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1962: 'A6 murder' trial begins
The man accused of the "A6 murder" has entered a plea of "not guilty" at the start of his trial at Bedfordshire Assizes in Bedford.

James Hanratty denied shooting Michael Gregsten, a physicist, twice in the head last August.

Mr Gregsten's companion, Valerie Storie, was raped, shot and left for dead.

But she survived and picked out Mr Hanratty at an identity parade from her hospital bed, where she lay paralysed from the waist down.

Mr Hanratty has not been charged with the attack on Ms Storie who is expected to give evidence from a wheelchair during the trial.

In his opening statement, prosecution barrister Graham Swanwick QC said Mr Hanratty may have shot the physicist "for no better reason than to possess himself of Mr Gregsten's companion".

'Remarkably clear memory'

The prosecution alleges that, armed with a gun, Mr Hanratty, 25, confronted Mr Gregsten and Ms Storie in a cornfield in Berkshire.

Mr Swanwick said Mr Hanratty then forced Mr Gregsten to drive 60 miles to Deadman's Hill at Clophill in Bedfordshire where he shot the physicist twice in the head.

He then raped and shot Ms Storie, Mr Swanick added.

"Fortunately for justice, you may come to the conclusion that in spite of her ordeal she has a remarkably clear memory of what happened that night," Mr Swanick told the 12-man jury.

Mr Hanratty has always maintained his innocence.

He told police he was 250 miles away in a guest house in Rhyl, North Wales, at the time of the attack.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks during which time approximately 75 witnesses will be called.

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James Hanratty
James Hanratty said he was 250 miles away


In Context
In February 1962 James Hanratty was found guilty and sentenced to death.

After a failed appeal, he was hanged in Bedford Prison in April 1962.

But members of Hanratty's family were convinced of his innocence and campaigned to clear his name.

They uncovered new witnesses supporting his alibi and in 1999 the case was sent back to the Court of Appeal.

Hanratty's body was exhumed for DNA testing against traces found on Valerie Storie's underwear and a handkerchief wrapped around the gun.

After the tests scientists concluded the DNA was 2.5 million times more likely to belong to Hanratty than anyone else.

Hanratty's family argued the evidence could have been contaminated over the years.

But in 2002 Hanratty's conviction was upheld at the Court of Appeal and a bid to take the case to the House of Lords was rejected.

Stories From 22 Jan


 
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