Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

Funeral turned into battleground for warring families with machetes and shovels

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Nine funeral-goers have been jailed after a mass brawl between warring families broke out in a churchyard.

Shocked mourners watched as men armed with baseball bats, hammers, machetes and shovels battled next to graves.

Gravestones were smashed and plots churned up during the carnage at Morriston Crematorium in Swansea.

The fight was sparked by an on-going feud between two sides of the family factions – called the O’Brian and Coffey faction, and the Murphy and Thomas faction, a court heard.

Two other funerals were going on at the time – and grieving families were caught up in the violence.

Judge Paul Thomas KC said: ‘The death of a family member is one of the most traumatic events in anyone’s life. And the funeral of such a loved one is a sacred time – one of great solemnity, dignity and huge sorrow.’

‘This tragic family occasion was desecrated by your two warring factions.

‘The ceremony ended to a backdrop of vehicles being driven around the grounds of Morriston Crematorium as if it were a race track.

‘Armed battles were fought out among the two rival groups in the crematorium grounds.

‘The remembrance room in the crem was despoiled by males armed with a baseball bat spitting on the floor and drinking water from flower vases before dropping some flowers on the floor.

‘Mourners, some of whom were even wheelchair-bound, had to take evasive action for their own safety.’

‘Another family were waiting by the hearse containing their loved one’s coffin as the mayhem raged close by.

‘Elsewhere gravestones were damaged, resulting in distress and expense to families, and the lawns of the cemetery were churned up by repeatedly being driven over.

‘Vehicles were rammed and armed men and youths chased each other around the cemetery.’

The judge said each faction had blamed the other for starting the violence.

He said: ‘There was an ongoing feud between the two sides of an extended family and the males were on high alert.

‘What happened at Morriston Crematorium last August came as no surprise to either faction. It cannot be said with the required certainty who precisely knew that trouble would erupt at a blessing ceremony for mutual relatives but many on each side did

‘It was beyond the realms of coincidence that between the two sides of the conflict at least one machete, lump hammer, baseball bat, pickaxe handle, shovel, and probably golf clubs were available for use.

‘From the available footage some of those present for the blessing were dressed as one would expect for a solemn occasion. Many others were in vests with weaponry readily to hand in their vehicles or on their person.’

Nine men were jailed for more than 13 years after pleading guilty to violent disorder at Swansea Crown Court.

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.

After the case, Detective Chief Inspector Mike Owens said ‘This was an absolutely appalling incident that would have terrified those peacefully attending the cemetery in the middle of the day.

‘The group, who are all known to each other, committed violent offences and were seen using weapons against each other.

‘I hope the sentences today provide reassurance to the community that this kind of criminal behaviour won’t be tolerated and anybody committing these acts will face the consequence of their actions.

‘The investigation team were resolute in their commitment to fully investigate the disorder in the cemetery, working with other police forces to detain and investigate the individuals involved.’

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