A MAN who stabbed his victim in the back seven times in a brutal attack has been jailed for life for his murder.
Ashley Keegan will serve a minimum of 20 years for the murder of 37-year-old John Bell in Cardigan on July 21 this year.
The 22-year-old had been drinking outside his home in Golwg y Castell on the afternoon and evening of July 20.
As the day went on, his behaviour became more erratic, including becoming abusive to Mr Bell and his friend Daniel Saunders, when they arrived at the home of his neighbour, Daniel’s mother, Amanda Simpson.
At around 11.40pm, Daniel was taken out and put in a taxi by Amanda, when Keegan once again became abusive.
The taxi pulled off and during the argument that followed Amanda was pushed to the floor.
Keegan then turned on Mr Bell, approaching him and throwing multiple punches to his head.
Mr Bell, the court heard, did not retaliate, instead holding his hands up by his chest trying to calm things down, or his arms up protecting his head and face and moving backwards.
Mr Bell then walked off down the hill.
Instead of leaving him walk away, Keegan was then seen walking to his driveway and picking up a large kitchen knife, before going after his victim.
He approached him from behind, raised his hand high and stabbed Mr Bell repeatedly.
At no point did he turn around – no defensive wounds were found – and instead he walked away from the street.
Keegan was then seen to throw the knife away, before heading to his home, where he told his partner Chloe Phillips: “I’ve stabbed him”.
Just before midnight, police received several reports of both the incident witnessed on Golwg y Castell and of member of the public who had seen John Bell, injured and bleeding on Cardigan Bridge.
Police attended Castle Street and located Mr Bell seriously injured in a side street adjacent to Fusion restaurant.
Despite efforts to save him, he died at the scene.
A post-mortem examination revealed seven stab wounds to Mr Bell’s back, which resulted in him losing a significant amount of blood.
Speaking following the sentencing, DCI Gareth Roberts said: “Today’s sentencing of Ashley Keegan to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of John Bell at Cardigan in July 2021 is welcomed.
“Our thoughts are with John’s family at this time. The devastating impact of his tragic, unnecessary loss will be long lasting for this close-knit family.
“John’s family have been respectful and dignified throughout the criminal justice process and no outcome can compensate for their loss, but I hope some comfort will come from the imprisonment of a dangerous, violent offender that will not be able to harm others.
“Keegan’s actions on the evening of Tuesday, 20th July, 2021 were brutal and cowardly. Neither Keegan nor John were previously known to each other and John’s death was an unnecessary act with no prior motive.
“Keegan was intoxicated with his behaviour deteriorating throughout that afternoon. John came to Golwg y Castell to visit a friend and an altercation instigated by Keegan occurred. John walked away from that altercation and Keegan chose to return to the garden of a premises within the estate and pick up a knife that had been left there. Keegan had an opportunity to walk away but chose to pursue John and in a cowardly act stabbed John Bell seven times to the back area.
“John was unlikely aware of Keegan’s presence and had no defence wounds.
“Despite being severely injured, John managed to walk away some 150 yards from Golwg y Castell towards Cardigan Bridge where he later tragically died despite the best efforts of emergency services.
“Ashley Keegan did not raise the alarm or call an ambulance, instead he hid in Cilgerran Wildlife Centre until his capture.
“Our thanks must go to the brave witnesses who saw events and gave crucial information to identify Keegan as the offender and provide the evidence to ensure this successful prosecution.
“The investigative response was swift and effective, with a number of police resources mobilised to ensure that justice was served.
“Nationally, there is an increasing prevalence for individuals to carry knives. We’re fortunate in the Dyfed-Powys area that such violent offences using weapons are rare and infrequent.
“However, the tragic consequences are realised in cases such as this. Dyfed-Powys Police continue to work with our partners to raise awareness of the risks of individuals carrying weapons and remove dangerous weapons from our communities. This case has shown that any person carrying weapons presents a significant risk to the life of others and themselves, if their own weapon is used against them.”Anyone with information around the use of weapons is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.
Wales completes move to alert level 0
THE MOVE completes the Welsh Government’s phased lifting of the alert level 2 protections, which were put in place on Boxing Day to keep Wales safe as the omicron wave swept across the country.
Some important protections will remain in place at alert level 0, including mandatory face coverings in most indoor public places, including on public transport.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the relaxation of protections was possible thanks to the hard work of everyone in Wales and the success of the vaccination programme – more than 1.8 million booster doses have been given.
And, since the start of December, more than 36,000 people have come forward to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have passed the peak of this omicron wave and there are encouraging signs that cases of coronavirus may be starting to stabilise. But we all need to continue taking steps to stay safe – unfortunately the pandemic is not over yet.
“We are moving to alert level 0 and we will retain some important protections, such as face coverings in most indoor public places and risk assessments.
“We can do this thanks to the hard work and efforts of everyone in Wales and the remarkable success of our vaccine and booster programmes. Thank you all.”
On Friday 28 January, Wales will complete the move to alert level 0. This means:
- Nightclubs can re-open.
- The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
- The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
- Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details. The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.
- Working from home will remain important but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
- Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus, which may include 2m social distancing or controlled entry.
Face-covering rules, which apply on public transport and in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and nightclubs.
Everyone must also continue to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus but the Welsh Government has reduced the self-isolation period from seven to 5 full days.
People are advised to take 2 negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on days 5 and 6. The self-isolation support scheme payment will return to the original rate of £500 for all those who are eligible.
The next 3-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10 February, when all the measures at alert level 0 will be reviewed.
Appeal to get Pilgrim sculpture back on its feet nearing target
A FUNDRAISING appeal to raise £7,500 to re-erect a sculpture of a pilgrim on the hilltop above the ruins of the famous Strata Florida Abbey in the Cambrian Mountains is within £700 of hitting its target.
The Pilgrim, or Y Pererin in the Welsh language, was created by artist Glenn Morris and erected on Penlan, the hill overlooking Strata Florida Abbey, near Pontrhydfendigaid, in 2012.
Sadly, the sculpture collapsed in high winds in 2019 and now lays forlorn on the hilltop, located between Devil’s Bridge and Tregaron.
This sculpture, created as part of a temporary exhibition, has become a popular and iconic part of the Welsh landscape, with strong connections to Welsh culture, language and identity.
Following its collapse, the sculpture is now missing from the skyline of Strata Florida and the fundraising appeal aims to rebuild a new stronger, permanent Pilgrim to stand the tests of time.
Planning permission for the new sculpture has already been secured and Glenn Morris is eager to begin the project.
The World Monuments Fund has offered to provide match funding if the community raises £7,500 by February 3. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fundraising target can donate online at https://localgiving.org/appeal/pilgrim/ .
An extra fundraising event for the Pilgrim appeal is being held on February 18. A 3.5 mile walk along a mixture of logging roads, farmlands and through ancient forest to reach the 12th century Cistercian abbey ruins of Strata Florida will be followed by a guided exhibition tour and Welsh tea.
This pilgrimage will be led by Guided Pilgrimage, a not-for-profit company providing a range of Celtic pilgrimage experiences in West Wales.
Strata Florida was a thriving community 900 years ago. Today, the conserved ruins of the old abbey church and part of the cloisters are in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage agency, and can be visited by the public from Easter to late autumn.
The remains are only a small fraction of what was once a much larger abbey, stretching over an area of 126 acres where the rest survives below ground as a well-preserved archaeology.
Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives
THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government in tackling coronavirus in a letter to the First Minister.
It was prompted after it was revealed that the Welsh Government have been aware that NHS Wales was not prepared for an airborne virus as far back as 2004, following the SARS outbreak. Despite committing to an audit and allocation to rectify the lack of isolation facilities, this did not materialise.
The letter from Andrew RT Davies MS, which states “decision made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales” follows a weekend when Mark Drakeford was keen to highlight that his government had “always taken a different approach in Wales [compared to the British Government], one that does things step-by-step”.
In the letter, the Welsh Conservatives leader questions why, despite him stressing divergences in the approach to coronavirus, the First Minister still feels it “inappropriate to separate” from the British Government “when the time comes for accountability”.
The Labour Government policy is for its actions to be included in the UK-wide inquiry that will chiefly investigate the actions of the Conservative Government. There will be a Scotland-specific inquiry after Nicola Sturgeon commissioned one.
Joining the Welsh Conservatives in their calls for a Wales-specific inquiry are the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.
Commenting on the letter, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The position of exercising wide-ranging emergency powers that curtailed the liberty and closed the economy of the Welsh people but avoiding accountability through an inquiry that focusses on how those decisions were made is no longer tenable.
“Under Mark Drakeford, Wales has experienced the highest Covid death-rate of UK nations, seen its children lose more time for learning than anywhere else in the country, and imposed economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.
“We, along with bereaved families and medical groups, believe that the decisions that led to these outcomes need to be put under the spotlight, not hidden in the shadow of an inquiry that will inevitably focus on the British Government.
“Indeed, if Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry? That is what people will be asking when British and Scottish leaders have ordered investigations into their own handling of the pandemic.
“As I say to the First Minister in my letter, it is not too late for him to change his mind and take this opportunity to do the right thing and order that inquiry.”
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