Shocking footage shows men using knives and axes during armed battle at Morriston cemetery

  • Video from Media Wales

Shocking video footage has captured groups of men fighting battles among the gravestones in a Welsh cemetery.

The footage - captured on 5 August 2022, but only made public now - shows groups of boys and men with bats, hammers, knives and axes attacking each other and chasing rivals around Swansea's Morriston Cemetery.

The incident resulted in damaged gravestones, a number of people being seriously injured, and funerals being disrupted.

When the disorder was reported to police by members of the public, firearms officers and a helicopter were dispatched to the scene.

The officer in charge of the investigation, South Wales Police detective inspector Carl Price, said Operation Hitchin involved some "good old fashioned detective work" with extensive analysis of CCTV footage, dashcam and mobile phone footage, forensics, intelligence gathering, phone data analysis, and working with other police forces as far a field as Berkshire.

He said: "I think people were shocked by this incident - by the scale of it, the level of violence, the location, and the disrespect it showed to others.

"With the kinds of weapons that were used and way vehicles were driven around the cemetery it is lucky nobody was killed.

"We brought a lot of different resources to the investigation from extensive analysis of CCTV to forensics, community engagement, and working with cross-border work with colleagues in other forces.

"There was some good old fashioned detective work here."

The armed men turned up dressed in vests and were heavily armed with weapons. Credit: Media Wales

It emerged that the disturbance was just the latest in a series of clashes involving various factions of extended families which have seen violent confrontations across south Wales including in Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, and Swansea.

Those identified by police - from teenagers up to men aged in their late 50s - were subsequently charged with offences including violent disorder, possession of offensive weapons, and dangerous driving. All eventually pleaded guilty.

Sentencing the defendants at Swansea Crown Court, judge Paul Thomas KC condemned the disgraceful scenes at the cemetery.

He described how vehicles had been driven around the site "as if it were a racetrack" with lawns churned up by being repeatedly driven over, and a number of headstones damaged.

He said what lay behind the feud was unclear but what was clear was that the violence "came as no surprise" to the various factions, and many people were on "high alert" and had known trouble would erupt at the blessing ceremony.

The judge said it was "beyond the realms of coincidence" that between them the parties to the conflict had at least one machete, lump hammer, baseball bat, pickaxe handle, shovel, and probably golf clubs which were immediately "available for use".

Nine men were jailed for more than 13 years in total after pleading guilty to violent disorder.

Brothers John Murphy 18, Paddy Murphy, 19, of Llanelli, were handed suspended sentences while their father Patrick Murphy, 40, was jailed for two years and eight months.

Andrew Thomas, 40, also of Llanelli, was jailed for three years.

Martin John O'Brien, 58, John Joe O'Brien, 53, also both of Llanelli, were each jailed for 16 months.

Jeffrey Tawse, 23, and John Coffey Jnr, 24, of Rumney, Cardiff, were both jailed for 18 months.

James Coffey, 45, also of Rumney, was jailed for two years and three months.

South Wales Police detective chief inspector Mike Owens praised the efforts of the team who brought the guilty parties to justice.

He said: "The force was in the spotlight for his this, it was a high profile case and the pressure was on.

"I want to pay tribute to the diligence of the officers who worked on it, and how swiftly they got results.

"There was great work between Carl and his team and the Crown Prosecution Service.

"It was only a small team and they tackled this on top of their other on-going work."