In 1973, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Bethell took charge of the investigation into the Llandarcy murder case, which involved the brutal sexual assault and murder of three victims: Sandra Newton, Pauline Floyd, and Geraldine Hughes. Although the South Wales police, under the leadership of Ray Allen, initially treated Sandra’s murder as a separate case from the tragic deaths of Pauline and Geraldine, DCI Paul Bethell firmly believed that these murders were connected and the work of a serial killer.
How Did Paul Bethell’s Dedication Solve The Decade-Old Murder Mystery?
Paul Bethell, born in Bridgend, Wales, joined the South Wales police department in 1967 and rose through the ranks to become a detective chief inspector. He dedicated a major part of his life to the investigation of the infamous Llandarcy murder case, which revolved around the gruesome murders of three young teenage girls in Neath Port Talbot. During the initial investigation, it was found out that one of the girls, Sandra, had not been sexually assaulted. However, as the new evidence came to light, the initial theory was soon rejected. The detectives found traces of DNA on Sandra’s body that belonged to her boyfriend, John, with whom she was having an extramarital affair. Despite repeatedly accusing John, Paul couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t the killer. A breakthrough in the case came when a lead revealed that the perpetrator drove a white Austin 1100. This led Paul to suspect Sandra’s stepfather, Dai Williams, as he drove the same car. Dai was interrogated multiple times, but Paul never obtained satisfactory results. However, nearly thirty years later, advancements in DNA sampling technology connected Sandra’s murder to the killings of Pauline and Geraldine. Paul once again focused his suspicions on Dai, but he couldn’t establish him as the killer as the DNA did not match.
Paul cannot be blamed for his suspicions regarding Dai, as the description almost matched. Paul was driven by a strong desire to bring justice to the victims. He firmly believed that the killer was still out there, and if Dai had been the perpetrator, Paul would have been able to bring him to justice. However, after ruling out Dai, Paul began suspecting other individuals, including Willoughby, who had refused to provide a DNA sample. Eventually, he found the right track when his colleague, Phil, provided him with the sample of car thief Paul Kappen, who was on the database. His DNA samples almost matched that of the killer, but Paul couldn’t be accused of the crime since he was only seven years old at the time. Therefore, suspicion automatically fell upon his father, Joseph Kappen, who turned out to be the person Paul and Phil had been searching for all those years. Paul had a strong and supportive relationship with his wife, Karina, who was always there for him. Sometimes, Paul concealed certain information from Karina, causing her to worry, but she made it clear that she was not just his wife but his partner. She believed that if he couldn’t share his thoughts with her, their marriage had no meaning. On the one hand, we witnessed the misogynistic nature of the serial killer’s actions towards women, yet Paul and Karina’s relationship represented respect and equality between a man and a woman. As Paul and Karina grew older together, they shared things with each other occasionally, while Paul also suppressed some of his thoughts to spare Karina from worrying unnecessarily. Even in his toughest times, Paul made an effort to spend time with his wife, recognizing her value in his life.
Eventually, in the 2000s, familial DNA proved instrumental in identifying the killer as Joseph. Unfortunately, Joseph had already succumbed to lung cancer. Paul’s intuition had been mistaken, but he refused to abandon the case simply because the perpetrator was deceased. He remained determined to bring the investigation to a conclusive end and provide the victims’ families with accurate information. Even when the familial DNA testing yielded only a 75% match to Kappen, Paul couldn’t find solace in the results. His boss, Jackie, urged him to conclude the case, asserting that Kappen was their man. However, Paul delved deeper into the matter. His profound empathy for the families of the victims compelled him to ensure that he provided them with unadulterated and precise information.
The lingering mystery of the murder weighed heavily on Paul’s conscience, and he felt overwhelming guilt for initially withdrawing from the inquiry. He could never face Sita again, as he had once promised her that he would uncover the identity of the killer. Furthermore, he regretted his previous behavior towards Dai Williams, which added to his remorse. All of these factors propelled him to dig deeper into the case, ultimately leading him to the decision to exhume the remains of Joseph Kappen. In 2002, following the exhumation, the South Wales police finally obtained Kappen’s DNA, which matched 100% with the killer’s profile. Paul experienced a profound sense of relief, knowing that he hadn’t left his job unfinished. Through persistent dedication, he ultimately solved the case.
In this series, along with Paul Bethell, Phil Rees also played a significant role in the investigations, working tirelessly to find a resolution. Although Paul and Phil often had differing opinions, their shared goal was to uncover the truth, and together they succeeded in achieving that objective. In 2008, Paul Bethell was honored and recognized for his unyielding dedication and tireless efforts in solving the Llandarcy murder case. After retiring from the police force, he embarked on a new chapter in his life, sharing his expertise and knowledge by lecturing at various law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Paul Bethell, a man of integrity and hard work, never turned his back on those murder cases and remained steadfast in his commitment to deliver justice to the victims’ families. His contributions and perseverance deserve to be remembered.