The Rhymney Valley carves through the green hills of South Wales. A number of small villages spill across the basin floor, places where residents once extracted coal from the surrounding land to power the engines of the British Empire. The stranger reportedly arrived there six weeks ago in the town of New Tredegar.
The houses running down Long Row are identical — pitched roofs, tan paint, satellite dishes angled skyward. The newcomer, 54-year-old David Gaut, moved into a ground-floor unit pressed close to a rising hill. The tight community didn’t initially take much notice. The flat was owned by the local government. “They’re always moving people in and out,” a neighbor told the Sun.
But interest — and suspicion — were soon coiling around Gaut. He slipped to his new neighbors that he had been in prison. Why? His story allegedly kept changing. But locals went digging into Gaut’s past for his secret. It may have cost him his life.
“Who wants to live next door to a child killer or a paedo?” another neighbor told the Sun.
On Saturday, Gaut was found dead in his apartment, the Telegraph reported. Three villagers have been taken into custody on suspicion of murder. But the coverage of the fresh bloodshed has suddenly thrown focus back on another crime from 1985, when a 17-month-old child was tortured and killed — a murder described at the time by a judge as “the worst crime in the land.”
According to the Independent, the same David Gaut was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing his girlfriend’s baby. Gaut was released from prison last year, eventually finding himself on Long Row. But what he did 33 years back is now believed to be a possible motive behind his own sordid end.
“There have been a lot of rumours around here and some people remember the baby being killed,” another neighbor told the Times of London. “People get angry at the thought of the village being used as a dumping ground. People have been talking about paedos and killers moving in here.”
The first crime happened 11 miles south in the Rhymney Valley, in Caerphilly.
Jane Pickthall was a young mother from Scotland. According to Wales Online, when she was 18, Pickthall had met a Chinese waiter. Together they relocated to Wales in 1983, and eventually had two children. The youngest was Chi Ming Shek — known as “Marky.” When the couple split, Pickthall and her children moved into a flat in Caerphilly.
In October 1984, Pickthall’s new boyfriend, Gaut, began living with the family. At Gaut’s murder trial, Pickthall told jurors her boyfriend initially got on “marvelously.” On the night of Feb. 28, 1985, the young mother left her children with Gaut for the night as she went out with friends.
According to Wales Online, at trial, neighbors from both sides of Pickthall’s apartment reported hearing loud noises and pained shouts throughout the night.
“To me they sounded like doors slamming or feet stamping on floorboards — very loud noises,” a witness said, Wales Online reported. “They were bangs and crashes, that type of noise.”
But Pickthall returned home at 1:30 a.m., unaware anything was off. According to court testimony, she tumbled into bed with Gaut. The two had sex. Marky was already lying dead in the next room.
In the morning, Pickthall discovered her son’s body pinned beneath a chest of drawers. At the trial, the mother described cradling the 17-month-old’s dead body for an hour before shaking loose from her shock and calling for help.
“I just stood there clutching him,” Pickthall told the court.
The prosecution maintained at trial Gaut had killed the baby, then staged the scene so it appeared the child had died from an accident.
But the baby’s injuries were consistent with being beaten and with torture, the court heard.
“The child would have been in considerable distress, it must have been a very painful condition,” a medical examiner testified. “It must have been internal bleeding of at least a pint of blood in abdominal cavity due to laceration of the liver. They could have been caused by a severe blow with a fist or foot or the child being thrown at a hard surface and would have required severe force.”
Pickthall told the court she had little uncertainty about what had happened to Marky.
“There was no doubt in my mind that David was guilty of murdering my son,” she told the court.
The court agreed on July 18, 1985, finding Gaut guilty of the toddler’s murder.
“The person you murdered was a defenseless little baby and on the jury’s finding you not only murdered him but also tortured him,” the judge said, according to Wales Online. He was sentenced to life in prison.
According to the Mirror, Gaut was paroled in November after 33 years in prison.
Six weeks ago, he was assigned housing in Long Row in the Rhymney Valley. In his new home, Gaut did not hide his prison sentence, neighbors told Wales Online. But he was cagey about the circumstances of his imprisonment.
“He first of all told us he was inside for a crime but he didn’t do it,” an unidentified man told the paper. “He then said he had shot someone a long time ago but we knew that wasn’t true.”
Speaking with the Sun, another Long Row resident claimed to have been inside Gaut’s apartment and seen a letter with his full name — David Tracy Gaut. Curiosity sent to the neighborhood to the computer.
“We thought that was unusual so I Googled him to see if I could find out what he had done,” the resident said. “That’s when we saw the details of what he did to the baby boy. We couldn’t believe it.”
The neighbor added: “It’s disgusting. I can’t believe we have been living next door to that.”
Gaut’s body was discovered last Saturday at 3 p.m. Officials have yet to officially confirm the details.
Three murder suspects — David Osbourne, 51, Ieuan Harley, 23, and Darren Evesham, 47 — made an initial court appearance on Thursday, the BBC reported. The men, all from New Tredegar, were remanded into custody until their next court appearance on Monday. The men entered no formal plea and do not appear to have legal representation.
The slaying of Gaut delivered a double jolt of news to his victims’ family.
“It has been such a shock for everyone,” Jane Pickthall’s son told the Mirror. “We were never told he was being released on parole or that he’d been found dead.”
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