Monday 9 November 2020

The Man in Black - Peter Moore : Wales' Worst Serial Killer by Dylan Rhys Jones @drjdylan @YLolfa #TheManInBlack #TrueCrime #BookReview


The true story of former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones' experience of defending Rhyl serial killer Peter Moore, found guilty in 1996 of murdering four men and seriously assaulting many more, and referred to by the judge when sentencing as as dangerous a man as it is possible to find.

The Man in Black - Peter Moore: Wales' Worst Serial Killer by Dylan Rhys Jones was published by YLolfa on 22 September 2020. My thanks to the author and publisher who sent my copy for review.

Back in the 1990s, I spent almost ten years working among murderers, rapists and arsonists. I spent eight hours every day surrounded by men who had committed the most horrific crimes imaginable. When I heard about this book, I was fascinated as it's written by Peter Moor's defence lawyer. I don't think I've ever read anything written about a true crime from that angle.

Peter Moore was convicted of the murders of four men and was dubbed 'the man in black' because of the clothing that he wore. Moore didn't know his victims, and he had displayed no signs of what he had done. It's a fascinating case.

Dylan Jones was just thirty-years-old when he took on Peter Moore's case. Jones had dealt with various legal financial matters for Moore in the past, and recalled him as just an ordinary, if somewhat dour and solitary man. His passion was cinema, and he owned and ran some small independent cinemas throughout Wales.

From the outset, Dylan Jones writes with an honesty about his own feelings for this case that I personally could empathise with. He talks about how some things that a solicitor will see, and hear can have a long-term impact. Some things are seared into the brain, and despite the passing of time, they don't leave. I too have experienced this, and there was one particular episode whilst working in a top-security forensic psychiatric hospital that I saw, that I will never forget. It was that one episode that led me to finally leave that job.

Dylan Jones was a duty solicitor, working with Legal Aid clients. He wasn't appointed defence lawyer for Moore by choice; either his or Moore's.

Like many of us, my only real knowledge of lawyers has been from television and film. Those long and often emotionally charged, almost theatrical speeches to the jury, the presumption that they are all very rich and just getting richer through the crimes of their clients. Jones explains what it is really like. He explains that no solicitor who wants to be rich chooses to be defence lawyer, and goes into great detail about just how much work is involved in a case. How that case can take up every waking moment, and affect personal lives. What we rarely understand is that whilst the lawyers are working flat out on a case, they also have all of their other clients to take care of. This story certainly made me consider just what goes into the workings of a criminal case in court.

Moore's case is very very strange. He's a strange man who appears cold and almost immune to what is going on around him. The strangest part of the build up to the actual court case was Moore's lengthy confession statement; detailing the murder that he'd been arrested for, and also owning up to more victims - one of whom, the police had no idea about. Moore admitted to so much.

The following morning Moore claimed that he had lied. He was innocent, and was really protecting a friend named Jason. He didn't know where Jason lived, or what his last name was, but he was protecting him.

As you can imagine, Jones and his team had a very difficult job to do. Who could really believe Moore's claims about Jason? Yet, as defence lawyer, that's what Jones had to do. His job was to persuade the jury that it wasn't Moore who murdered these men, but a mystery guy called Jason.

The truth is most certainly stranger than fiction.

This is a riveting book. Jones writes with an honestly that is admirable. He details how the case affected him and how his own behaviour changed afterwards. He acknowledged that Moore had left a lasting impact on him, and he sought help for that. It's also a detailed and fascinating insight into the workings of the criminal justice system, and whilst there's a lot of legal detail, it is never boring or dry.

I really enjoyed this excellently written book and would recommend it to both fans of true crime, and crime fiction.

Former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones is now a Criminology lecturer, exam moderator
and Criminal Justice and Offender Management foundation degree course designer. 

He is a regular contributor to TV and radio news programmes about politics and the law.           
Twitter @drjdylan

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