Family pays tribute to church warden stabbed to death in Co-op

A family has paid tribute to an elderly church warden who was stabbed to death in a village Co-op.

“Proud Welshman” John Rees, 88, was attacked after entering the convenience store in Pen Y Graig, Rhondda Valley, on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Rees, who lived in the nearby village of Trealaw with his wife Eunice, was a warden at All Saints Church.

In a statement released by South Wales Police, Mr Rees’ family said: “John was the very definition of a good man, extremely respected and liked in the community.

“He was proud of his family, proud to be a Welshman and devoted to All Saints Church. We will all miss him terribly.”

Police said a 29-year-old woman from Porth had been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody at Merthyr Tydfil police station.

Other tributes have also been paid to Mr Rees.

Local Plaid Cymru councillor Joshua Davies tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of John Rees from Trealaw. Rest in Peace John.”

Police cordoned off the high street
Police cordoned off the high street (Ben Birchall/PA)

Floral tributes have been left outside the convenience store and at All Saints Church.

One said: “Our hearts go out for John and his beloved wife Eunice and family. We are all heartbroken. Such a lovely, lovely gentleman, kind and caring, so so sad. God bless.

“Thanks for being the lovely man who has rang our church bells every Thursday night for the NHS. You will be very sadly missed by everyone.”

Another said: “Heartbreaking losing your life in such a horrific way. Can’t stop thinking of your poor wife x Thoughts are with you and your family.”

A neighbour of Mr Rees, Tracey Goodridge, said he was a carer for his wife and that he was “a gentleman” who would “help anybody”.

“It’s just so sad and unbelievable. The church bells at the end of the street, he’d be there doing them. And couldn’t wait for the services to start back – he loved his church,” she told ITV Wales.

Eyewitnesses described seeing people fleeing the store after a woman attacked four people with a knife.

One man was in a stable condition in hospital and two other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. One of those injured was believed to be an NHS worker.

Forensic officers at the scene
A forensic officer at the scene (Ben Birchall/PA)

As the local community comes to terms with what happened, Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Rhondda, has written to the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board asking that specialist support services are made available for those who witnessed the incident.

South Wales Police has referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, but did not say why.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark O’Shea, who is leading the investigation, said: “This is a very tragic incident and we are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter.

“Our sympathies are with Mr Rees’ family at this very distressing time for them and they are being supported by specially trained officers.

“This incident has understandably caused a lot of shock in the local community and I want to reassure residents that a full investigation is under way.”

Uniformed officers will continue to maintain a visible presence in the area.

Divisional commander Chief Superintendent Dorian Lloyd added: “Pen Y Graig is a small close-knit community which has been put into the national spotlight in such tragic circumstances.

“I would like to reassure the local community that the police response to the incident was extremely swift and officers were at the scene within minutes.

“We will continue to maintain a visible presence to support those in the area as they try and come to terms with what has happened.”

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