On Easter Monday, 1972, drinking companions Isaac Hughes and James Arthur Waite were in the Rifleman’s Arms.
The two men, one of whom was miner at the Big Pit Colliery, had been there since the afternoon, eating and drinking with the rest of the locals.
As 11pm came around and the pub shut, the pair returned to Mr Hughes’ home only metres away in Rifle Green, Blaenavon.
It was the last time they were seen alive.
Two days later, they were found dead in the living room, sparking a murder investigation which saw 8,000 people interviewed and a team of 70 detectives, crime squad officers and uniformed police working around the clock to find the person responsible.
Now, 47 years later, a detective involved in the case has voiced his fear that the murder may never be solved due to an alleged lack of communication within the police force.
Regulars at the Rifleman’s Arms, Isaac, 70, and James, who was known as Arthur, 50, were known to the town of Blaenavon for their charm.
At the time of their deaths, friends of the pair recounted how a stranger in the pub would often be treated to a pint by Arthur – known as a “happy go lucky man, always ready with a joke or witty remark and willing to play the clown.”
Isaac, or Ike, on the other hand was known locally as a “deep character” who had recently been living in a caravan before buying his house.
A night of drinking for the friends would often end at the pub only metres away from Isaac’s home.
On the night of April 3, 1972, police officers on patrol had spent a number of hours in the area.
But, when the radios remained quiet, with no signs of trouble on the horizon, the team left by 10pm.
Speaking today, a detective who worked on the inquiry but who did not want to be identified, said: “At 11pm the older man couldn’t stand and couldn’t drink another mouthful. So his friends walked him around to Rifle Green.
“This is where the problem started. They got to his place any time between quarter past and half past 11 by the time they stopped talking and left.”
The following day, Isaac’s brother Bert tried and failed to contact his brother. By the time Wednesday came, he made the decision to fetch a ladder and climb through the bedroom window of the one up, one down house.
When he made his way to the living room he found his brother lying motionless on an old sofa, his friend sitting upright in an armchair neaby.
Both had been received blows to the head with a blunt instrument.
The Welsh detective said: “Arthur was sat in a wooden, old type Welsh armchair with open struts all the way round. He was just sat as if he was posed.
“Someone had walked behind him, the person was right handed, and battered him on this [the left side] of the head.
“He had hit him there, I would say 15 times. There were no defensive marks on the hands – in other words the first one had done the job – but he lost his temper 15 times.
“In the meantime Isaac had got up and tried to stop him. [He] had one blow on his temple, one blow which bled. He had been put to lie on an old settee… and had a cushion under his head.
“He had a bit of rag wrapped around the head as well to stop the bleeding.
“You look at that and that gives you the idea that they both knew the person. They had let him in, he had walked behind [Arthur], suddenly turned and hit him.”
By the following day, police were asking every resident in Blaenavon to account for their movements on the night of the murders.
Speaking to the Western Mail at the time, Detective superintendent Val Shortridge described how house to house inquires were covering every home in the town, following his belief the killer lived locally.
Before long, soldiers had joined the search using metal detectors to search ground in the Elgam housing estate.
Mr Shortridge told the newspaper: “We have not been able to determine a motive but robbery has not been ruled out. There could be money missing but we are not aware of it at this stage.
“We have good reason to believe it is a local case and feel it can be solved with the help of local people. We will persist in our inquiries until we have interviewed everyone in Blaenavon.”
But it has now been claimed that even at this stage, vital information from the postmortem had not been taken into account.
Speaking nearly 50 years after the murder, a detective working under Mr Shortridge said: “Both men had been there [in the pub] from about 2pm on the Monday until about 11pm at night.
“They had eaten and they had drunk as much as they could so their systems would have been full. If they had been killed between 12 and 2am or 3am their systems would have been full – their bladders would have been full.
“At the postmortem the pathologist pointed this out. The stomachs were empty, the bladders were empty.
“They were home by 12, they would have gone to sleep and got up the next morning. So, I thought, they were murdered around eight, nine or clock the following morning.”
Despite the postmortem findings, however, the time frame for the investigation was not altered.
As police spoke to every male aged 18 and over in the town, efforts were made to track their whereabouts in the early hours of Monday.
The detective said: “In the meantime the inquiry goes on, everyone was asked where they were at midnight.
“The powers that be wouldn’t accept the mindset that they had made a mistake. When it happened, they said it had happened after [the men] had been taken home.
“I persisted so they got in touch with the pathologist and this time they had a big meeting at headquarters, a big row ensued.
“One month later the whole tone of the inquiry changed as they were looking for where people were [later that morning].”
Over time, the retired detective has also raised questions over the cause of death given for Isaac.
While it has been suggested the pensioner had choked on his own vomit, it has been alleged that the cause of death contradicts the pathologist’s findings.
He said: “The pathologist said Isaac had died not from the head wound but from regurgitating.
“I’ve thought about this for 40 years now and there was nothing in his stomach for him to regurgitate.
“What I think happened was when the person who committed the murder realised what they had done, he couldn’t leave Isaac Hughes alive because they knew him. They picked the cushion up and asphyxiated him.
“He choked so he did in a way.”
During the 18 months of the murder inquiry, an incident room was set up in a local court in Blaenavon. After a shift, officers were fed in a canteen in a nearby engineering works.
Photos taken from the time show officers gathered around a large wooden table, surrounded by stacks of nine-point questionnaires filled out by residents.
Among the lines of inquiry, an Irish family were interviewed after reports they had stayed with Isaac on the evening of Good Friday. But after being found in London and returned to Blaenavon, the individuals and their companions were cleared from the case.
Days later, an identikit picture was released of a man who reportedly called at a house on Easter Monday night asking what street he was on – a quarter of a mile away from the murder scene.
But to no avail.
The detective said: “They went round the town, visitors – anyone that had anything to do with Blaenavon was vigorously interviewed.
“It went on and nothing was ever resolved. We had different members of the public ringing up saying they had the bloke that did the murder, ‘I’ve got a bloke with all blood on him’, and it was just nonsense.”
Out of all the lines of inquiry, the detective alleges that one line of investigation was pursed further and more vigorously than any other and believes this was at the expense of expanding the search’s horizons.
He suggests a friend of Isaac Hughes was interviewed nearly 50 times in desperation for answers.
He said: “They made a list then of persons who could possibly have done it. All the local criminals were seen, they were well-known anyway, and they weren’t put in the frame but Isaac Hughes had a friend who lived nearby.
“He used to look after him and take him a meal and take errands from him.
“They kept a log of everybody that was interviewed at the police station. I counted up the entries one day and he had been interviewed almost 50 times. He didn’t have 100% mental capacity.
“The last time he was there, he said if you f*****g tell me how I killed them I’ll admit it. It was as close as that to breaking him mentally but he didn’t do it.
“The person who did it did the murder in a fit of jealousy.”
In spite of the the efforts of everyone involved, the murder weapon responsible for the deaths of Isaac and Arthur has never been found. After thousands of interviews, no-one has ever been charged.
Now retired from the police force, the detective believes he is one of a small number of people to have kept another suspect in mind.
It is his suspicion that the person responsible may have gone to the house to confront Arthur Waite.
He said: “It was a simple murder made complicated because people wouldn’t sit down and talk about how it happened.
“We had meetings all the time, every day, but here we are 2019 and it’s still undetected and never will because most people alive at the time, police, witnesses, even the chap who did it, I would say, dead.
“It was the only [murder I was involved in] that went undetected.
“I’m not going to live forever and ever and they just made a complete and utter hash of it. They took the wrong line.”
Gwent Police said the investigation into the murders of Isaac Hughes and James Arthur Waite remains open.
A spokesman said: “The original investigation consisted of over 1900 witness statements from Blaenavon residents and over 900 exhibits were taken.
“Our Major Investigation Team continue to conduct a full forensic review, using advanced forensic techniques in an effort to solve this double murder that took place back in April 1972.
“The investigation remains open and we will continue to explore any new leads and forensic advances.
“Over the years, lots of information has been provided by members of the public and we continue to appeal for information from anyone who could help with information about this incident – the smallest detail could help with the breakthrough we need.
“If you can help, please call 101 or you can send a direct message to our Facebook or Twitter social media pages. Crimestoppers is also available for anyone who would like to report information anonymously by calling 0800 555111.”