The parents of a graduate who disappeared 13 years ago have spoken of their anguish at learning that remains found in a black bin bag by the side of a motorway this week were that of their daughter.
Melanie Hall, 25, vanished after leaving a nightclub in Bath in 1996 and has not been seen or heard from since. Police attempts to find out what happened to her proved fruitless and the case has never been solved.
But the investigation will now intensify once more after some of her bones were found in a bag by a workman clearing vegetation on the M5 slip road at junction 14, north of Bristol, on Monday. They were shown to be those of Ms Hall through examination of dental records. Yesterday her father Steve Hall, 65, appealed for the help of the public in catching his daughter's killer. He said: "People out there know, they've lived with that secret for 13 years – now I'm appealing for the person who knows to come forward. We desperately need to know what happened to Melanie.
"Thirteen years ago we had a young vibrant daughter with a bright future in front of her... today we have a bag of bones discarded here on the side of a motorway."
His wife, Pat, said: "It's a relief to know that at least part of her body has been found and we can now bury her properly. I feel very angry that she has been dumped on the side of the road like a sack of garbage, but I'm sure I'll come to terms with it."
The bag included a significant number of bones, including a skull and pelvis, while other bones were found partially buried nearby. Police also said they believed that Ms Hall's remains had been at the site for a significant amount of time. Officers said that other "items" had been found at the scene, but refused to elaborate.
The psychology graduate had been on a night out with friends and her boyfriend of three weeks, Philip Karlbaum, who left the club "upset" after seeing her dancing with another man. Ms 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. A £10,000 reward and public appeals were also made on GMTV, Crimewatch and a Crimestoppers special.
In 2003 two men were arrested in connection with her disappearance but they were released without charge after police searched buildings and a field near Bath.
Detectives have looked at possible links with the case of Suzy Lamplugh – the estate agent who disappeared in 1986 and was officially declared dead, presumed murdered, in 1994 despite the fact her body has never been found. They have also pondered whether Ms Hall was attacked by the "Batman rapist" a serial sex attacker in Bath who has evaded capture for 18 years and is so-called because of a Batman logo on his baseball cap.
The prime suspect in the Suzy Lamplugh case, convicted killer John Cannan, was in jail at the time Ms Hall went missing but police interviewed him in 1998 as they believed his former cellmate, convicted rapist Christopher Clark, could have been involved although charges were never brought.