Supporters jubilant over Hanratty decision

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The Independent Online
Supporters of James Hanratty, hanged 35 years ago for the A6 murder, insisted yesterday that the Home Office has had evidence since 1994 that proved the 25-year-old was innocent.

As The Independent disclosed yesterday official inquiries are understood to have concluded that Hanratty was wrongly hanged for murder. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, is poised to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, and The Home Office yesterday confirmed that an announcement was due within the next eight weeks.

Hanratty, a petty criminal, was hanged at Bedford jail in April 1962 after being convicted of shooting a government scientist, Michael Gregsten, at Deadman's Hill, on the A6 in Bedfordshire in 1961.

He was also found guilty of raping Gregsten's girlfriend, Valerie Storie, and shooting her, leaving her paralysed.

A 400-page submission arguing for the case to be referred to the Court of Appeal was submitted to the Home Office in 1994. Bob Woffinden, who was responsible for a number of television documentaries into the Hanratty case and who is writing a book on it, said: "We would all wish that these things were dealt with much more speedily." Mr Woffinden added that the evidence against the conviction was "overwhelming". It included details of alibis placing Hanratty hundreds of miles from the murder scene.

Geoffrey Bindman, the solicitor working for the Hanratty family, said: "I have no doubt at all that James Hanratty would not be convicted if he faced a trial today."

However he warned: "I am not confident that the Home Office or ministers will automatically reach the right decision."

Scotland Yard completed an 18-month inquiry into the case last year, which is understood to have concluded Hanratty was innocent. The Home Office is understood to support this.

Hanratty wrote to his family on the eve of his execution insisting that he was innocent and asking them to clear his name. Since then his family has led a campaign to clear him. His late father, James, lobbied MPs, and now Hanratty's mother Mary and three brothers are hoping their years of fighting to clear his name have paid off.

Another former criminal, Peter Alphon, has been accused of the murder. Mr Alphon has denied he was the killer, despite earlier reported confessions.

A Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday: "We are considering the case but we don't have a date ... We do, however, hope it will be soon. We would like to see this case, and others that are being considered, to be concluded before the new Criminal Case Review Commission comes into force."

The independent commission, which will take over the role of deciding which cases of alleged miscarriage of justice should go to appeal, is due to take over on 31 March

Other cases being reviewed include that of Derek Bentley, who was hanged on January 28 1953, for the murder of a police officer.

The Old Bailey judge ignored the jury's recommendation for mercy at his murder trial after it was claimed that Bentley had urged 16-year-old Christopher Craig to open fire on PC Sidney Miles after a burglary at a Croydon factory.