The trial of James Hanratty for the ‘A6 murder began’ on 22 January 1962 in Bedfordshire. In the summer of the previous year, two research scientists, Michael Gregsten and Valerie Storie were inexplicably abducted. The former was shot dead, apparently accidentally, before the latter was raped and left paralysed from the waist down by further shooting.
Hanratty, a known criminal, but one with no past of violent behaviour, had been expected to be tried at the Old Bailey before his trial was moved at the last minute to a courtroom much closer to the scene of a crime, which had gripped the local population. Many impartial observers suggested that this switch of location might well weight the proceedings against Hanratty.
With evidence shaky and another man, Peter Alphon also in the frame for the murder, Hanratty was nevertheless quickly found guilty and sentenced to death, inspiring seemingly equal amounts of public relief and outrage. Hanratty’s story is no less controversial today than it was then and his remains a pivotal case for those arguing against capital punishment...