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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Hanratty's body to be exhumed
James Hanratty
Hanratty told his brother Michael to clear his name
The body of James Hanratty, hanged 38 years ago for the A6 murder, can be exhumed for DNA tests, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Hanratty was hanged in 1962 for the murder of government scientist Michael Gregsten and was also convicted for the wounding of his mistress Valerie Storie.

The new hearing follows a Criminal Cases Review Commission decision that the court should reconsider one of the UK's longest-running alleged miscarriages of justice.

Exhuming James's body will not further the search for the truth

Hanratty family solicitors
The Crown Prosecution Service applied to have Hanratty's body exhumed, in an attempt to obtain a DNA profile.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, said that it would be "desirable" to exhume the body in the interests of justice. This is expected to take place before Christmas.

The Crown Prosecution Service will apply, to either the Home Secretary or the coroner, for the exhumation.

Although Hanratty's family, who have always protested his innocence, did not oppose the appeal court application, they have said they consider DNA tests unsafe because of possible contamination.

They also argue that an existing positive test, obtained by matching trial exhibit samples with others from the wider Hanratty family, should be disregarded as unreliable.

A spokesman for the family solicitors, Bindman and Partners, said the review commission had been fully aware of the existing DNA match when it had referred the case for appeal.

It had made the point that contamination could not be excluded.

'Belief in his guilt'

"For these reasons, exhuming James's body will not further the search for the truth," said a spokesman for the solicitors.

Hanratty is interred in a plot shared with his aunt, and two of her surviving daughters had strongly opposed the exhumation.

Valerie Storie said on Tuesday she stood by her "total and absolute belief" that Hanratty was guilty.

"James Hanratty was found guilty of murder on the evidence available at the time of his trial and was duly hanged according to the law of the land," she said.

Hanratty was 25 when he was hanged and was one of the last three people executed in Britain before capital punishment was abolished in 1965.

The lovers were together in Mr Gregsten's Morris Minor, which was parked in a cornfield near Maidenhead in Berkshire on the night of 22 August 1961, when they were interrupted by a man with a revolver.

They were forced at gunpoint to drive 60 miles to a lay-by on the A6, between Luton and Bedford, known as Deadman's Hill.

New evidence

At the end of the two-hour trip, Mr Gregsten, 36, was shot dead. Miss Storie was then raped, shot five times at close range and left for dead.

The 22-year-old laboratory assistant survived but was permanently paralysed.

Hanratty was arrested two months later. He was charged, convicted at Bedford Crown Court and sentenced to death.

He claimed he had been 250 miles from the scene at a bed-and-breakfast in Rhyl, north Wales, at the time of the attack.

Valerie Storie
Valerie Storie: Said her memory was fading
The intervening years have seen evidence produced to support claims of a miscarriage of justice.

In 1967 Peter Alphon allegedly confessed to the crime, saying he was asked by someone close to Gregsten's family to frighten the couple.

He has since denied making any such remarks.

Evidence, in the form of 14 witnesses, has also slowly emerged to support claims that Hanratty was in Rhyl on the day in question.

Hanratty's supporters also emphasise that Ms Storie saw her assailant for only a few seconds and identified him only in a second line-up.

She later said her memory of the attacker was fading.

No forensic evidence was found in Mr Gregsten's car linking Hanratty to the crime.

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