Arrested man ruled out of 'bag of bones' murder hunt

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The Independent Online

A man arrested over the murder of Bath woman Melanie Hall has been eliminated from police inquiries after undergoing psychiatric tests.

The suspect went to Cheadle Heath police station in Greater Manchester at 2.45am on Thursday after the 25-year-old's bones were found in a bag near the M5 near Bristol on Monday, 13 years after she went missing following a night out in Bath.

The man, aged 37, believed to be from the Hazel Grove area of Stockport, was arrested on suspicion of murder by Greater Manchester Police.

After undergoing a mental health assessment, detectives from Avon and Somerset Constabulary said he had been "eliminated as a suspect in the Melanie Hall murder inquiry".

The man was being assessed at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

Detectives from Avon and Somerset Police travelled to Stockport yesterday to await the result of psychiatric tests and interview the man.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: "At the moment he is undergoing a mental health assessment.

"Our officers were dispatched there yesterday and questioned him.

"He has now been eliminated as a suspect in the Melanie Hall murder inquiry."

Greater Manchester Police said they are "unsure at the moment whether he is still undergoing tests or has been released into the care of someone".

The parents of Miss Hall said they were not attaching any significance to the arrest.

Her father Steve Hall, 65, said he was being kept informed of updates in the murder investigation by police.

"We are not really attaching any real importance to the arrest," he said from his home in Bradford-on-Avon, near Bath.

"I understand this man is undergoing psychiatric tests.

"On numerous occasions over the past 13 years we have had people come forward and confess and I think this is probably one of those occasions.

"But this is what the appeal yesterday was all about, raising awareness about Melanie and getting people to come forward, so in a sense it has worked."

Miss Hall, 25, was last seen alive in Cadillacs nightclub in Bath, on 9 June 1996.

The psychology graduate had been on a night out with friends and her boyfriend of three weeks, Dr Philip Karlbaum, who left the club "upset" after seeing her dancing with another man.

Miss Hall, who worked as a clerical officer in the orthopaedic department at Bath's Royal United Hospital where she met Dr Karlbaum, was last seen sitting on a stool near the dancefloor shortly after 1am.

Thousands of nightclubbers and taxi drivers were interviewed in an investigation involving 60 officers and several searches of the River Avon, but no trace of Miss Hall was found.

This week her remains were found "dumped like a sack of garbage" beneath five bags on a sliproad beside the M5 near Bristol by a workman clearing vegetation.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Hall and his wife Pat spoke of their "untold anguish" and urged anyone keeping the secret of their daughter's death to break their long silence.

Mr Hall, an ex-chairman of Bath City, said he needed to know how his "vibrant" daughter became a "bag of bones".

Mr Hall said the killer was probably watching.

"I'm hoping that now her body has been found, they find that change of heart or strength of will to come forward," he said.

"People out there know, and have lived with that secret for 13 years."

Mrs Hall added: "I feel very angry that she has been dumped on the side of the road like a sack of garbage."

A post-mortem examination has been carried out on Miss Hall's remains, although the cause of death is not yet known.

She was formally identified through dental records.

A ring that had been in generations of her family also left her parents in no doubt their daughter had been found.

Police are now preparing to comb or even excavate the surrounding area as part of the investigation and expect to be at the scene of the grim discovery for some time.