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1999: Hanratty family wins right to appeal

The case of James Hanratty has been sent back to the Court of Appeal - 37 years after he was hanged for the notorious A6 murder in Bedfordshire.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission, (CCRC), the body set up to investigate miscarriages of justice, has referred the case back to the courts after a two-year study of the evidence which convicted the 25-year-old.

New DNA evidence has emerged and a police inquiry into the conviction highlighted flaws in the original investigation.

Campaigners have produced new witnesses who insist Hanratty was 200 miles from the scene of the murder and have produced new evidence which calls into question eyewitness reports used to convict him.

Hanratty was hanged in Bedford Prison in April 1962, after being convicted of the murder of government scientist Michael Gregsten, 36, and assaulting Valerie Storie, 22, his laboratory assistant and mistress.

They were kidnapped from a cornfield in Berkshire in August 1961 and forced to drive 60 miles at gunpoint to Deadman's Hill in Bedfordshire, where Mr Gregsten was shot dead and Miss Storie was raped, shot and left for dead.

Alibi

Miss Storie survived and picked out Hanratty at an identification parade from her hospital bed, where she lay paralysed from the waist down.

But Hanratty supporters said she had seen the attacker for only a few seconds during the six-hour ordeal, and failed to pick him out at the first police identity parade.

She later admitted her memory of the attacker was failing.

Hanratty insisted he was 250 miles from the scene in a bed-and-breakfast in Rhyl, North Wales, at the time of the attack and the landlady backed up his claim.

In the years after his execution a number of witnesses came forward to support the story.

Hanratty lost an appeal in 1962 and became one of the last men in Britain to be sent to the gallows.

He denied his guilt to the end and before he died he wrote to his brother Michael: "I'm dying tomorrow but I'm innocent. Clear my name."

In Context
Hanratty's case became a cause celebre, with politicians, pop stars, legal experts and writers, joining the campaign to prove he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

His family fought to clear his name and the CCRC decision in 1999 brought this opportunity.

During the case new forensic techniques not available at the time were used.

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

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

Hanratty's family and lawyers argued these tests proved nothing because there was a real possibility evidence gathered in 1961 had been contaminated.

In 2002 his conviction was upheld at the Court of Appeal and a bid to have it heard at the House of Lords was rejected.


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