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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Hanratty's seaside alibi
Hanratty family members
James Hanratty's family took his appeal to court
News Online Wales examines the details of James Hanratty's alibi which he said put him in the north Wales seaside resort of Rhyl at the time of the A6 murder in 1961.

James Hanratty had lied to police about his whereabouts on the night of the murder of Michael Gregsten, leaving himself exposed and tragically unable to reverse his fateful conviction.

But Hanratty's change of story that he was in Rhyl on the night of 22 August 1961 - when Michael Gregsten was shot and Valerie Storie was raped - became a cornerstone of the family's appeal to clear his name in the High Court.

Valerie Storie, pictured in 1962
Valerie Storie: Conviction relied largely on her memory

Supporters claim witness reports of Hanratty in the north Wales seaside resort on the day of the murder had not been properly followed up.

Hanratty's claim that he was 250 miles away from the murder scene at a country lane on the A6 in Bedfordshire was dismissed during the trial as a lie.

But journalist Bob Woffinden re-traced Hanratty's footsteps in detail in his book Hanratty: The Final Verdict, giving a different perspective on events.

In the summer of 1961, Hanratty's habit for petty thieving brought him to Liverpool to sell jewellery to raise some money.

Days earlier, Hanratty had found himself in Cardiff, on the run from the police after stealing a car.

Penniless, he spent the night in the Bute Street Salvation Army Hostel before obtaining a new National Insurance card at the Labour Exchange in the morning.

We thought what a shocking thing it (the murder) was

James Hanratty
He then hitched a ride in a lorry to Liverpool, where he broke into a large house, stealing silver.

Hanratty sold some items at a jeweller's and then sought out a local villain in Rhyl he knew called Terry Evans on 25 July.

He asked Evans to help him find a job at Rhyl's Ocean Beach amusement park, but he quit as a dodgems attendant after one night, complaining the seafront was "draughty".

Hanratty then went back to London, but repeated his trip to the north west a month later in August for three days from 22-24 August - covering the time of the A6 murder.

According to Woffinden, he went back to Liverpool to try and sell more jewellery, through a man called McNally.

But his efforts were in vain and Hanratty impulsively jumped on a Crosville bus bound for Rhyl, to seek out Terry Evans once again to sell the jewellery to.

But Evans had left his job at the fairground and a frustrated Hanratty spent the night at a guesthouse in the resort, run by Grace Jones in Kinmel Street.

Michael Hanratty, brother
Michael Hanratty: Family campaign to clear name

In the morning, he went to a barber's shop for a shave and then had lunch at a cafe called Dixie's, which was frequented by Evans.

In the afternoon, Hanratty passed time in Rhyl's amusement arcades and visited Woolworth's store.

Having failed to find Evans, Hanratty returned to Dixie's for another coffee before spending a second night in Rhyl.

The following morning, more than 36 hours after the A6 murder had taken place, Hanratty returned to Liverpool and bought a ticket for the midnight train back to London.

Before he left, he sent a telegram to a friend, Dixie France, in Finchley Road, London, saying he would be back on Friday.

He spent part of the journey talking to two cockney plumbers, who boarded the train at Stafford.

Ironically, they discussed details of the A6 murder. "We thought what a shocking thing it was", Hanratty later told police.

Michael Sherrard, defence barrister
Michael Sherrard: Fought defence case in 1962

After arriving back in London, he visited Mr France in Finchley Road and Hanratty later claimed he was shown the telegram he had sent.

A series of police inquiries later led officers to arrest Hanratty for Gregsten's murder.

It was not until 7 February that details of Hanratty's Rhyl alibi were disclosed to the general public.

But the witnesses who came forward to give statements to police were not made known to the defence team.

Hanratty's defence relied heavily on the testimony of Grace Jones, the B&B landlady in Rhyl, who could clearly recall Hanratty.

Her credibility was undermined in court - fair-haired Hanratty had dyed his hair before going to Liverpool and Mrs Jones failed to recognise him in a police photograph; she was accused of drumming up publicity for the B&B; and her visitors' book was messed up by the prosecution.

Bob Woffinden concluded that police efforts were not directed towards investigating Hanratty's Rhyl alibi, but a "determined demolition of it".

  • A BBC Horizon documentary on James Hanratty will be broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 16 May at 2100BST.

  • See also:

    10 May 02 | Wales
    Court dismisses Hanratty appeal
    10 May 02 | Wales
    Hanratty appeal ruling due
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