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Home - Criminal Cases - The 1960s - James Hanratty

Introduction

The conviction of James Hanratty, and his subsequent execution at Bedford Prison, has been regarded as extremely controversial. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) announced at the end of March 1999, that the case was to be referred back to the Court of Criminal Appeal. The court can then decide whether to quash the Hanratty's conviction, or let the conviction stand.

Case Details

On the evening of 22 August 1961 a car containing the lovers Michael Gregsten and Valerie Storie, was parked by a field near Slough. A man threatened the couple with a gun. After entering the car's back seat, he ordered Gregsten to drive off. They drove for about 30 miles before the gunman ordered Gregsten to pull in to lay-by on the A6 road near Bedford.

When the stranger asked for a duffle bag, Gregsten attempted to disarm him. The gunman fired twice and Gregsten was killed instantly. The mystery gunman then raped Valerie Storie before shooting her, and leaving her for dead. She survived, but was left paralysed.

An Identikit picture was constructed from Valerie Storie's description, but as this differed from other descriptions provided by other witnesses, two pictures were issued. Meanwhile, the police discovered two .38 cartridge cases from the hotel room occupied on the night before the murder by Mr. J. Ryan (an alias used by James Hanratty). However, the same room was occupied by Peter Louis Alphon, who was not selected by Valerie Storie from an identity parade.

Hanratty was arrested in Blackpool on 9 October 1961, picked out by Valerie Storie on an identification, and sent for trial. The whole trial centred on the issue of identification. Hanratty claimed to have been in Rhyl on the day of the murder, 200 miles away from the murder scene in Bedfordshire.

Following 9 hours, the jury convicted Hanratty of the capital murder of Michael Gregsten. James Hanratty was then sentenced to death by hanging. He was hanged at Bedford Prison on 4 April 1962.

The Aftermath

There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the conviction and execution of James Hanratty. The controversy is mainly concerned with the question of correctly identify the suspect. Also the need to established beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect was the guilty person.

James Hanratty's remains have since been exhumed from Bedford Prison, and reburied in Carpenter's Park Cemetery, which is located near Bushey in Hertfordshire.

On 22 March 2001, James Hanratty's remains were exhumed so that a DNA sample could be taken for analysis. This DNA sample was matched by forensic experts to two samples from the crime scene.

On 10 May 2002, the Court of Criminal Appeal (Lord Chief Justice Woolf, Lord Justice Mantell and Mr Justice Leveson) ruled that Hanratty's conviction was not unsound and that there were no grounds for a posthumous pardon.

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