Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 12:38 UK

How police cracked killer mystery

Poster appealing for information about the murder
Posters were erected around the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport
After three men were convicted of the manslaughter of Vietnamese immigrant Tran Nguyen, who was beaten and dumped at a hospital, Gemma Williams examines the huge task which police faced in tackling the case.

From the start, the case of the mystery man dumped in casualty was unlike anything Gwent Police officers had encountered.

Called to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport after the battered murder victim was carried in by two men and left with no identification or explanation, police were stumped.

As far as starting an investigation, there was not much to go on. All they had was grainy CCTV images of the men outside the hospital and entering casualty.

"This was an unusual case for us, extremely difficult," said Det Supt Geoff Ronayne, the senior investigating officer on the case.

"We had no crime scene, no offenders, we didn't know what nationality they were. We had no idea why this man was beaten or why he had been killed."

What followed was the largest crime inquiry the force had undertaken.

Identifying the victim

After identifying the dead man as Vietnamese, officers started to speak to members of that community in Newport.

CCTV footage
Police had limited CCTV footage of two men bringing a body to casualty
Before the case, police had little knowledge about Vietnamese people living in Newport.

"And it was a steep learning curve for us. We had to learn very quickly," said Det Supt Ronayne.

It was then that they found a German identity card in a nail bar in the city, whose photograph looked like the dead man.

It wasn't him. But the German authorities subsequently ran a fingerprint check with the dead man's prints and came back with another name they had on their records - Quong Don.

It emerged these were the details he had been given initially when he left Vietnam under a false identity to travel to Europe.

310 officers involved
1.357m additional costs to Gwent Police after normal salaries
466 house to house enquiries
27 suspects
331 suspect interviews
1,336 messages from public and other sources
1,378 statements taken
Source: Gwent Police

But police still did not know what his real name was or how he had ended up in Wales.

"So we decided to put out his image onto the BBC website and into newspapers in Vietnam," said Det Supt Ronayne.

"Lots of people in the community here might not watch our TV.

"So the story went on the BBC World website and then got onto the Vietnamese website. Significant witnesses were identified as a result of the media coverage."

It was then that a relative living in London came forward and identified the murdered man as Tran Nguyen.

The 44-year-old had left his wife and son and daughter in a remote village in central Vietnam to try to make money in Europe to send home for his children's education.

Finding the murder scene

Meanwhile, inquiries among the community in Newport had identified a property that had been used by Vietnamese people.

It was here at a flat in Cardiff Road that officers uncovered what was later hailed as their "big breakthrough".

Guilty: L-R - Thanh Van Le, Cong Van Le, and Quynh Van Huynh
Guilty of manslaughter: Thanh Van Le, Cong Van Le, and Quynh Van Huynh

Forensic officers spent days on their hands and knees conducting fingertip searches before a speck of blood "that could hardly be seen" was found.

It had Mr Nguyen's DNA. Finally, officers were able to locate him to a property in Newport.

"It was the first time we found blood of his. But we were told this was not the place he had been killed," said Det Supt Ronayne. "So where was the crime scene?"

During the investigations, officers uncovered a number of cannabis factories operating in Newport, at the centre of which was a passport which was being used to rent the properties used for the cannabis factories in Newport.

It led officers to a house in Canterbury Road, in Feltham, west London.

After a long surveillance operation at the property, officers spotted three cars linked to the flat in Cardiff Road, Newport, parked outside the London house.

Det Supt Geoff Ronayne
He pleaded for his life over the phone. It's a terribly sad story
Det Supt Geoff Ronayne

Ten people were arrested, four of whom were later charged with murder.

Eventually, inquiries, including using mobile phone information, led police to New Road in Bedfont, near Feltham - the scene of Mr Nguyen's beatings.

A team spent seven months at the small, semi-detached property, undertaking forensic work until a disturbing picture emerged of gang violence and revenge.

The beatings

It was revealed that Mr Nguyen was taken to the house after being suspected of aiding a 40,000 robbery at a cannabis factory he was working at in Keynsham Avenue, Newport, which was run by the gang.

He was subjected to beatings in a small room upstairs.

During the violence, Mr Nguyen's wife was contacted by phone in Vietnam.

"He pleaded for his life over the phone. It's a terribly sad story," said Det Supt Ronayne.

"They're beating him to the point of death and making a demand to her for 40,000 and the question is, 'Where will she be able to get the money?' "

Following a number of beatings and ransom demands, Mr Nguyen was driven back to Newport.

When he was back in south Wales, his condition deteriorated and two gang members took him to the Royal Gwent Hospital.

His death triggered an investigation that used all the latest forensic and investigative techniques.

As a result of the inquiry, police say there are now far fewer cannabis factories in Newport, with officers now highly specialised in dealing with them.

Det Supt Ronayne said: "We are determined to prevent this type of criminality in Gwent."

Three guilty of killing immigrant
01 Aug 08 |  South East Wales

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