Riot accused only there to pay respects to drugs death teenager, court hears

·4-min read

A man on trial for taking part in the Swansea riots has insisted he had nothing to do with the disorder and was only there to “pay his respects” after the death of a local teenager.

Kye Dennis, 25, of Fforestfach, was one of three men who on May 20 last year bought an old black Vauxhall Astra for £250.

Hours after the purchase, the unroadworthy car was being used as part of serious violence that broke out during a vigil for 19-year-old Ethan Powell.

Driven to Waun Wen Road in the city’s Mayhill area, the car was attacked, set alight and sent hurtling down the street.

Over a number of hours, cars were torched and homes vandalised while residents and police officers were intimidated and attacked.

A total of 27 people aged between 15 and 44 were charged with offences relating to riot. Twenty-six of those have since pleaded guilty.

Swansea Crown Court has heard how one of the organisers of Mr Powell’s vigil, Lewis James – who has since pleaded guilty to riot – wrote a social media post encouraging people to “light Swansea up proper for him”.

Swansea disorder
The top of Waun Wen Road, Swansea, where large-scale disorder broke out (Ben Birchall/PA)

Prosecutor Robin Rouch QC told jurors the Vauxhall Astra and another car, a silver Ford KA which was bought for £200, were both purposefully bought to be used in the disturbance.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Dennis said he went with Aaron Phillips, who he ran a recovery and scrap business with, to Carmarthen on the evening of the riot to pick up the car but “didn’t have a clue” how it was going to be used.

“I was just there to do my job, pick the car up and drop it off. I had no idea what was going to happen to that car,” Dennis told the jury.

He said he transported the car back to Swansea on a flat bed lorry and was told by Phillips to drive it to Tan-y-Marian Road, a short distance away from Waun Wen Road.

Dennis said he did not know why he had been asked to park it there and went to Waun Wen Road to meet Phillips and give him the keys.

Phillips is among those who have pleaded guilty to rioting.

Around half an hour after Dennis parked the Astra , video footage played in court showed rioters Connor Beddows, 22, and Jahanzaib Malik, 21, picking the car up and driving it to where the riot was fast escalating.

At this time, Dennis, who was wearing a high-visibility jacket, black body warmer and black baseball hat, can be seen on CCTV footage at the scene of the riot.

Talking about the vigil, Dennis said he had not known Mr Powell but “stayed there for a bit to pay my respects and then left”.

Swansea disorder
Blackened tarmac at the top of Waun Wen Road in Swansea (Ben Birchall/PA)

He claimed he stayed longer because he was waiting for Phillips, who was relying on him for a lift home.

He repeated he did not take part in the violence, throw any objects nor encourage others to do so.

Mr Rouch said: “You knew exactly what was going to happen to the car. You knew the car was going to be used in the disorder.

“You were content to watch what you’d done. Watch the prop you had provided to others.”

The prosecutor pointed to the footage showing Dennis did not leave the riot until at least 15 minutes after the Astra was sent rolling down the hill and said the defendant had “played his part in fuelling the events which took place”.

Dennis insisted: “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

Dennis was arrested by South Wales Police a month after the riot and told officers: “I was there but I didn’t do anything. When it got bad I left. It was disgusting.”

Swansea disorder
Council contractors place heavy concrete barriers at the top of Waun Wen Road (Ben Birchall/PA)

However, he answered “no comment” to all questions during interviews.

When questioned over his decision to answer no comment, including his refusal to name the person who had accompanied him and Mr Phillips to buy the Astra, Dennis said it was because he did not want to “drop anyone in it”.

Mr Powell was found unresponsive at his grandmother’s home on Lambert Road near the city’s marina on May 18 2021. He died later in hospital.

An inquest into his death found he had died of an “unintentional overdose” and a police investigation concluded there was no suspicious circumstances.

During the hearing, Mr Powell’s family reiterated their disapproval of the riot and said they in no way instigated it.

The jury will begin their deliberations on Thursday morning.