The Murder of David Gareth Wilkie

Andrew Wood
4 min readFeb 26, 2024

This was another sad story I rediscovered in doing research for my book Death of a Union. It was just one of many violent incidents that turned the public against the striking miners, along with another murder, unrelated but forever linked to the strike, of police officer Yvonne Fletcher.

In 1984, the UK was gripped by the tumultuous miners' strike, a period marked by heightened tensions and violent confrontations between striking miners and law enforcement. One tragic incident during this time was the death of 33 year old, taxi driver David Gareth Wilkie, who was killed when a block of concrete was thrown down on his car from a bridge while he was driving a miner to work at the Merthyr Vale colliery in South Wales.

In 1985, following a trial that garnered significant attention, two South Wales miners, Dean Hancock and Russell Shankland, both 21 years old, were convicted of the murder of David Wilkie and sentenced to life imprisonment. The emotional scenes in Cardiff Crown Court reflected the gravity of the verdict, as relatives sobbed and screamed while the defendants reacted with shock and despair.

The trial revealed that Hancock and Shankland had planned to disrupt a police escort and taxi taking miner David Williams to the Merthyr Vale pit. They hurled a heavy concrete block and a concrete post from a bridge over the Head of the Valleys Rd at Rhymner, causing fatal injuries to Mr. Wilkie and deeply traumatizing Mr. Williams, who was the passenger in the taxi.

The judge, Mr. Justice Michael Mann, acknowledged the violent climate engendered by the miners' strike but emphasized that the defendants had committed "the ultimate act of violence" and thus sentenced them to life in prison.

Amidst the legal proceedings, there were contrasting opinions about the nature of the defendants' actions. While some viewed them as victims in a larger societal conflict, others saw them as responsible for their actions. The third defendant, Anthony Williams, who was on the bridge with Hancock and Shankland, was cleared of all charges, maintaining that the incident was an accident and that the convicted miners were not capable of intentional harm.

In the aftermath of David Wilkie's tragic death, political leaders from across the spectrum united in condemning the killing. Labour's Neil Kinnock characterized it as an "atrocity," while Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced it as "an utterly despicable deed." The incident underscored the severity of the violence and tensions surrounding the miners' strike, prompting widespread outrage and calls for justice.

However, opinions on the subsequent legal proceedings were divided. While some viewed the convictions and sentencing as a necessary response to the violence, others on the Left regarded them as too harsh, seeing them as a statement of victory over the miners rather than an act of justice.

Upon appeal, the convictions were eventually reduced from murder to manslaughter, and the sentences were reduced to eight years. This decision sparked further debate and controversy, with critics arguing that the lighter sentences were insufficient given the gravity of the crime.

Meanwhile, a fierce campaign for the release of Dean Hancock and Russell Shankland gained momentum, led by figures such as Arthur Scargill, the head of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and Labour MP Tony Benn. Their efforts bore fruit on November 30, 1989, the fifth anniversary of David Wilkie's death, when Hancock and Shankland were released from prison.

The case of David Wilkie's death and the subsequent legal proceedings served as a stark reminder of the complexities and tensions surrounding the miners' strike, highlighting the enduring impact of social unrest and political conflict on individuals and communities. It's just one of many true stories woven into my new geo-political thriller, Death of a Union which spans four decades and collides with the present.

Death of a Union



Andrew Wood

Author & Marketing Legend with over 50 books :I write on: Marketing, Travel, Sales, Success, Biz, Leadership, Golf, Autos, Books, Events