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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Payout for family of hanged man
Mahmood Mattan was wrongly convicted of murder
Mahmood Mattan was wrongly convicted of murder
The family of a south Wales man who was wrongly hanged for murder have won compensation thought to total several hundred thousand pounds.

Somali seaman Mahmood Mattan, who lived in Cardiff, was executed 49 years ago for slitting the throat of a woman shopkeeper.

The compensation award from the Home Office is the first awarded to relatives of a person hanged for a crime they did not commit.

Lily Volpert's Cardiff store
The clothes shop in Cardiff where Lily Volpert was murdered

The result follows a 10-year campaign by Mr Mattan's family to clear his name.

One of his three sons, Mervyn, said his father's life had been stolen and the compensation would not "buy back his soul".

Mr Mattan, 28, a father of three, was arrested within hours of the murder in March 1952.

He was hanged in Cardiff jail on 3 September, 1952, after a three-day trial at the Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea.

He was accused of the murder of shopkeeper Lily Volpert whose throat had been slit with a razor at the clothes store she ran in Bute Street, Cardiff.

His widow Laura only found out he had been hanged when she went to visit him in Cardiff jail and discovered a notice of his death pinned to a door.

They stole my father's life and no amount of money can change that

Mervyn Mattan, victim's son
There was no forensic evidence, and the witness who placed Mr Mattan at the scene had a history of violent assaults.

Right up until his death Mattan protested he was innocent.

And, for the next 46 years, his widow Laura continued to campaign to clear his name.

The compensation was shared between Mrs Mattan, 79, from Ely, Cardiff, and the couple's three sons David 53, Omar, 51, and Mervyn, 50.

The sons confirmed they were seeking further compensation from South Wales Police for the wrongful arrest of their father.

Mervyn Mattan said: "The piece of my father that they have given back to me is in the form of a financial award.

Laura Mattan, Mahmood's widow
Laura Mattan: 'He could not possibly have done it'
"But the money cannot buy back his soul.

"They stole my father's life and no amount of money can change that."

Institutionalised racism

Laura Mattan added: "People ask me did I believe he had done it; I have always maintained that he could not possibly have done so."

Relatives and friends who joined the campaign to clear Mr Mattan's name are also said to have received payouts.

Mr Mattan's children are reported to be seeking further compensation from South Wales Police for the wrongful arrest and convictiction of their father.

Family lawyers announced three years ago that they would take the case to the Court of Appeal.

The legal team said Mr Mattan had been the victim of institutionalised racism.

Vital evidence to his case was not made available at the original trial.

Police informer Harold Cover said he had seen a Somalian seaman in the area just minutes before the murder.

But the Appeal Court heard the jury was not aware that Cover was paid for giving evidence.

Mr Mattan had a full alibi but his poor English and his failure to grasp the seriousness of the situation sealed his fate.

His chance of receiving a fair trial were further undermined further by his defence barrister describing him as a "semi-civilized savage".

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Omar Mattan, victim's son
"I would like the Home Office and South Wales Police to go to my mother and formally apologise"
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