Mark Jones, 43, worked as an HMRC Valuation Officer and lived with his wife and children in the small town of Mountain Ash near Pontypridd in Gwent, South Wales. His professional occupation was however supplemented by illegal drug dealing.

On the evening of 26 July 2015, he was shot and critically injured with a shotgun whilst he sat in his car parked in the Lletty bends lay-by on the A4095 near Mountain Ash. Despite fifteen operations Mark Jones succumbed to his injuries and died of sepsis and heart failure two months later.

Two brothers were convicted for his murder. Stephen Bennett, 54, also from Mountain Ash was found guilty of the actual shooting. Edward Bennett, 49, from Pontypridd was found guilty of conspiring to murder. Mark Jones was able to identify them. Both brothers still maintain they are innocent of the crime.

Prosecutors discovered the following. The brothers owed Jones money and the lay-by incident came about as a result of a meeting that Jones was lured to on the pretence of a discussion about the debt. Retrieved data confirmed that just minutes before the shooting both parties had a short communication by mobile phone. Records confirmed that the van the brothers were using was in the area. The shooting was witnessed by individuals in the vicinity of the lay-by, the Bennett’s were accurately described, and the victim identified his attackers.

Mark Jones had arrived in the lay-by at close to 19:30 hours in the evening in his white Audi A3. His killers appeared out of the foliage; they had parked a vehicle on a track that was parallel to the road and lay-by but separated by trees. Stephen Bennett opened the passenger door of the Audi and fired two shots into Mark Jones. One shot hit his left arm below the elbow the other caused a wound in his abdomen area. In an attempt to get away Jones had opened his door and he fell out critically wounded. He was seen lying on the tarmac surface on the lay-by roadway. One of the brothers then dragged him to the kerbing and then the two perpetrators fled back into the foliage and escaped.

The murder weapon was never recovered but it was confirmed to be a double-barrelled shotgun. From the information Mark Jones gave the police their investigation quickly centred on the brothers. They found 15 live shotgun cartridges in an allotment building belonging to Stephen Bennett and a shotgun cleaning kit in the attic of his property. Neither brother had ever held a shotgun certificate. Stephen Bennett told the police the cartridges were left over from a clay pigeon shoot he had attended with his work boss. This makes no sense. He was not licensed to possess a shotgun and that includes ammunition. Having possession of live cartridges after being a shooting “guest” is strictly illegal.

A shotgun is primarily designed to shoot small game. The most common shotgun gauge is 12 bore. This old fashioned measurement denotes the weight and mass of a round cast ball which is a twelfth of an imperial pound of lead. In a solid state this would measure 18 mm across. A 20 bore therefore would be smaller, and an 8 bore larger. This is a very old form of bore or gauge description. Today the readily available shotgun gauges are .401, (37 bore), 28, 20, 12 and 10. The most common is 12. Gauge or bore means the same. Gauge is an Americanism.

A factory produced standard shotgun cartridge contains smokeless propellant, (the gunpowder), fibre or plastic wads, (discs or cups of material that separate the propellant from the charge and act like a piston in an internal combustion engine), and the shot charge itself. This comprises steel or lead pellets. The pellet size varies but a typical load of no 6 shot would total 220 pellets. No 6 pellets would be used for small game or vermin. When a shotgun is fired the spread of shot, (the pattern), gets steadily larger. When it exists the muzzle, the charge is the same diameter as the barrel. At 20 metres the pattern is about 30 inches across. This is both efficient, effective, and safe. Efficient in the chance and sense of hitting a moving target, effective by way of killing the prey without completely destroying it and safe by way of the eventual dissipation and rapid slowing of the pellets. A shotgun load would only carry about 400 metres. The first 10-40 metres are the most effective against game. The energy of the charge dissipates very quickly beyond that range. Whilst a standard shotgun load is not designed to be used against large animals or human form at very short range it is extremely devastating. The concentrated load of just over one ounce up to 10 metres is deadly, causing deep traumatic and tearing wounds.

The cartridge pellet shot sizes fired at Mark Jones and in the cartridges found in Stephen Bennett’s possession were different. Most were number 4 which is for larger game, rabbits or hare for instance, it’s not what you would use for clay targets which would normally be no 7-8. No witnesses got a close view of the murder weapon but one remarked that he thought it was a hand gun which a sawn off shotgun might naturally resemble from a distance. The majority of people don’t know a great deal about firearms, witness statements can be unreliable and inaccurate. What was very clear however was the fact that Mark Jones received wounds from two shotgun discharges.

Surgeons found 62 pellets in Mark Jones wounds and they were mostly number 4. That would imply that the perpetrator used two cartridges with different shot sizes.

Cartridge wads were found on the ground outside Mark Jones car and this confirmed the murder weapon was discharged in close vicinity to him. At extremely close range the wads as well as the shot load might enter the wound channel but owing to their light weight their propelled energy dissipates very rapidly and they might just cling or embed in clothing as the shot load penetrates. The cardboard disc on the top of a, “party popper”, is essentially a top wad. That most likely explains why wadding material was found outside the driver’s side of the car having struck and fallen away from Jones’ clothing.

The Bennett brothers are both serving 30 years for murder. Despite the overwhelming evidence that decidedly convicted them they both still claim to be innocent and maintain they were set up for the crime. Mark Jones was shot in the most cowardly fashion, but he was always going to be at risk in the dangerous and illegal business he engaged himself in.

When I visited the murder location in August 2019 it was a still a well-used lay-by with a busy attendant “burger van”. There was also a grubby steel/alloy public footpath sign mounted on an upright pointing in the direction of the wooded area. Curiously, the sign plate had been penetrated by a single small calibre bullet. It was difficult to establish when this had occurred, it wasn’t fresh.

Once again, this coincidental, bizarre and violent signature practise had materialised close to a gun murder site. If it was supposed to have some significance, I remain none the wiser and so do the authorities who I reported it to.