“I am sorry to hear that Uncle and Auntie are dead,” Ronald Harries told the police when they informed him that the couple’s bodies had been discovered. He was even sorrier when he was accused of their murder.
The 24-year-old farm worker was a distant relative of John Harries, 63, and his wife Phoebe, 54, who regarded him as their nephew. They lived at Derlwyn Farm, Llanginning, Carmarthenshire, and a neighbour became worried when he called there on the morning of Saturday, OCTOBER 17th, 1953.
There was no response to the neighbours knocks on the door, his calls went unanswered and he saw that the cows had not been milked. That was unusual because John Harries milked at 7 a.m. every day. The previous evenings milk stood in a churn in a tank of water, and the neighbour also noticed that the couples car was not in its garage.
At 11 a.m. the neighbour paid another visit to the farm, and saw that the single churn of milk had now been joined by another, to await collection. There was still no sign of John Harries or his wife. It transpired that the cows had been milked by Ronald Harries, who said his uncle and aunt had gone away on holiday and he was running the farm in their absence. He had driven them to Carmarthen station that morning in their car, which they had told him to use until they returned.
Ronald added that they had gone to London for their first holiday together in 21 years. They had given him money to cover expenses while they were away, he said, and they had asked him to keep their absence to himself.
Two days later he got a haulage contractor to take the five cows and a calf to his fathers farm 13 miles away.
The neighbours thought it strange that John Harries and his wife had gone away without a word to anyone. It wasnt like them to be secretive, and they would surely have talked of a trip to London. So the neighbours expressed their anxiety to the police, who went to the farm on October 22nd and searched it. In the oven they found the weekend joint, ready for cooking: proof that the couple had not planned to go away the previous Saturday.
Ronald Harries nevertheless stuck to his story, but the police didnt believe him. His account of his movements on the Friday night turned out to be a pack of lies. Nobody had seen John Harries and his wife at Carmarthen station, and a local boy said he had been with Ronald at the farm throughout the time that Ronald said he was away taking the couple to Carmarthen. Furthermore, Ronald had tried to cash one of John Harriess cheques, altering its £9 total to £909.
Suspecting that Ronald had killed the couple and buried them nearby, the police tied cotton threads across the gaps in the hedges around the farm and then made a display of great activity to alarm him. As detectives expected, Ronald crept out that night to see if his secret had been discovered. At dawn the next morning, the broken thread across one of the hedge-gaps told the investigators where to look for John and Phoebe Harries, and their grave was soon found.
Charged with the couples murder, Ronald Harries was tried and convicted at Carmarthen Assizes in March 1954, and hanged a month later at Swansea Prison.