Logan Mwangi was deprived of love by the mother and stepfather who murdered him but the community of Sarn will not forget the five-year-old known for his infectious smile. On the warm spring morning after his killers were found guilty of murder Logan’s shrine is a moving sight.
Countless teddy bears have been left in memory of the child who was often seen carrying one to school. One of the teddies placed on the grass is dressed like Spider-Man – Logan’s favorite superhero – while another wears a tiny jumper with the words: “Love me.” The toys are surrounded by jars of candles, some with a faint flame flickering in the breeze. Bouquets of carnations and roses sit alongside messages to mark dates that Logan never got to see, like this Easter and his sixth birthday.
The warmth of the shrine next to the River Ogmore in Bridgend is in stark contrast to a property just 100m away in Lower Llansantffraid, separated from the memorial by a grassy area dotted with dandelions. The downstairs flat where Logan lived has boarded-up windows and a front yard where the grass is starting to grow long, strewn with plastic bags and parts of an armchair. A sign on the door reads: “All items of value have been removed.”
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For the couple of thousand people living in the village both of these spots are a reminder of the horrors which have devastated their community. On Thursday Logan’s mother Angharad Williamson, 31, of Lower Llansantffraid, and stepfather John Cole, 40, of Maesglas in Ynysawdre, and a third defendant who cannot be named for legal reasons, were found guilty of murder. Williamson and the youth were also convicted of perverting the course of justice, which Cole had admitted. Logan was subjected to a brutal attack, suffering the kind of injuries usually seen in car crash victims before his body was tossed into the river like rubbish.
On this quiet morning in Lower Llansantffraid – the only noises birdsong and the gentle rush of the river – we speak to Logan’s neighbor Colin Michael Fitzgerald, who lives a few doors further along the row of semi-detached homes. The 79-year-old likes to sit outside his house on a cushioned wooden chair, sometimes listening to Classic FM on his wireless. Often Colin will start a conversation with a neighbor – this is a tight, friendly community. But he says that was never possible with Cole and Williamson.
“The stepfather was not a guy you could talk to,” he tells us. “He spoke to nobody. I remember he was sitting on his doorstep one day and I said: ‘All right mate?’ He just ignored it.I never bothered after that.
“I said hello to the mother just after she first came here. An ice cream man had come and she was standing on the grass with Logan. I said something like: ‘It’s a nice day for ice cream.’ She just said ‘Yes’ and then blanked. ”
Colin saw Logan most days as the boy walked to school either with Cole or Williamson. “There was always a little smile on his face. He always seemed to be happy to be going to school, not having to be at home.”
Following the jury’s guilty verdicts police have shared footage of Williamson pretending to be hysterical with grief at her son going missing. Colin says: “When you see the acting they were doing after they cast him out in a rubbish bag … People are hoping it’s a long sentence, and personally I am, for a heinous crime on an innocent little boy.”
Watch all of the footage released following the trial here:
Colin adds: “We are not used to this sort of thing around here. My car was broken into once and the radio stolen. That’s the worst that would happen.”
Back in 2014 the Welsh Government demolished the Ceinws cottage where pedophile Mark Bridger had murdered five-year-old April Jones. Her parents said they were glad to see the destruction of the “house of evil”. Such a fate for Logan’s home may be complicated by the fact the upstairs flat is still occupied but should the building remain? For Colin a “complete refurbishment” rather than demolition is the best option. “It’s got to be painted top to bottom and the garden put to a nice standard and someone will be more than glad of it,” he says.
Another of Logan’s neighbors, dad-of-three Dafydd, believes the murder has had a profound impact on those living on the street, particularly those who have children. “You can tell it feels quite dark around here now with people’s emotions. What breaks my heart the most is that woman carried her child for nine months and she was supposed to be his protector.”
The 33-year-old support worker’s daughter goes to the same school Logan attended, Tondu Primary. Dafydd says the only time he would see Logan outside was on the school run. “I have lived here nearly four years and never seen him out playing, never seen him out enjoying his childhood.
“We would see him on the school run with Angharad or John. Logan always seemed to be a really happy child. He was a little slow walker. We would always hear John screaming across to him: ‘Hurry up.’ You know when you have a bad vibe about someone? I always had that. ”
Dafydd, who would like to see a memorial bench installed, is proud of the way the “loving” Sarn community is remembering Logan. Asked what should happen to the flat he says it is important to think about the need for homes, especially for people fleeing war-torn countries. He adds: “I would rather it go to a loving family and someone who will have happy memories in it because God knows what memories are in there now.” Valleys To Coast Housing, which manages the property, has not yet responded to a request over the future of the property.
Sunshine breaks through the clouds over the shrine and the tree-lined path alongside the river. A footbridge over the water leads to a park with sports pitches where a few people are walking dogs. A woman in her 60s, Sian, is taking her four-year-old grandson for a walk. When he crosses the bridge and stops by the river she hurries him along. She tells us she has been so upset by the tragedy that she no longer likes to take him to this area.
Sian, who has lived in Sarn for 40 years, says: “He comes from the Valleys to see me and he likes to ride his bike here. It’s hard to explain to him what happened. What do you say to a child? This is his little place. He’s come here since he was a baby and always loved it. ”
The grandmother lay candles and flowers on Thursday at the memorial site. She feels it will take a “long, long time” for the community to heal. Sian’s instinct is that Logan’s flat should no longer be lived in but she adds: “You can not knock it down because it’s a building with flats. I really do not know what they can do.”
Near the flat mum-of-two Alison Young pulls up in her car to ask us where the memorial is. She has driven from Treorchy to place some teddies at the shrine. Alison says the news of the murder was “just devastating” for many people across the Valleys. She adds: “The people who were supposed to love and protect Logan did this to him.”
One walker, 61-year-old Adrian Pittard, lives in Aberkenfig just across the river. He believes the local community will struggle to move on from the tragedy. “There is a hole and he can not be replaced,” he says.
Adrian, a lorry driver, thinks the flat should remain as housing. “I know the circumstances are bad but it’s still a property and lots of people haven’t got one. You can not just brick it up. I do not know if anyone local would want to live there but someone from further afield might . ”
A short walk from Lower Llansantffraid mum-of-two Jenny speaks to us outside her home. She says: “I took my children out for a little walk yesterday and we saw the memorial. They asked what it was and I’ve refrained from telling them the truth. I do not want it to upset them. But they know it is a way of remembering. ”
Just up the hill from Lower Llansantffraid are a couple of shops in Heolganol. One of them is Meg’s Cafe, which owner Stephen Hunt says is something of a hub for the community. Each day he has seen the impact of the tragedy on his customers. “It has affected everyone,” says the 62-year-old. “When it first happened people would talk about how shocked they were. I think people are still subdued.”
Stephen believes the crime was particularly jarring for a village where there is a sense that everyone knows everyone. “It’s nowhere near gone and it will cast a long shadow for years,” he adds. But the cafe owner thinks the community can begin to heal now that guilty verdicts have been delivered. He adds: “A lot of people are happy that the right verdict has been given.”
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