By: David JK Jones
Ajit Singh lived in post war Bridgend and the tall, 27 year old, bearded, Sikh who wore the traditional turban was a familiar sight around the town. It is not clear why he came to Bridgend but we know that he arrived in Britain in 1949 and worked as a painter. By 1951 he was described as a Pedlar & Traveller. He lived at Elder House in the town centre. We know that he was an erratic character who caused problems with his landlady. However, he formed a relationship with a 27 year old widow, Joan Marion Thomas (nee: Gribble) of Dunraven Place in March 1951 which would have been considered unusual and contrary to the social norm of the time.
Joan took Ajit home to meet her parents in May 1951 and while they held deep reservations about the relationship Singh continued to visit until November 1951 when Joan broke off the relationship due to Singh’s unstable and controlling behaviour.
Singh even visited Joan’s sister in hospital in an attempt to rekindle the relationship and caused a scene on the ward there. Later he went to Joan’s parents at Mackworth Street and was told by Joan’s father, Rowland Gribble to leave and to leave his daughter alone. Singh’s departing statement was, “She finish, I never finish, she know what I do now”.
On Christmas Day 1951 Joan even took a Christmas Dinner to Singh’s lodgings for him but insisted that she just wished to remain as friends.
On Sunday 30th December 1951 Joan and her friend, Mildred Valerie Williams, went to visit Joan’s sister who was in Cefn Hirgoed Isolation Hospital, Bridgend which is near to Sainsbury’s store today. As they stood on the Bus Stop Singh was seen writing a note on a stationary pad and then approached Joan and asked her what her plans were for the day. Joan rebuffed him and ignored him until the arrival of her bus. To Joan’s discomfort Singh actually got on the 1:40pm Nantymoel bus with her and all three made the journey to Cefn Hirgoed.
At Cefn Hirgoed Singh alighted from the bus first knowing that Joan had to follow. Mildred walked on ahead a short distance and heard Joan scream, “He’s got a gun”.
Singh was in possession of a German self loading pistol and Joan ran towards the hospital. Singh followed, shooting at her as he went. Singh shot her twice in the back, caught up with her and shot her through the heart. He then stooped over her dead body, cradled her, and was heard to say, “She very sick”.
After all the confusion it had now transpired that during his shooting spree Singh had also hit an unconnected passer-by, a Mrs Beryl Gore and wounded her by shooting her ear. The stray bullet had ricocheted off a wall. He had discharged five bullets in total and had emptied the gun.
The police were called and Sergeant Geoffrey Robinson turned up. “Robbo” was a no-nonsense, fearless, old fashioned police officer who I briefly worked under in 1973. When confronted by any situation he dealt swiftly with it and took Singh into custody after Singh stated to him, “I shoot her”.
Detective Inspector Gwyn Smith took charge of the case.
Singh stood trial at Cardiff Assizes in March 1952. The court was told by a friend of Singh’s, Edward Andrew Thomas of Oddfellows Street that eight weeks before the killing they had gone to Cardiff together and Singh had pointed out a public house and said, “That’s where I am going to get the bullets from”.
The court further heard that Singh was found with a note on him written in Punjabi which was addressed to his family informing them of his death. It read:- “To my brother, my mother and my sister in law. Everything is alright here. After killing my girl I have shot myself. Someone is going to kill me. Goodbye to everyone”.
Singh ran the defence of a suicide pact but the jury saw through this and Singh was found guilty and sentenced to death.
At 9:00am on Wednesday 7th May 1952 Singh was hanged at Cardiff Prison. His final wishes for a traditional Sikh funeral were granted. The South Wales Echo of that day reported that the Sikh community explained to the authorities that their religion required that bodies should be cremated, so the Home Secretary granted their wishes. His ashes were buried within the precincts of the Gaol.
Footnote: Sergeant Robinson retired as a Chief Superintendent in an outstanding career that saw him deal with the Samtamper Disaster in 1947 and the setting up of the mortuary at Aberfan in 1966. He passed away in Llantwit Major just a few years back in his 90’s.