My grandad was wrongly hanged for murdering a shopkeeper…70 years later police STILL haven’t caught the real killer

4 min read

The Sun

A WOMAN whose grandad was wrongly hanged for murder has slammed police for failing to catch the real killer 70 years later.

Lily Volpert, 41, was discovered lying in a pool of blood after her throat was slashed in her Cardiff shop on March 6, 1952.

Mahmood Hussein Mattan was hanged in 1952 after wrongly being convicted of murder
Mahmood Hussein Mattan was hanged in 1952 after wrongly being convicted of murder
His granddaughter Natasha has questioned how the real killer has never been caught
His granddaughter Natasha has questioned how the real killer has never been caughtCredit: ITV


Nine days later, Mahmood Mattan was charged with murder after being told by officers he would die for Lily’s murder “whether he did it or not”.

The miscarriage of justice saw Somali-born Mahmood denied an interpreter in court and branded a “semi-civilised savage” by his own defence team.

Despite a lack of evidence, he was wrongly found guilty and hanged on September 3, 1952, to the devastation of his wife Laura Williams and their three sons.

Mahmood’s determined family worked tirelessly to clear his name until the conviction was finally quashed 45 years later.

His granddaughter Natasha Grech was among Mahmood’s loved ones who helped make him an innocent man.

She told The Sun Online: “My grandfather was wrongly hanged because of the way the police dealt with the investigation. They were racist and he was a young black man.

“It is such a tragic story. It is also a tragedy for Lily Volpert’s family because the real killer has not been brought to justice. Who murdered that poor woman? It makes me so sad.

“To this day, South Wales Police have not apologised to my family for what they did. They hid evidence and paid their chief witness £200. Those police officers were corrupt.

“Young black men are still being attacked and victimised. We just haven’t moved forward.”

Mahmood was born in Somalia in 1923 and ended up in Wales through his job as a sailor.

He fell in love with Welsh-native Laura and the pair were married just three months later.

But their happily ever after would never be as the community grappled with the union of a black man and white woman.

Mahmood Hussein Mattan – Credit ITV


Mahmood’s untimely downfall ame on the evening on March 6, 1952, when Lily’s throat was slit with a razor.

The killer had taken £100 – around £3,000 in today’s money – from the outfitter’s shop and unofficial pawnbrokers Lily owned.

Police launched a manhunt for Lily’s murderer and sealed the docks so they couldn’t escape.

Officers immediately questioned locals including Mahmood, who told them he had not been on Bute Street that day.

A witness then came forward claiming he saw a Somali man with gold teeth leaving the shop wearing no hat or overcoat.

Mahmood should have been in the clear – the seaman had been seen that night wearing a hat and overcoat and he had no gold teeth.

Despite the lack of similarities, he was arrested after the witness, Harold Cover, changed his story.

The promise of a £200 reward was enough for him to claim he had seen Mahmood leaving the shop on the fateful night.


Shockingly, police never divulged the existence of the first statement – or even revealed four other people near the shop had failed to pick Mahmood out of a line up.

Even with the brazen attempts to frame Mahmood evident for anyone to see, he was still convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The family immediately launched their fight to clear Mahmood’s name but two Home Secretaries in the 1950s and 1960s refused to refer the case to appeal.

It was only 45 years later on February 24, 1998, that the conviction was finally overturned.

The family won a £1.4million payout but Mahmood’s death had set in motion a tragic chain of events that saw his three sons all lose their lives.

Natasha’s dad Mervyn – Mahmood’s son – died from alcoholism, his brother Omar took his own life and eldest David died in 2014.


Natasha said: “The brothers were all alcoholics whose lives were ruined by what had happened to their dad.

“Who knows what lives they could have led if he’d been around. They lost a father and a role model.

“They drank because of what happened to my grandfather and because of what that did to their family name.

“None of them reached the age of 60.

“Mervyn died about 10 years ago from alcoholism, Omar took his own life and David, the oldest, died in 2014.

“My father was the youngest of the three brothers and he too died an alcoholic. He always said to me: ‘Please make sure this story is never forgotten. This is our family history’.”

Ten years after receiving the pay-out, Laura Mattan died aged 78 at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Mahmood’s body was eventually exhumed from a felon’s grave in Cardiff Prison and moved to a cemetery where he remains an innocent man.

His gravestone reads: “Killed by injustice”.


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