The Last Hanging in Cardiff Prison

In September 1952 Mahmood Hussein Mattan became the last to be hanged at Cardiff Prison, but Mahmood had in fact been framed by the police and 45 years later his conviction was quashed. Mahmood had been a merchant seaman who had ended up settling in Cardiff and marrying a Welsh woman called Laura Williams. They lived in the Tiger Bay district of Cardiff and had three children but in 1950 had separated. Mahmood had had a number of encounters with the police and had committed some minor offences such as small thefts. His vocal distrust of the police had made him unpopular with the local force though and when Lily Volpert, a Cardiff shopkeeper, was found murdered and her shop robbed they quickly turned to Mahmood. Despite a lack of any firm evidence linking him to the crime, he became the prime suspect. Poorly represented in court and facing a hostile jury he was convicted in July 1952 and sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out three months later, but the case never truly went away. His family kept the fight alive for 45 years until 1998 when his case was the first to be reviewed by the newly created Criminal Cases Review Commission. His conviction was quickly quashed and his families fight for justice was finally over.

To discuss Mahmood's case author Nadifa Mohamed joins Dan for this episode of the podcast. Her novel The Fortune Men, which has been longlisted for the Booker Prize, is based on the case and she immersed herself in the case, Mahmoud's life and the history of Cardiff's multicultural Tiger Bay area to bring this story of injustice to life.


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