James Hanratty
Overview
James Hanratty a petty criminal with no history of violence, was the eighth-to-last person in the United Kingdom to be hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

  after being convicted of the murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 of Michael Gregsten at Deadman's Hill on the A6, near the village of Clophill
Clophill
Clophill, is a small village and civil parish located in the Flit river valley, Bedfordshire, England. At this time the village belonged to a group of two or three hamlets – Beadlow, Cainhoe and possibly Moddry.It is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Clopelle; meaning tree-stump Hill in old...

, Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east....

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, on 23 August 1961. Gregsten's mistress Valerie Storie was raped and shot in the same incident; she survived but was left paralysed. Charges on these additional crimes were kept in reserve.
Encyclopedia
James Hanratty a petty criminal with no history of violence, was the eighth-to-last person in the United Kingdom to be hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

  after being convicted of the murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 of Michael Gregsten at Deadman's Hill on the A6, near the village of Clophill
Clophill
Clophill, is a small village and civil parish located in the Flit river valley, Bedfordshire, England. At this time the village belonged to a group of two or three hamlets – Beadlow, Cainhoe and possibly Moddry.It is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Clopelle; meaning tree-stump Hill in old...

, Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east....

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, on 23 August 1961. Gregsten's mistress Valerie Storie was raped and shot in the same incident; she survived but was left paralysed. Charges on these additional crimes were kept in reserve. Hanratty's guilt has long been disputed.

Childhood and adolescence

James Hanratty was one of four sons born to James and Mary Hanratty, then living in Farnborough, Kent. Hanratty's early years had been much troubled. Long before his trial for the A6 murder, he had already been branded a retard, a psychopath, and a pathological liar. By the age of 11, he had been declared ineducable at St James Catholic School, Burnt Oak
Burnt Oak
Burnt Oak is a suburb predominantly in the London Borough of Barnet south of Edgware, although parts of it fall within Brent and Harrow.The name Burnt Oak was first used in 1754 and from then until the 1850s referred to no more than a field on the eastern side of the Edgware Road...

, although his parents steadfastly refused to accept he was in any way mentally deficient and successfully resisted attempts to have their son placed in a school for the educationally sub-normal. After leaving Kingsbury High in 1951 aged 15, Hanratty joined the Public Cleansing Department of Wembley Borough Council, where he worked as a refuse sorter. In July the following year he fell from his bicycle, injuring his head and remaining unconscious for 10 hours; he was admitted to Wembley Hospital for nine days. Shortly after his discharge, he ran away from home to Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

 where he was to find casual work with a road haulier. Eight weeks later he was discovered lying semi-conscious in a street, having apparently collapsed from either hunger or exposure. Initially admitted to the Royal Sussex Hospital, Brighton, he was transferred to St Francis’ Hospital, Haywards Heath
Haywards Heath
-Climate:Haywards Heath experiences an oceanic climate similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.-Rail:Haywards Heath railway station is a major station on the Brighton Main Line...

, where he underwent a craniotomy
Craniotomy
A craniotomy is a surgical operation in which a bone flap is temporarily removed from the skull to access the brain. Craniotomies are often a critical operation performed on patients recording, brain imaging, and for neurological manipulations such as electrical stimulation and chemical...

 following the erroneous diagnosis of a brain haemorrhage. The report made there acknowledged his unhappy home background (he claimed he was frightened of his mother and had no filial feelings towards his father) and his mental deficiency. No precise diagnoses were offered, and it has since been suggested he suffered from either epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

 or post concussional syndrome, which would have had a marked effect on his personality.

Following his embarkation on a career of vehicle theft and housebreaking at the age of 17, Hanratty underwent psychiatric treatment as an outpatient at the Portman Clinic
Tavistock Clinic
The in London was founded in 1920 by Dr. Hugh Crichton-Miller, a psychiatrist who developed psychological treatments for shell-shocked soldiers during and after the First World War. The clinic's first patient was, however, a child. Its clinical services were always, therefore, for both children...

. The treatment was evidently ineffectual; he was soon apprehended and sent to the boys’ wing of Wormwood Scrubs
Wormwood Scrubs
Wormwood Scrubs, known locally as The Scrubs, is an open space located in the north-eastern corner of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in west London. It is the largest open space in the Borough, at 80 ha , and one of the largest areas of common land in London...

, where he slashed his wrists. Placed in the prison hospital, he was declared a ‘potential psychopath’. After his release, his father resigned his job as dustman with Wembley council to start a window cleaning business with his son in a noble but futile attempt to keep him out of crime. At the age of 19, Hanratty was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Durham Prison
Durham (HM Prison)
HM Prison Durham is a local Category B men's prison, located in the Elvet area of Durham in County Durham, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.-History:...

, where again he was identified as a psychopath. Only five months after his release, he was sentenced to three years’ corrective training at Maidstone Prison, where conditions were considered among the best in the UK. While at Maidstone, Hanratty came to the attention of a researcher, a ‘participant observer’ who lived and worked alongside the inmates; he was later to remark upon Hanratty’s ‘gross social and emotional immaturity’. After a failed escape attempt, Hanratty was transferred to Camp Hill Prison, Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...

, and thence, following another bid for freedom, to Strangeways Prison, Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

. Transferred briefly to Durham Prison, he was returned to Strangeways whence, having served his full term, he was released in March 1961, just five months before the A6 murder.

Astonishingly, not one word of Hanratty’s mental history was uttered during the 21 days of his trial for the murder.

The facts

At about 06:45 on 23 August 1961, the body of Michael J. Gregsten (b. 28 December 1924) was discovered in a lay-by on the A6 at Deadman's Hill, near the Bedfordshire village of Clophill
Clophill
Clophill, is a small village and civil parish located in the Flit river valley, Bedfordshire, England. At this time the village belonged to a group of two or three hamlets – Beadlow, Cainhoe and possibly Moddry.It is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Clopelle; meaning tree-stump Hill in old...

; he had been shot twice in the head with a .38 revolver
.38 Special
The .38 Smith & Wesson Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson. It is most commonly used in revolvers, although some semi-automatic pistols and carbines also use this round...

 at point blank range. Lying next to him semi-conscious was his mistress Valerie Storie (b. 24 November 1938). She had been raped and then shot, four times in the left shoulder, and once in the neck, leaving her paralysed below the shoulders.

The evening after the murder, the car Gregsten and Storie had been in at the time, a grey four-door 1956 Morris Minor
Morris Minor
The Morris Minor was a British economy car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948. Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured between 1948 and 1971...

 registration 847 BHN, was found abandoned behind Redbridge tube station
Redbridge tube station
Redbridge tube station is a London Underground station in Redbridge, on the Hainault Loop of the Central line, in Zone 4. It is on the Eastern Avenue....

 in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. The car had been jointly owned by Gregsten's mother and aunt, and loaned to the couple who were preparing a car rally. .

Gregsten was a scientist at the Road Research Laboratory at Slough
Slough
Slough is a borough and unitary authority within the ceremonial county of Royal Berkshire, England. The town straddles the A4 Bath Road and the Great Western Main Line, west of central London...

. Storie was an assistant at the same laboratory and had been having an affair with Gregsten, although this did not become public knowledge until much later. Gregsten lived with his wife Janet and two children at Abbots Langley
Abbots Langley
Abbots Langley is a large village and civil parish in the English county of Hertfordshire. It is an old settlement and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Economically the village is closely linked to Watford and was formerly part of the Watford Rural District...

, whither he had returned in December 1960 after living with Storie for an unspecified period.

Testimony of Valerie Storie

On Tuesday, 22 August 1961, Storie was sitting alongside Gregsten in his car in a cornfield at Dorney Reach
Dorney
Dorney is a village and civil parish within South Bucks district in the English county of Buckinghamshire, near Slough and about two and a half miles west of Eton.The village name is Old English and means "island frequented by bumble bees"...

 in Buckinghamshire. When someone tapped on the car window, Gregsten wound it down. A large black revolver was thrust into his face, and a cockney
Cockney
The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End...

 voice said, "This is a hold-up, I am a desperate man, I have been on the run for four months. If you do as I tell you, you will be all right." The man got in the car and told Gregsten to drive further into the field, then stop. The man then kept them there for two hours, with a constant stream of chatter. At 23:30, the man said he wanted food, and told Gregsten to start driving. They drove around the suburbs of North London, apparently aimlessly. The gunman knew the Bear Hotel, Maidenhead
Maidenhead
Maidenhead is a town and unparished area within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England. It lies on the River Thames and is situated west of Charing Cross in London.-History:...

. The car was ordered to stop at a milk vending machine, then Gregsten was sent into a shop to buy cigarettes, then stop at a petrol station for more fuel. Although Gregsten and Storie offered to give him all their money and the car, the man seemed to have no plan and seemed to want them to stay with him.

The journey continued along the A5 through St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

, which the gunman mistakenly insisted was Watford
Watford
Watford is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, situated northwest of central London and within the bounds of the M25 motorway. The borough is separated from Greater London to the south by the urbanised parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District.Watford was created as an urban...

, before joining the A6. At about 01:30, the car was on the A6, travelling south, when the man said he wanted a 'kip' (sleep). Twice he told Gregsten to turn off the road and then changed his mind, and the car returned to the A6. At Deadman's Hill the man ordered Gregsten to pull into a layby. He at first refused, but the man became aggressive and threatened them with the gun. The man said he wanted to sleep, but said he would have to tie them up. Storie and Gregsten pleaded with him not to shoot them. The man tied Storie's hands behind her back with Gregsten's tie and then saw a bag in the rear of the car with some rope. He told Gregsten to pass the bag but, as Gregsten moved, there were two shots. Gregsten was hit twice in the head and died more or less instantly. According to Storie's testimony, when she asked the gunman why he had shot Gregsten he replied that Gregsten had frightened him by turning too quickly.

After a short while, he ordered Storie into the back, over Gregsten's body, and raped her, then forced her to drag Gregsten's body out of the car. The man then told Storie to show him how to drive the car. It was clear the man either had not driven before or at least was unfamiliar with this model of car, as he did not know how to start it or how to use the pedals or gears properly. This failing, he then ordered Storie out of the car and next to Gregsten's body. She pleaded for her life, and then took a pound note
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 from her pocket and screamed, "Here, take this, take the car and go." The man then emptied the gun at Storie in the darkness. Of approximately seven bullets fired, five hit her body (causing injuries that were to paralyse her permanently from below the shoulders). She slumped down next to Gregsten, and pretended to be dead. Valerie Storie then heard the man drive off with much crashing of gears, and lay there petrified, finally passing out three hours later. She was discovered by a farm labourer, Sydney Burton, at 06:45 next morning. He ran down the road and summoned John Kerr, a student occupied with taking a road census. Kerr flagged down two cars, shouting at them to get an ambulance.

The investigation

The first policeman on the scene was handed a piece of paper, a census form. Kerr had written down Storie's gasped account of what she recalled at that moment. The document was never seen again. She gave another statement to the police later that morning, just before she underwent surgery in Bedford Hospital. Almost at once, the evidence began to throw up anomalies. Storie recalled what the man had said about being on the run for four months, yet he was immaculately dressed in a dark three-piece suit and with well-shone shoes. Also, there appeared to be a complete lack of motive.

The gun was then recovered on the evening of 24 August, under the back seat of a 36A London bus, fully loaded and wiped clean of fingerprints. There was also a handkerchief found with the gun which was to provide DNA evidence many years later. The police put out an appeal to boarding-house keepers to report any strange or suspicious guests. One hotel manager reported a man who had locked himself in his room for five days after the murder, and the police picked him up, and he said his name was Frederick Durrant, but this turned out to be false and he was actually called Peter L. Alphon. He claimed he had spent the evening of 22 August with his mother, and the following night in a scruffy hotel in Maida Vale
Maida Vale
Maida Vale is a residential district in West London between St John's Wood and Kilburn. It is part of the City of Westminster. The area is mostly residential, and mainly affluent, consisting of many large late Victorian and Edwardian blocks of mansion flats...

 called the 'Vienna'. The police quickly confirmed this and Alphon was released.

On 29 August, Valerie Storie and another witness, Edward Blackall, who had seen the driver of the Morris Minor, compiled an Identikit
Facial composite
A facial composite is a graphical representation of an eyewitness's memory of a face, as recorded by a composite artist. Facial composites are used mainly by police in their investigation of crimes.-PhotoFIT generation:...

 picture which was then released. However, two days later, she gave a different description to police.

On 7 September, Ms Meike Dalal was attacked in her home in Richmond
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is a London borough in South West London, UK, which forms part of Outer London. It is unique because it is the only London borough situated both north and south of the River Thames.-Settlement:...

, Surrey, by a man claiming to be the A6 murderer (whom she identified as Alphon in an identity parade on 23 September). The investigation then stalled until 11 September, when the owner of the Vienna Hotel, Maida Vale, found two cartridge cases in the guest basement bedroom, which were matched to the bullets that killed Gregsten and also matched the ones in the gun found on the bus. The manager, William Nudds, made a statement to police naming the last occupant of the room as James Ryan. At the trial Nudds also stated that the man, upon leaving, had asked the way to a bus stop for a 36A bus, though his statement to police had merely mentioned the 36 bus. Nudds' statement also said that Alphon had stayed in the hotel as he claimed, but had stayed in his room, Room 6, all night. The police raided the hotel, and questioned Nudds again, who then changed his story, claiming that Alphon had in fact been in the basement and Ryan in Room 6, but then the two had swapped rooms during the night. Nudds also now said that Alphon had left 'calm and composed'.

The police then took the unusual step of publicly naming Alphon as the murder suspect. Alphon subsequently turned himself in, and was subjected to an intensive interrogation. Valerie Storie failed to pick him out of an identity parade, and he was released four days later. During the four days he was held on the charge of assaulting Meike Dalal, he is recorded by PC Ian Thomson as saying "there can't have been any fingerprints in the car otherwise mine would have given me away". Police went back to Nudds, the hotel employee (himself the owner of a criminal record for fraud), who now said that his second statement was a lie, and his first statement, implicating Ryan, was in fact true. His reason for lying was that he had seen that Alphon was the police's prime suspect and wanted to assist their case. After some investigation, Ryan turned out to be James Hanratty, a car thief and burglar, who in fact was wanted on suspicion of two offences of burglary. He phoned Scotland Yard, saying he ran because he had no credible alibi for the time in question, but repeated several times that he had nothing to do with it. He was eventually caught in Blackpool
Blackpool
Blackpool is a borough, seaside town, and unitary authority area of Lancashire, in North West England. It is situated along England's west coast by the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, northwest of Preston, north of Liverpool, and northwest of Manchester...

 at the Stevonia cafe on 11 October, and on 14 October Valerie Storie picked him out of an identity parade, after each of the men in the parade had repeated the phrase used by the murderer, "Be quiet, will you? I'm thinking." Hanratty, with his cockney accent, pronounced thinking as 'finking', as had the murderer.

The trial

Hanratty was charged with the murder of Gregsten, and his trial started at Bedfordshire Assizes on 22 January 1962. It had originally been planned for the Old Bailey
Old Bailey
The Central Criminal Court in England and Wales, commonly known as the Old Bailey from the street in which it stands, is a court building in central London, one of a number of buildings housing the Crown Court...

, and it is not known why it was re-sited to Bedfordshire, where there was, unsurprisingly, strong feeling against the defendant. Among the prosecution team at the trial was Geoffrey Lane
Geoffrey Lane, Baron Lane
Geoffrey Dawson Lane, Baron Lane AFC PC QC was a British Judge who served as Lord Chief Justice of England from 1980 to 1992. The later part of his term was marred by a succession of disputed convictions...

, who was subsequently appointed Lord Chief Justice
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the head of the judiciary and President of the Courts of England and Wales. Historically, he was the second-highest judge of the Courts of England and Wales, after the Lord Chancellor, but that changed as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005,...

.

Hanratty's initial defence was that he had been in Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 on the day of the murder, but then, halfway through the trial, he changed part of his story, claiming that he had in fact been in Rhyl
Rhyl
Rhyl is a seaside resort town and community situated on the north east coast of Wales, in the county of Denbighshire , at the mouth of the River Clwyd . To the west is the suburb of Kinmel Bay, with the resort of Towyn further west, Prestatyn to the east and Rhuddlan to the south...

 in North Wales. At that time there was no conclusive forensic evidence to connect Hanratty with the car or the murder scene. Although Hanratty's blood group was the same as the murderer's, it was a common blood type shared by half the population, and there was no evidence that Hanratty had ever been in the Maidenhead area. Although he was a professional thief, he had no convictions for violence, and apparently had never had a gun. Moreover, the murderer drove badly, whereas Hanratty was an experienced car thief. Hanratty did not know either of the two victims, and did not appear to have any logical motive to commit the murder.

First defence – The Liverpool alibi

Hanratty claimed that he was staying with friends in Liverpool at the time of the murder, where he had also gone to see one of his criminal friends and prior cell mate Terry McNally from the Dingle to sell some jewellery through. The best evidence was that he was there at least on the afternoon of the 22nd. Hanratty claimed that his suitcase had been handed in to Lime Street Station
Liverpool Lime Street railway station
Liverpool Lime Street is a railway station serving the city centre of Liverpool, England. The station lies on a branch of the West Coast Main Line from London Euston, and on the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail network...

 by a 'man with a withered or turned hand'. At the trial the prosecution called Peter Stringer, who had an artificial arm, but who denied ever having seen the suitcase or Hanratty. However, there was another person called William Usher, who did have two fingers missing from one hand, which looked withered. He did admit to remembering Hanratty and the suitcase, and remembered the name of the man as 'Ratty'; he was located by private detectives working for the defence, but was never called as a witness.

Hanratty said he had called into a sweetshop in Scotland Road and asked directions to 'Carleton' or 'Tarleton' Road. The Police tracked down a Mrs Dinwoodie, who did indeed run a sweetshop in Scotland Road, who recalled a man like Hanratty asking for directions. However, she was unsure whether it was Monday 21st or Tuesday 22nd. On the other hand, there was also plenty of evidence that Hanratty had been in London all day on Monday 21st. In the morning he had definitely collected a suit from a dry cleaners' in Swiss Cottage; he had definitely been to his friend Charles France's house on the Monday afternoon, and at the Vienna Hotel in the evening. This defence therefore claimed that he could not have travelled to Liverpool to the sweetshop incident and then back in time to commit the murder at 9 p.m. on Tuesday. However, there was still doubt where Hanratty spent the evening of Tuesday 22nd. Just before the defence opened its case, Hanratty changed part of his alibi.

Second defence – The Rhyl alibi

Hanratty stated to his defence barrister that he had invented part of the Liverpool story as he was unsure he could prove where he was. He then stated that he had in fact been in the Welsh coastal town of Rhyl
Rhyl
Rhyl is a seaside resort town and community situated on the north east coast of Wales, in the county of Denbighshire , at the mouth of the River Clwyd . To the west is the suburb of Kinmel Bay, with the resort of Towyn further west, Prestatyn to the east and Rhuddlan to the south...

. Within a few days, the defence had checked and assembled a new alibi for Hanratty. According to this, Hanratty had gone to Rhyl to sell a stolen watch to a 'fence
Fence (criminal)
A fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, sometimes in a legitimate market. The fence thus acts as a middleman between thieves and the eventual buyers of stolen goods who may or may not be aware that the goods are stolen. As a verb, the word describes the...

'. He had arrived there late in the evening of Tuesday 22nd and had stayed in a boarding house near the railway station, in the attic room, which had a green bath. Private detectives tracked down a Mrs Grace Jones, a landlady with a guest house whose layout exactly matched the description given by Hanratty, including the green bath in the attic. She remembered a man resembling Hanratty, and was sure it was during the week of 19–26 August.

Following the prosecution's dropping of the book's leaves all over the court, her hotel registers and accounts were in chaos, and little information could be extracted from them; and worse, the prosecution produced a string of witnesses who showed that all the rooms were fully occupied at the time. The prosecution accused Mrs Jones of lying simply to gain publicity for her guest house, leaving her almost in tears. However, counsel for the defence managed to salvage something, showing in fact the attic was empty on the night of the 22nd and a bedroom exactly described by Hanratty was free on the 23rd, showing that he could have stayed there as claimed. Eventually, the jury retired, and after six hours returned to ask the judge for the definition of 'reasonable doubt'. They returned to the court and entered a unanimous verdict of guilty, after nine hours. Hanratty's appeal was dismissed on 13 March, and despite a petition signed by more than 90,000 people, Hanratty was hanged by executioner Harry Allen at Bedford on 4 April 1962, still protesting his innocence.

Prosecution evidence

  • In the second line up, Valerie Storie picked Hanratty (though she admitted she only ever saw the face of the man for a second or two in the lights of a car headlamp while he raped her).
  • John Skillet picked out Hanratty as the driver of the Morris Minor as it sped down Eastern Avenue (his companion, Edward Blackall, who had a closer view of the man, did not).
  • James Trower identified Hanratty as driving the Morris as it turned into Redbridge Lane (Trower's companion was adamant that Trower couldn't have seen him from where they were standing).
  • Another prosecution witness was Roy Langdale, who was serving time in prison, and claimed that Hanratty confessed to him. (Two others that Hanratty exercised with said that Hanratty consistently denied any involvement.)
  • Charlie France, a friend of Hanratty's, testified that Hanratty had said to him once that 'the back seat of a bus was a good place to hide something'.

Defence evidence

  • No witnesses (with the sole exception of Valerie Storie) were able to place Hanratty in the vicinity of Dorney Reach.
  • Elsie Cobb said that around 14:30 on 21 August she saw a man passing her house who she described as aged 27 to 30, 5 foot 6 with dark hair brushed back and a thin nose. Her neighbour Frederick Newell added that the man had a sallow complexion.
  • The gunman said "I've been in institutions since I was eight": Hanratty would not use words like "institutions".
  • Mary Lanz, proprietor of the Old Station Inn, Taplow where Gregsten and Storie had last been before the cornfield was later able to identify Alphon as having also been there.
  • Even if the Rhyl alibi is disregarded, Hanratty's meeting with Olive Dinwoodie would make his presence in Dorney Reach by 9 p.m. extremely implausible.
  • On Thursday 24 August at 20:40 Hanratty sent a telegram from Lime Street, Liverpool in which he purported to be in London.
  • In the first line up, Valerie Storie picked out with total certainty an innocent airman instead of the police suspect Alphon.
  • In the second line up, Hanratty stood out as his hair was bright orange and the police were so concerned about this they considered acquiring skullcaps.
  • Although the cartridge cases were found in the Hotel Vienna, no-one ever adequately explained how they came to be there on the day before the murder.
  • Hanratty disposed of his suit jacket six weeks after the crime; Alphon disposed of his raincoat straight away.
  • Unlike the gunman's description of himself, Hanratty had never lived in a house with a cellar (let alone been locked in one and given only bread and water), was not coming up for PD
    Preventive detention
    Preventive detention is an imprisonment that is not imposed as the punishment for a crime, but in order to prevent a person from committing a crime, if that person is deemed likely to commit a crime....

    , had not served five years for housebreaking and had already been in prison on the Isle of Wight.
  • Valerie Storie had said that Jim was obviously not the gunman's real name despite what the gunman claimed.
  • Juliana Galves said she saw Alphon with a pair of black gloves on his suitcase during his stay in the Vienna.
  • Peter Alphon wrote to the Daily Express in 1962 saying he believed Hanratty was innocent and he supported a reprieve.
  • Alphon wrote to the Home Secretary in 1962 saying "I killed Gregsten".
  • In her original statement, Valerie Storie states the man who abducted her was in his 30s, whereas in her second statement she changed this to 'mid 20s'. James Hanratty was 25 but Peter Alphon was 31.

Evidence emerging after Hanratty's execution

A group of people called the 'A6 Defence Committee' was set up to assist Hanratty in his defence. It was instrumental in uncovering new evidence, albeit too late. Twelve years after the execution, the Committee discovered the original statement made by Valerie Storie, which was neither referred to nor available at the trial or the appeal.

By 1968, the A6 Committee had found six substantial witnesses to testify that Hanratty had been to Rhyl
Rhyl
Rhyl is a seaside resort town and community situated on the north east coast of Wales, in the county of Denbighshire , at the mouth of the River Clwyd . To the west is the suburb of Kinmel Bay, with the resort of Towyn further west, Prestatyn to the east and Rhuddlan to the south...

. They had also found a fair
Fair
A fair or fayre is a gathering of people to display or trade produce or other goods, to parade or display animals and often to enjoy associated carnival or funfair entertainment. It is normally of the essence of a fair that it is temporary; some last only an afternoon while others may ten weeks. ...

ground worker called Terry Evans who admitted to letting Hanratty stay at his house early in 1961, and to fencing a stolen watch for him. Another man, Trevor Dutton, had just made a payment into his bank account
Bank account
A Bank account is a financial account recording the financial transactions between the customer and the bank and the resulting financial position of the customer with the bank .-Account types:...

, and consequently his bank book was stamped with the correct date, 23 August, when minutes later he was approached by a man with a cockney accent in a smart suit, trying to sell a gold watch.

The problem here for the conviction was that there were now six witnesses who could positively say they had seen or spoken to Hanratty on the 23rd, and what is more, that the day in question was the only day that all six were in Rhyl at the same time.

Who killed Gregsten?

During 1962, the case caught the interest of a businessman called Jean Justice. Justice tracked down Peter Alphon in February 1962, and began a long friendship with him for the purposes of establishing the truth. Justice attended the trial every day, being driven there by his chauffeur, and Alphon accompanied him from time to time. Slowly, over the months, Alphon began to confess to Justice, including drawing diagrams of the murder scene and demonstrating precise knowledge of details of the events on Deadman's Hill. Justice took the precaution of making thorough notes, and recording all telephone conversations with Alphon.

When Alphon found out, he flew into a rage. As it got closer to Hanratty's execution date, Alphon's behaviour became more and more bizarre. He started to bombard his own solicitor with threatening phone calls and letters, and Charles France was also bombarded with phone calls, with the message: "If Hanratty dies, you die." France, who had suffered from bouts of severe depression for many years, committed suicide by gassing himself (his third attempt) about two weeks before the execution. He wrote a suicide letter to Hanratty; the letter was full of spite and venom, but at no point actually accused him of committing the murder. France left behind several letters for his family, the contents of which have never been made public.

Alphon's account

Alphon's continued confessions formed a picture. According to him, a man had paid him a sum of £5,000 to end the affair between Gregsten and Storie. Another man obtained a gun for Alphon, and Alphon had set off and hijacked the pair. According to Alphon, he gave Gregsten two chances to get away but "each time the bloody man kept coming back". He claimed the gun went off by accident. There was a plan for this eventuality: Alphon says he travelled to Southend and gave the gun to France, who was to dispose of it. France had a grudge against Hanratty, who had had an affair with France's daughter, so he planted the gun under the bus seat and the two cartridges in the hotel.

On 22 August 1962 Alphon visited the Hanratty family and offered to compensate them for their son's death. They threw him out of their house and in a fracas the following day, Alphon assaulted Mary Hanratty. A BBC Panorama programme in 1966 included extracts from the Jean Justice tapes. In May 1967 there was a bizarre press conference, in which Alphon confessed to the world media and related the full story of the gun, the £5,000 and France's involvement. Alphon stuck with his confession and continued to repeat it up to about 1971. He subsequently withdrew his claims. Sceptics noted that he had been paid considerable sums of money by Justice and had recanted after he had secured his payments. However, Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden is a British investigative journalist. Formerly a reporter with the New Musical Express, Woffinden has specialized since the 1980s in investigating miscarriages of justice. He has written about a number of high-profile cases in the UK, including James Hanratty, Philip English, Sion...

 writes (in Chapter 20 at page 332 in the paperback) that there was only one occasion when Justice and Jeremy Fox supported Alphon financially (when Fox paid a hotel bill for him). Alphon was also to decline money and publicity when offered the opportunity to appear on national TV being interviewed by David Frost
David Frost
Sir David Frost is a British broadcaster.David Frost may also refer to:*David Frost , South African golfer*David Frost , classical record producer*David Frost *Dave Frost, baseball pitcher...

 on 16 November 1967.

The A6 Committee made a list of facts which, they contended, indicated that Alphon was the murderer:
  • Alphon resembled the Identikit pictures more than Hanratty did;
  • When stressed, Alphon lapsed into Cockney;
  • Alphon never produced a convincing alibi;
  • He provided a more credible motive than Hanratty could;
  • He was a poor driver;
  • Paul Foot
    Paul Foot
    Paul Mackintosh Foot was a British investigative journalist, political campaigner, author, and long-time member of the Socialist Workers Party...

     obtained a copy of his bank account, showing that Alphon received payments in cash totalling £7,569 between October 1961 and June 1962. Alphon was unable to account for £5,000 of these payments.


The A6 Committee have claimed that the police refused to investigate Alphon's confessions and credibility in the light of this material. In the London Review of Books, 11 December 1997 (p. 37), Paul Foot warned "against jumping to hasty conclusions, in particular about Peter Alphon... he really didn't know as much as he pretended. He certainly didn't know what he alleged – that Mrs Gregsten was the prime mover in commissioning the murder."

Official Inquiries

Three Home Office inquiries
Public inquiry
A Tribunal of Inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by a government body in Common Law countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland or Canada. Such a public inquiry differs from a Royal Commission in that a public inquiry accepts evidence and conducts its hearings in a more...

 have been set up. Detective Superintendent Douglas Nimmo reported on 22 March 1967, Lewis Hawser QC reported on 10 April 1975 and Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Matthews reported on 29 May 1996. The Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

 Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 received the first two and Michael Howard
Michael Howard
Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne, CH, QC, PC is a British politician, who served as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from November 2003 to December 2005...

 received the third. On 19 March 1997, the Home Office referred the case to the new Criminal Cases Review Commission
Criminal Cases Review Commission
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an non-departmental public body set up following the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice itself a continuation of the May Inquiry. It aims to investigate possible miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

 where Baden Skitt chaired the investigation. The Hanratty family acting through their solicitor, Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Geoffrey Bindman
Professor Sir Geoffrey Lionel Bindman QC is a British solicitor specialising in human rights law, and founder of the human rights law firm Bindmans LLP, described by The Times as "never far from the headlines." He has been Chair of the British Institute of Human Rights since 2005...

, repeatedly called for further inquiries into the case.

DNA evidence and appeal in 2002

The case for Hanratty's innocence was pursued by his family as well as by some of the opponents of capital punishment in the United Kingdom
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from the creation of the state in 1707 until the practice was abolished in the 20th century. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder...

, who maintained that Hanratty was innocent and sought to draw attention to evidence that would cast doubt on the validity of his conviction. However, following an appeal by his family, modern testing of DNA from his exhumed corpse and members of his family convinced Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal of England and Wales
The Court of Appeal of England and Wales is the second most senior court in the English legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom above it...

 judges in 2002 that his guilt was proved "beyond doubt". Paul Foot and some other campaigners continued to believe in Hanratty's innocence and argued that the DNA evidence could have been contaminated, noting that the small DNA samples from items of clothing, kept in a police laboratory for over 40 years "in conditions that do not satisfy modern evidential standards", had had to be subjected to very new amplification techniques in order to yield any genetic profile. However, no DNA other than Hanratty's was found on the evidence tested, contrary to what would have been expected had the evidence indeed been contaminated.

Hanratty's family continue to press for a review of his conviction.

In 1991 Bedfordshire Police allowed Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden is a British investigative journalist. Formerly a reporter with the New Musical Express, Woffinden has specialized since the 1980s in investigating miscarriages of justice. He has written about a number of high-profile cases in the UK, including James Hanratty, Philip English, Sion...

 access to their previously undisclosed files on the case. The CCRC report had also revealed the mileage on the Morris Minor which invalidated Skillet's sighting in Brentwood
Brentwood, Essex
Brentwood is a town and the principal settlement of the Borough of Brentwood, in the county of Essex in the east of England. It is located in the London commuter belt, 20 miles east north-east of Charing Cross in London, and near the M25 motorway....

 and Trower's in Redbridge Lane. Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden
Bob Woffinden is a British investigative journalist. Formerly a reporter with the New Musical Express, Woffinden has specialized since the 1980s in investigating miscarriages of justice. He has written about a number of high-profile cases in the UK, including James Hanratty, Philip English, Sion...

 writes that there is no evidence that they even saw the same Morris Minor. These anomalies were considered sufficiently significant to justify an appeal against the conviction on behalf of Hanratty's family.

The surviving exhibits from the trial were lost until 1991, when they were found in envelopes in a laboratory drawer. DNA was donated by Hanratty's relatives, which they expected to exonerate him when compared with material on surviving evidence. Results from testing in June 1999 were said to be equivocal.

Hanratty's body was exhumed in 2001 in order to extract DNA. This was compared with mucus
Mucus
In vertebrates, mucus is a slippery secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. Mucous fluid is typically produced from mucous cells found in mucous glands. Mucous cells secrete products that are rich in glycoproteins and water. Mucous fluid may also originate from mixed glands, which...

 preserved in the handkerchief within which the murder weapon had been found wrapped. It was also compared with semen
Semen
Semen is an organic fluid, also known as seminal fluid, that may contain spermatozoa. It is secreted by the gonads and other sexual organs of male or hermaphroditic animals and can fertilize female ova...

 preserved in the underwear worn by Storie when she was raped. No scientific evidence from the crime had previously been linked to Hanratty, yet DNA samples from both sources matched Hanratty's DNA. At the subsequent appeal hearing Michael Mansfield
Michael Mansfield
Michael Mansfield QC is an English barrister. A republican, vegetarian, socialist, and self-described "radical lawyer", he has participated in prominent and controversial court cases and inquests involving accused IRA bombers, the Bloody Sunday incident, and the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes...

 QC, the barrister acting for the Hanratty family, admitted that if contamination could be excluded the DNA evidence demonstrated that Hanratty had committed the murder and rape. He argued that the evidence may have been contaminated because of lax handling procedures. Among the surviving evidential items a vial had been broken which could account for contamination. However, neither sample yielded DNA from any second male source, as would presumably have been expected if another male had committed the crimes and the samples had subsequently been contaminated.

The argument for contamination was dismissed as "fanciful" by the judges, who concluded that the "DNA evidence, standing alone, is certain proof of guilt".
Hanratty's family and their supporters have continued to contest this conclusion.

Peter Alphon died in January 2009 following a fall at his home. The following month Richard Ingrams
Richard Ingrams
Richard Ingrams is an English journalist, a co-founder and second editor of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, and now editor of The Oldie magazine.-Career:...

, a close friend and colleague of Paul Foot, wrote a brief article about Alphon's part in the case in The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

. Ingrams said that Alphon, in conversations with Foot and others, had spoken obsessively about the case, frequently incriminating himself. Ingrams said that Foot continued until his own death to believe in Hanratty's alibi, despite the DNA tests of 2002.

External links

Various websites have taken this cause on:
  • Deadman's Hill is located at (52°02′20"N 00°26′04"W 1).
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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