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The BBC's Louise Bevan
"His family have campaigned tirelessly to clear his name"
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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"His family and campaigners say the DNA tests will not be conclusive"
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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:58 GMT
Hanratty body exhumed for tests
Carpenters Park Cemetery, Bushey, Herts
Police have cordoned off the scene
Police have exhumed the body of convicted killer James Hanratty to try to prove he was the infamous A6 murderer.

They intend to carry out forensic tests to put an end to decades of speculation about his innocence.

The remains were driven away in a van
Hanratty was hanged in 1962 after being found guilty of murdering scientist Michael Gregsten, 36, and of raping his lover Valerie Storie, 22.

He always denied he was responsible for the murder in Bedfordshire - claiming he was 250 miles away at the time, in a guest house in Rhyl, north Wales.

Hanratty's body was loaded into a black ambulance after a dawn exhumation on Thursday and taken to an undisclosed mortuary.

Police also removed the body of Hanratty's aunt, Annie Cunningham, from the grave they shared in Carpenters Park cemetery, near Bushey, Hertfordshire.

Coffins lifted

Hanratty was hanged in 1962 after being found guilty of murdering scientist Michael Gregsten, 36, and of raping his lover Valerie Storie, 22.

Police believe DNA recovered from his remains will prove Hanratty was guilty despite his denials.

A white marquee was erected over the grave and a lifting gantry was used to remove the coffins.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman at the scene said that the operation to remove Hanratty's body took longer than expected because his grave was waterlogged.

Forensic experts

His aunt's body was removed first and taken to a chapel of rest.

Some family members had attended the grave for a memorial service, described as "a time of prayer, commendation and blessing for Annie Cunningham and James Hanratty".

About 20 police and forensic experts took part in the operation, and digging was carried out by a handful of cemetery staff, the spokeswoman added.

Hanratty, 25 when he died, protested his innocence until his death and his family has been attempting to clear his name ever since.

James Hanratty
James Hanratty asked his family to clear his name
The killer forced Mr Gregsten and Ms Storie to drive from Maidenhead in Berkshire to a lay-by on the A6 before shooting them.

Hanratty claimed he was not present at the murder scene - Deadman's Hill, on the A6 in Bedfordshire - on 22 August, 1961, but was 250 miles away in Rhyl, North Wales.

Re-interment of the remains of Hanratty and his aunt will take place later on Thursday.

Hanratty's mother and brother have both given DNA samples to enable a comparison with traces of DNA found on Valerie Storie's underwear and a handkerchief wrapped around the murder weapon.

The comparison showed a match.

Another match on Hanratty's remains could provide compelling evidence of his guilt.

But his family say the results are meaningless because of the possibility of contamination since 1961.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case back to the Court of Appeal to review new scientific evidence, including DNA, and a hearing is expected later this year.

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