Logan Mwangi: Juror traumatised by murder trial evidence

By Nicola Bryan
BBC News

  • Published
Media caption,

Dr Joselyn Sellen: "I knew that this was going to be a difficult case"

A juror says she was so traumatised by evidence at a child's murder trial she suffered recurrent nightmares and was signed off work for more than a month.

Five-year-old Logan Mwangi's mother, stepfather and a 14-year-old boy were given long sentences for his murder.

The trial was paused several times when Dr Joselyn Sellen and other jurors found the evidence too distressing.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service said it recognised the importance of jurors' wellbeing.

Police officers found Logan's body partially submerged in the River Ogmore in Bridgend county in July 2021.

The prosecution said Logan's body was dumped like "fly-tipped rubbish", just 250m from his home in Sarn.

The trial heard he died after suffering a "brutal and sustained" attack at home, leaving him with "catastrophic" injuries.

The jury found Logan's stepfather John Cole, 40, mother, Angharad Williamson, 31, and Craig Mulligan, 14, guilty at the end of the trial in April.

Cole was jailed for a minimum term of 29 years, Williamson for at least 28 years and Mulligan was given at least 15 years' detention on Thursday.

Mulligan can now be named for the first time after a judge lifted an anonymity order after a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

'Very distressing'

Under law, no-one can speak to jurors about how they reached their verdict, how they voted, or any discussions or opinions expressed during their deliberations.

However, jurors are allowed to talk about what happened in the courtroom and Dr Sellen, who has agreed to be identified as a juror, is able to speak to the BBC about her experience of serving on a jury and the impact of the trial on her life.

She has decided to share her experience because she wants to see change.

Psychologist Dr Sellen, one of the 12 jurors on the case, said the hardest evidence she heard was from a paediatrician who described how Logan's final hours would have been.

"That was incredibly difficult," she said.

"Because your imagination will take you to very dark places when you're hearing that kind of evidence.

"It is very, very distressing… you just keep thinking what was happening for that child and how he must have been suffering."

Media caption,

Logan Mwangi's dad said the world was colder and darker without his son

She said she would never forget the police body-cam footage that showed the moment Logan's body was found.

"That will stay with me forever," she said, adding she heard the police officer's reaction.

"Though it was blurred out you absolutely got the emotion of when someone first sees a child's body in the river... even though it was blurred out you could see very clearly."

Logan had 56 "catastrophic" injuries, including extensive bruising to the back of his head and tears in his liver and bowel, which experts said were so severe they were consistent with those seen in road traffic accidents.

Dr Sellen said she was thankful the court had used computer generated images of his injuries: "It would have been devastating to have seen that actually on his body," she said.

Image caption,
Logan was found dead in the River Ogmore in Sarn, Bridgend county, last July

'Completely traumatised'

The evidence, as well as the weight of responsibility of reaching verdicts for the three defendants, one still a child, had a devastating impact on her life outside of the courtroom, she said.

"I felt as though my normal life was completely hijacked," she said.

"This completely took over my life... [I was] completely traumatised."

She said something as simple as hearing children laughing could be a trigger: "My thoughts would go straight back to the case.

"I'd be thinking 'how was it for Logan? Was he ever laughing? What happened when he cried?'."

She said she faced recurrent nightmares, intrusive thoughts, difficulty getting to sleep and would over-react to to the smallest of things.

Friends were a welcome distraction, she said, but they could not support her as she was not allowed to discuss the case.

She said her 15-year-old daughter would try to support her but did not know why she was so upset.

Image caption,
Dr Joselyn Sellen says no-one apart from the other jurors could support her as she was not allowed to discuss the case

'Cry most days'

"Several times [my daughter] was sat holding me when I'm crying inconsolably and I couldn't tell her why," she said.

"Simple things like planning our meals for the week became overwhelming, so normal day-to-day living just changed completely."

She said after dropping her daughter at school she would be hit by a wave of emotion.

"Almost as soon as she was out of the car door I'd be crying, I would cry most days from the moment I dropped her off until I got to court.

"I'd be sat in my car thinking 'with every fibre of my being I don't want to go in' but I knew I had to and I had a duty."

She said it was the other jurors' support that made it possible to keep going.

Image caption,
Hundreds of toys, teddy bears and flowers were left in Pandy Park after Logan's body was found

'Very neglectful'

"The court are very neglectful of their duty of care to jurors," she said.

"There was no professional support available through the court…the ushers, security, the judge, every person who came into contact with jurors was fantastic, but they weren't trained in terms of trauma therapy."

She said the court service advised jurors to go to the Samaritans, which she did, but as she was not able to talk about the case "it became a very short conversation".

She had the same issue with her GP.

Dr Sellen said a trauma therapist should be made available to jurors for particularly harrowing or traumatic cases.

"[Someone] who is able to maintain the integrity of that process but enable and empower the jurors to be able to offload some of that so we can still function in normal life," she said.

She would also like to see jurors screened for mental health issues and past trauma before being selected for harrowing cases.

She said the judge Mrs Justice Jefford did give jurors the opportunity to decline taking part after the opening statements but it was an "intimidating situation" and they were not given adequate time to think about it.

"To put your hands up to a high court judge and in front of barristers and say 'I don't think I can handle it', that's a very difficult position to be in," she said.

Jurors warned of evidence

A spokesperson for Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said: "Jury service is one of the most important civic duties that anyone can perform and we recognise the importance of well-being throughout the process.

"In each case, the trial judge will seek to meet the interests of justice without causing undue anxiety to any juror.

"This can include warnings of distressing evidence as well as offering a range of support such as counselling from GPs and advice from the Samaritans."

A leaflet entitled Supporting You Through Jury Service offers further advice to jurors and is available in courts, they added.

Image caption,
Angharad Williamson and John Cole were found guilty of murder in April

'Worst nightmare'

At the end of the case, Mrs Justice Jefford thanked the jury for their "exceptional public service", and recognised they had endured "very unpleasant and emotional evidence".

She then excused them from having to undertake jury service again unless they decide they want to.

But for Dr Sellen it is an experience she is keen to never repeat.

"This really was my worst nightmare to be on a case that's so traumatic," she said.

"I would not want to do jury service again, particularly as there's no support for jurors."

Logan Mwangi, A Boy Betrayed, a BBC Wales Today Special is on Thursday at 20:30 BST on BBC One Wales and is also available on BBC iPlayer.