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1985: Miners jailed for pit strike murder
Two South Wales miners have been jailed for life for the murder of taxi driver David Wilkie during the miners' strike last November.

Mr Wilkie was killed when a block of concrete was thrown down on his car from a bridge as he drove a miner to work in South Wales.

There were emotional scenes at Cardiff Crown Court as Dean Hancock and Russell Shankland, both 21, were sentenced after the jury had deliberated for nearly seven hours.

It was an accident. Those two boys wouldn't hurt anyone, they are not those sort of boys
Anthony Williams, co-defendant
Relatives sobbed and screamed. Hancock buried his head in his hands and gasped: "Oh, my God!" and burst into tears. Shankland stood with his head bowed.

His girlfriend, Carol Hopkins, fainted and collapsed and was carried out from the courtroom.

Passing sentence, the judge Mr Justice Michael Mann acknowledged the miners' strike had "engendered a climate of violence" that had led to the killing of Mr Wilkie. But he concluded: "You performed the ultimate act of violence and for it you will go to prison for life."

Concrete block hurled at taxi

During the trial the jury had heard that in the early hours of 30 November 1984, Shankland and Hancock had planned to disrupt a police escort and taxi taking miner David Williams to the Merthyr Vale pit.

They hurled a 46lb concrete block and a concrete post weighing 65lbs from a bridge over the Head of the Valleys Rd at Rhymner.

It fell on the taxi and its driver was killed within seconds from head and chest injuries. The passenger, Mr Williams, was unhurt but deeply traumatised.

Mr Wilkie leaves behind four children, the youngest of whom was born two months after his death.

After the verdicts, Shankland's lawyer John Prosser QC said that his clients were victims in "a nation at war".

Referring to strike leaders like Arthur Scargill, head of the National Union of Miners, he said: "In that war there were generals, and they stood outside the law and they left Russell Shankland outside the law."

A third defendant, Anthony Williams, who was on the bridge with the two men was cleared of all charges yesterday. As he left the court today he told journalists: "It was an accident. Those two boys wouldn't hurt anyone, they are not those sort of boys."

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Wreck of David Wilkie's taxi cab
A block of concrete thrown from a bridge smashed the taxi and killed the driver

In Context
This was the most serious trial arising from the bitter and violent miners' dispute of 1984.

Political leaders united in condemning the killing - Labour's Neil Kinnock called it an "atrocity" and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it was "an utterly despicable deed".

But the Left regarded the sentencing as too harsh, a statement of victory over the miners rather than an act of justice.

On appeal, the convictions were reduced to manslaughter and sentences reduced to eight years.

After a fierce campaign for their release led by the NUM's Arthur Scargill and Labour MP Tony Benn, the men were released on 30 November 1989 - the fifth anniversary of David Wilkie's death.

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