because of a lack of evidence and complete absence of forensic evidence linking Mahmoud to the murder.

The Mattan family did not receive compensation until 2001, 49 years after Mahmoud was killed. After a lengthy battle, they received £1.4m. It was the first time the Home Office compensated the family of a man who had been wrongly hanged.

The epitaph on Mahmoud's gravestone reads "Killed by Injustice".


September 2020 - 68 years after Mahmoud Mattan's death

Mahmood Mattan's granddaughter Natasha said 'nothing has changed' since his death Credit: ITV Wales

Last night, a vigil was held outside Cardiff Prison to remember Mahmoud Mattan. Speaking there, his granddaughter Natasha Grech said: "Everybody knew that my grandfather was innocent. My mum and dad always said the impact it had on the community was really awful.

"Mahmoud's sons were ridiculed, bullied, outcast. They couldn't do normal things. Everyone called them 'murderer's children', my dad hated that especially later on in life when they actually pardoned him."

All of those lost years, all of that time. Things could've been so different for the three sons. They grew up without a father.

Natasha Grech, Mahmood Mattan's granddaughter