The wrong man?
The wrong man?
In 1967 Peter Alphon allegedly confessed to the A6 murder. However, he later ‘protested his innocence.’
John Lennon and Yoko Ono met with Hanratty’s parents. They gave their celebrity backing to the growing campaign for James to be exonerated.
“I have been involved in a lot of injustice cases...Birmingham 6, Guildford 4...and really everything that comes out in the Hanratty case just simply proves what went on in all of those cases. The same old story, that certainty, the certainty of having the suspects and bending the evidence to fit the suspects. This is exactly what’s happened in this case.”
Paul Foot, Author, ‘Who Killed Hanratty?’
Did the wrong man hang?
Mary Lanz of the Old Station Inn, Taplow, where Michael Gregsten and Valerie Storie had last been seen before they parked in the cornfield, was later able to identify Peter Alphon, the original suspect, as having also been there.
A group of people called the 'A6 Defence Committee' was set up to assist Hanratty in his posthumous defence. Twelve years after the execution, the A6 Committee found the original statement made by Valerie Storie had not been referred to during the trial or the appeal. Storie had originally stated that the man who abducted her was in his 30s. In her second statement she changed this to 'mid 20s'. Hanratty was 25, but Alphon was 31.
In 1968, the A6 Committee found six substantial witnesses to show that the defendant had in fact been to the north Wales coast town of Rhyl. A fairground worker called Terry Evans also admitted to letting Hanratty stay at his house early in 1961, and to fencing a stolen watch for Hanratty.
Another man, Trevor Dutton, had just made a payment into his bank account and consequently his bank book was stamped with the correct date, 23 August, when minutes later he was approached by a man with a ‘cockney accent’ in a smart suit, trying to sell a gold watch.
Richard Hanratty, the youngest of the brothers, said that his parents visited the Home Secretary in 1973. He is believed to have said that he could have freed their son if he was in prison and had not been hanged.
In 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) conducted its own inquiry into the original investigation. The CCRC multi-million pound investigation discovered enough serious flaws in the original police inquiry to justify re-opening the case.
This led to a re-examination using forensic testing.
Document specialist David Baxendale focused on two crucial police interviews with Hanratty. Using something called the ESDA test he established that pages were missing from both of these. Hanratty had always denied making the statements recorded by the police and that there were things missing.
In fact, further investigations found ‘two or three thousand undisclosed statements’.
The two main police in charge of the interviews and the original investigation, Detective Superintendent Acott and his deputy Kenneth Oxford were found to have withheld crucial evidence, including witness sightings and the car log book of the murder car.
When James’ family discovered the extent to which the police had influenced the investigation, their response was both emphatic and emotive:
“Alcott and Oxford murdered my brother.”
James’ mother and brother provided DNA samples to enable comparisons with the surviving evidence in order to clear their loved one.
But scientists found a familial match to exhibits used in the original trial. These were Miss Storie’s underwear, exhibit 26, and the handkerchief wrapped round the 38. Calibre pistol.
Lawyers for the Crown said the DNA was two and a half million times more likely to belong to Hanratty than anyone else.
To put it beyond doubt, an exhumation was ordered. DNA was now taken from James’ teeth.
In 2002, after matches were made, appeal court judges said the tests put James’ guilt "beyond doubt".
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT?
But many question the quality of the DNA where it is so degraded, of poor quality and is in such a small quantity. And the exhibits used were stored two decades before the technique of genetic profiling was invented. Clothing from Hanratty and Valerie Storie were transported to and from the court in the same cardboard boxes.
“...those exhibits had been kept in custody for forty years. Contamination is possible.”
John Eddleston, Author
The argument against this is that there is only one profile on Valerie’s clothing. If there was contamination, there would be expected to be evidence of Hanratty and another unknown. There wasn’t.
In the hope of settling the matter once and for all, in December 2010 it was announced that a third appeal would be launched. The challenge will focus on doubts about the DNA tests used by Appeal Court Judges to uphold his conviction. The family’s long-standing solicitor, Sir Geoffrey Bindman confirmed he would be spearheading another attempt.
But no matter what the verdict, James’ brothers will never give up.
“My parents went to their graves broken-hearted over James.”