“I’ve killed my fiancée by mistake. She’s dead….. because I’ve killed her. I have strangled her.”
Those were the chilling words of Madog Rowlands to a 999 operator more than 24 hours after he had murdered his partner of four years Lauren Griffiths.
During the time between her death and the call he had withdrawn cash, ordered drugs to be delivered to his home, drunk a bottle of whiskey, ordered takeaways, and attempted to set up a Netflix account.
Meanwhile, Lauren’s naked body was lying on the bedroom floor, partially wrapped in cling film.
To outsiders her killer, a withdrawn but seemingly harmless IT art student, did not fit the profile of a man capable of murder.
But police unearthed a toxic relationship underpinned by controlling behaviour, pagan rituals and suicide pacts.
Lauren Claire Griffiths, 21, was brought up in Oswestry, Shropshire, as one of 10 siblings.
In her short life she had already suffered from abusive relationships, was subjected to controlling behaviour and had been attacked by a previous boyfriend.
It was while attending Coleg Cambria in Wrexham, where she studied sociology and psychology, that she met Madog Rowlands in 2015.
Lauren worked at McDonald’s on the city’s St Mary’s Street and later a British Gas call centre. She was saving for a deposit and in 2018 the pair moved into Flat 1, Glynrhondda Street, Cathays, where she would die at the hands of her lover.
They became engaged in the same year and were due to get married on June 11, 2019 at City Hall with a pagan ceremony at Stonehenge to follow.
At the same Lauren was living with a mental health condition. In 2016 she was diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder and described having dissociative episodes caused by complex trauma.
She gave the different types of episodes names. “Iris” was described as happy and childlike. “Misery”, described a depressed episode and “Ruby” was her name for episodes of heightened sexuality.
She described bouts of anxiety and depression, and had taken an overdose of tablets in 2016.
Despite all this, at the murder trial countless friends described a “happy, hyperactive and chatty” girl who was “always happy and full of life”.
Her family called her a “beautiful, bubbly girl” who loved being part of a large family and was “a real people person.”
Madog Llewellyn Rowlands, 23, lived in Wrexham with his mother, who brought him up alone.
At the time of his arrest he was attending a computer animation course at the University of South Wales in Cardiff.
He worked in McDonald’s restaurants alongside Lauren in Wrexham and Cardiff and worked for a brief period at the Grazing Shed burger restaurant in the capital.
Rowlands was raised with Pagan beliefs and soon introduced his spiritual side to Lauren.
“We shared Pagan or Wicca beliefs,” he said. “My mother introduced me to the religion quite early on, from as long as I can remember.
“I never had a place or worship or serious constructed religions or beliefs but I identified as pagan, I believe in a connection with humanity and the earth,
“When I described my beliefs to her she accepted them and went on to research more on Wiccaism, which is an umbrella term for many beliefs.”
Prosecutor Michael Jones QC said Lauren and Rowlands were both “practicing pagans” and recreational drug users, using substances such as cannabis, LSD and MDMA.
They were described by friends as “inseparable” and one would rarely be seen without the other.
The couple had matching snake tattoos and kept a jar of taxidermy pigs hearts as a symbol of their love.
But unlike his outgoing partner Rowlands was someone who “kept himself to himself”.
Lauren told one friend Madog would “kick off” if she was with anyone else and would be “moody” if she didn’t pay him enough attention.
Financial troubles were said to have led the couple to spend a lot of time in their Glynrhondda Street flat without venturing out.
Friend Sam Williams said: “They were always a very intense couple. They loved each other and couldn’t live without each other.”
In a witness statement another friend Dale Hughes said: “Madog was odd and passive aggressive. He was fine with things on the surface but would be funny in private.
“They were always together. You couldn’t talk to Lauren without him being there, he was always watching.
“Lauren told me they had some problems.”
Another acquaintance Shauna Curtis said: “I believe Madog got jealous when Lauren was with friends and he tried to control her emotions.
“She said she had been with Madog so long that when she wanted to split up with him, she didn’t want to tell him because she didn’t know how he would react.”
The court heard how Rowlands took control of the couple’s finances as Lauren was prone to overspending when suffering from a dissociative episode.
In benefit applications made by Lauren, she said she wasn’t able to go anywhere on her own but was able to go out when accompanied. She said she felt anxious and stressed when outside.
She also said that if she had to attend any appointments, Rowlands had to be present and may have to speak on her behalf.
The ‘suicide pact’
While glimpses into Lauren and Rowland’s relationship suggested to friends there was more going on behind the surface, alarm bells began ringing when Lauren came to them upset one day.
On March 6, 2018, Shauna Curtis received a Facebook message from her friend which said: “I am going through some pretty crazy s***. In the next 24 hours I need to stay away from Madog, my life depends upon it.”
That night, Laura attended the home of friend Stella Perrins and didn’t appear her normal self.
In her witness statement, Ms Perrins said: “Lauren said ‘We’re going to end our lives tonight but I don’t really want to and that’s why I have come over here’.
“She told me I needed to stop Madog taking his own life. She said he wanted to die in a sadistic way, he was going to sell his PlayStation and games and buy loads of drugs to die in a euphoric state.
“She said he told her they should die together and would strangle her to death and stab her so they’d die at the same time.”
Friend Jack Killa said: “She told me the environment she was in was making her unhappy and they were in a bad situation with money. She said she had found happiness which stopped her from wanting to take part in the pact.”
Ms Worthington said: “She said everything in their life had got so down. Madog wasn’t enjoying uni, they had a lot of money problems, and couldn’t see a way out.”
Lauren decided to stay the night at her friend’s house and would head back the flat the next day to see Rowlands.
The first attack
On the morning of March 7, 2018, Lauren went back to the flat in Glynrhondda Street, accompanied by Ms Perrins and Sam Williams.
Mr Williams was the first to walk into the flat, to see what state Rowlands was in.
“Madog was upset,” he said. “He had cut his hair and the flat was a mess. He was just unhinged, sitting still and not speaking. We were worried he would take his own life so we took him out for the day.”
While in the city centre, Rowlands sold his PlayStation and games in CEX for £120 but on the way back to the flat, he became involved in an argument with Mr Williams.
The witness said: “I was frustrated and upset at him over the suicide pact and told him I thought he was being a c*** and he stormed off.”
Lauren ran after him but at around 3.30pm Mr Williams and Ms Perrin received a call from Lauren who was upset.
When they arrived at the flat, she ran out crying and said that Rowlands had “tried to kill her”.
In a 999 call played to the court, Ms Perrins notified the police that Rowlands was trying to kill himself and there had been an “attempted murder”.
The operator asked to speak to Lauren, who said: “He screamed at me ‘Do you want to die?’.
“He kept saying he wanted to kill himself. He went back into the kitchen then I ran out of our back door. I managed to get free by moving sideways so he couldn’t strangle me and just ran.
“I heard him rattling through the cutlery drawer but I ran away because I thought he was going to hurt me.”
Rowlands was arrested on suspicion of common assault at the scene.
In police body worn camera footage played to the court, Rowlands told police: “I tried to kill myself and I tried to kill my partner.
“I strangled her after she broke my laptop. She kicked me in the genitals and then I snapped. She kicked me and I tried to strangle her, I let go before it happened.
“I didn’t want to kill her, I just went mad. It’s never happened before ever in my life.”
Rowlands was released on bail and returned to Wrexham to live with his mother, having been told he was not allowed to contact Lauren.
The victim stayed with friends for several weeks and upon returning to the flat to collect belongings, she found bottles containing a taxidermy octopus and pig hearts had been smashed on the floor, causing the flat to smell of vinegar.
During this period, the couple continued to speak on the phone and through social media, and on one occasion Lauren met up with Rowlands and his mother at a railway station.
Ms Worthington said: “We told her she shouldn’t go back to Madog but she didn’t want people to blame him or hate him. She said what happened was not his fault and was not him. That there were a lot of things going on in his head, they were in a dark place but had managed to get out of it.”
Lauren told police she did not wish to press charges, saying “I am not willing to attend court. I just want Madog to get help.”
After his bail period ended, Rowlands returned to the flat in Glynrhondda Street and Lauren also returned to the flat where the couple resumed their relationship.
Sam Williams told the court: “Lauren would joke about it and say ‘Remember when you tried to kill me’.”
The events leading up to the murder
Josh Bailey said the last time he saw Lauren Griffiths was on April 26, 2019, just days before her death.
He said: “From what I remember it was like any other day as usual. I went round to see them after work and left on the last bus home. We had a good time: me, her and him in their flat.”
On April 28, 2019, Rowlands and Lauren were seen on CCTV in the Lidl store in Maindy Road at around 4.57pm and were seen walking from the shop, along Glynrhondda Street and into their flat at number 13.
CCTV footage of the couple walking along the street was the last time anyone other than the defendant saw her alive.
Sam Williams was also walking along the street at the time but said he had no concerns for Lauren.
He said: “I followed them down to the end of the road and saw them walk into the house.
“They seemed totally normal and happy to me. Nothing caused me to feel concerned or unhappy.”
Between 12.54am and 2.45am, lights inside 13 Glynrhondda Street were caught on CCTV being switched off and on, indicating there was some movement in the flat.
The last person to hear Lauren alive other than Rowlands was neighbour Imogen Mineur who shared a garden with the couple.
She said: “At 2am, I was watching Game of Thrones in my flat and I could hear the female in the garden talking to someone who I presumed to be the male. I believed they were having a cigarette and waiting for Game of Thrones to start.
“I definitely heard the female’s voice. She wasn’t upset, conversation was normal and happy.
“At 3.30am I was still watching Game of Thrones. I could hear the female back out in the garden talking again but she was very subdued and was very quiet for her. She was whispering which was very out of character.
“I thought she was talking to him for 10 minutes and then went back inside.
“I didn’t go to sleep until 5.30am and I didn’t hear anything else. I did not hear anything from their address or any disturbance.”
The next time Rowlands was picked up on camera was at around 8.30am when he was seen leaving the flat.
By this time Lauren was already dead, Rowlands had strangled her to death after waking up at around 7am.
Her body was lying on a mattress on the couple’s bedroom. Paramedics would not find her until gone 6pm the following day.
After setting out from the flat, the defendant walked to T&A stores in Salisbury Road where he bought a bottle of whiskey and bin bags.
He then withdrew £250 from his bank account before returning to the flat. He then proceeded to text a drug dealer to order an ounce of weed and three bags of MDMA.
He later contacted Subway via Just Eat to make an order for food and after 11pm he ordered a Domino’s Pizza to be delivered to the address.
During this period, he consumed LSD, MDMA, cannabis and a bottle of whiskey and attempted to sign up to a Netflix account.
All the while, Lauren’s body lay feet away having been wrapped in bin liners, cling film and sellotape by the defendant.
Rowlands later told the court he made five suicide attempts during this period.
He also made a list, which said: “Get PS3 from other room, smoke more weed, put music on, put on Netflix, first put on music, roll a doob, go and smoke it, move PS3, body spray.”
Writing was also later found on the walls, which Rowlands had written in a drug-induced stupor which he described as “mad scribblings”.
An extract of the writings said: “I know that I have killed her, this will be my plan, I will keep her away from the outside, keep her in plastic, in 14 hours I’ll be joining you, I loved you to the moon and back x 3.”
It also said: “Why did you attack me? She turned into the hypersexual and strangled me. Why didn’t I let her kill me? Now she’s dead. I should have made her go to the doctors”.
Monday, April 29, 2019
12.54am to 2.34am
Lights at 13 Glynrhondda Street are switched on and off
Madog Rowlands appears at front of 13 Glynrhondda Street and walks along road while carrying bag
Madog Rowlands captured on CCTV approaching T&A Stores in Salisbury Road
£250 is withdrawn from bank account belonging to Madog Rowlands
Madog Rowlands is seen walking back to 13 Glynrhondda Street
Madog Rowlands makes order for an ounce of weed and three bags of MDMA via text
Madog Rowlands leaves 13 Glynrhondda Street and walks along road
£60 is withdrawn from a bank account belonging to Lauren Griffiths
Madog Rowlands returns to 13 Glynrhondda Street
Madog Rowlands makes Subway order via Just Eat
Subway delivery arrives at 13 Glynrhondda Street
Drug dealers arrive at 13 Glynrhondda Street and leave five minutes later
Drug dealers return to 13 Glynrhondda Street
Madog Rowlands attempts to set up a Netflix account on mobile phone
Madog Rowlands makes an order with Domino’s Pizza
Delivery from Domino’s Pizza arrives at 13 Glynrhondda Street
The 999 call and discovery of Lauren’s body
At around 6pm on April 30, around 35 hours after Lauren had been killed, Rowlands called 999 and spoke to an operator
He said: “I’ve killed my fiancée by mistake. She’s dead because I’ve killed her. I have strangled her.”
He told the operator he had taken LSD and MDMA.
The defendant added: “I killed Lauren by accident. We got into a fight.”
The operator took Rowlands through CPR with Lauren to try and save her life, believing the incident to have just happened, and the defendant gave the impression he was complying with the operator’s instructions.
But in reality he was trying to remove plastic covering her face and made no physical contact with her.
The first people to reach the flat, at around 6.15pm, were paramedics Nigel Theo and Craig Dunne who had been told there was a woman at the address who was unconscious and not breathing.
Describing events, Mr Dunne said: “There was no immediate answer. I tried the handle of the door and it was locked. I knocked the door again and a male answered
“He appeared nervous, confused, and panicked and he was on the phone. He didn’t say anything and stood to the right-hand side. I asked him where the patient was and he said in the bedroom.
“The door of the bedroom was shut so I tried to push it open. I managed to open it halfway and peered into the bedroom and saw a naked female body lying on the floor.,
“It was positioned on the floor near the window. She was lying on her back with her head leaning towards her left shoulder. Her arm was held out towards the left and her legs were bent up.”
Having established Lauren was dead, Mr Dunne spoke to Rowlands to ascertain what had happened.
“I asked the male when did this happen,” he said. “He gave a nervous laugh and said: ‘It was last night’.
Rowlands told him Lauren had strangled him so he strangled her back.
He said he had taken LSD, MDMA and cannabis and had tried to kill himself with a piece of rope.
Two police officers arrived at the scene and Rowlands was arrested on suspicion of murder at 6.21pm.
One of the officers PC Michael Lord said half Lauren’s body was wrapped in cling film.
Upon arresting Rowlands, PC Lord noticed him sweating a lot and red marks around his neck.
When he asked the defendant if he had been arrested before, he replied: “Yes, for attacking Lauren. Strangling again, it was a while ago’.”
A notepad was later found by officers who discovered a list written by Rowlands.
It said: “I wish I was dead, 999, ambulance, I have killed my fiancée by accident, I tried to kill myself, I’ve taken too much LSD and MDMA, my brain stopped working, 13 Glynrhondda Street, Cathays, Cardiff.”
It later transpired that this was a “prompt” to be used while he was on the phone to the 999 operator.
Lauren’s body was taken to the morgue at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff and a post-mortem was performed by pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbeatter who concluded the likely cause of death was an application of pressure between her chest and neck.
Directly after his arrest, Rowlands was taken to the University Hospital of Wales for treatment and told doctors he had a “fight with his girlfriend” and strangled her before losing consciousness. He said when he woke up she was dead.
The initial police interview took place on May 2, 2019, where a prepared statement was read out on behalf of the defendant.
It said: “On the morning of April 29, 2019, we woke up in bed together as usual. We were naked and snuggling. Lauren had a dissociative personality disorder and was having an episode.
“Her mood changed and she was convulsively hitting her head with her palms. I tried to stop her from doing this and grabbed her hands away from her face.
“In response she strangled me and I couldn’t breathe. I panicked and put my hands around her throat and lost consciousness. I was unaware of my actions and had ingested cannabis, LSD, MDMA and whiskey.
“I had no intention to harm, kill, or hurt Lauren. We were deeply in love. I was trying to defend her from herself and had to defend myself. It was not part of a suicide pact.”
He was transferred to Llandough Hospital and was assessed by psychiatrist Dr Chloe Thomas on May 5, 2019.
In her witness statement, Dr Thomas said: “He said he was starting to make sense of it all and the reasons he did what he did.
“He openly admits murdering his girlfriend and shows no remorse over this.”
Describing his presentation during the assessment, Dr Thomas said: “He was explaining things in a matter of fact way. He was smiling and seemed quite happy.
“He wasn’t upset by things he was describing, the things he had done. He didn’t seem distressed and he was quite cheerful.”
She also told the court that Rowlands said he was “pleased Lauren was gone”.
Rowlands was bailed to his mother’s house in Wrexham, and was later found to have made a number of Google searches while at the property.
These included the terms; credit for guilty plea, mitigation overview, mitigation checklist, mitigation factor, how to show remorse, living a life sentence and parole.
He had also searched for his own name, that of Lauren Griffiths and their friends, as well as accessing Facebook pages belonging to him and Lauren.
Rowlands was officially charged with Lauren’s murder on October 30, 2019.
‘It became immediately apparent to me that she was dead’
The trial took place at Newport Crown Court and began on Tuesday, December 1, and finished on Thursday, December 10.
When giving evidence, Rowlands claimed he and Lauren were “completely in love with one another” and he saw his role as a carer when it came to Lauren’s dissociative personality disorder.
In his account of Lauren’s death, Rowlands said it was a tragic accident carried out as an act of self defence.
He said: “We were snuggling but Lauren had a dissociative episode.
“It was clear to me it was Misery, she was hitting herself with the palm of her hands. It was clear she was in distress and she was making a low grunting sound. She wasn’t saying anything.
“Initially I was shocked but I had experienced this before and seen her in that state before.
“I did what I would normally do which was to stop her from hurting herself.
“I went to grab both of her forearms to stop her from hurting herself.
“As soon as I had put my hands on her forearms she turned on me, she locked eyes with me and she grabbed my throat.
“When she was dissociated she appeared to be stronger than her normal self, I was up against the back wall and couldn’t breathe.”
Rowlands told the court he reacted to try and get Ms Griffiths off him so he could breathe.
He said: “I was attempting to breathe and I couldn’t and at some point, I couldn’t put a time on it, my vision started to blur and I had a horrible sound like a swirling tinnitus ringing in my ears.
“I was sure that I would have been unconscious and I was sure I could have died.”
He added: “I remember falling away to the side and Lauren’s grip on my neck had ceased.
“I was able to draw breath and my vision returned and the first thing I saw was Lauren not breathing.
“It became immediately apparent to me that she was dead.
“It was a horrible emotion that came over me, all of a sudden I began shaking and I didn’t know what to do. It was an overwhelming feeling of ‘I must commit suicide now.”
Verdicts were delivered just after 10.50am on Thursday, December 10, following just under three hours of deliberation.
The jury delivered a unanimous verdict and found Rowlands guilty of count one, murder.
Judge Williams said: “The sentence for those convicted of murder is a sentence of life imprisonment. I must impose the minimum term you must serve before you are considered for release from prison.
“In order to assist me determining how long the tariff will be I am going to order a presentence report and psychiatric report.”
Rowlands will be sentenced at Newport Crown Court on January 8.