Hanratty is likely to be exhumed for DNA test

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The Independent Online

The body of James Hanratty, a man hanged for murder 38 years ago, is likely to be exhumed for DNA tests after the Court of Appeal backed the move yesterday.

The body of James Hanratty, a man hanged for murder 38 years ago, is likely to be exhumed for DNA tests after the Court of Appeal backed the move yesterday.

Hanratty's case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which ruled that the court should re-examine one of the country's oldest alleged miscarriages of justice.

Tamsin Allen, the Hanratty family solicitor, argued that the exhumation would cause distress as Hanratty's burial plot at Carpenders Park, near Watford, was shared by an aunt.

But the Crown Prosecution Service will apply shortly to either the Home Secretary or the coroner for the exhumation. The full appeal hearing is likely to be held after Easter and will last about 10 days.

Hanratty, 25, was executed on 4 April 1962 for the notorious A6 murder in Bedfordshire, in which Michael Gregsten, a scientist, was shot dead and his mistress, Valerie Storie, was raped and shot five times.

Recent DNA analysis has suggested that Hanratty was guilty of the murder. The tests have confirmed a match between sperm and cells left on a handkerchief and underwear at the murder scene and DNA taken from Hanratty's family.

Lawyers representing the Hanratty family, however, believe the DNA is likely to be contaminated and may not be admissible in court.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, backed by two other Appeal Court judges, said yesterday that the latest forensic tests indicated that there was a one in 2.5 million chance that the DNA found on Ms Storie's underwear did not belong to James Hanratty.

Lord Woolf argued that it would be in the interests of justice for Hanratty's remains to be exhumed "to make it clear beyond doubt" that there is a connection between James Hanratty and Valerie Storie.

Hanratty, a petty burglar, was alleged to have surprised the lovers, Mr Gregsten, 36, and Ms Storie, 22, in a cornfield in Dorney Reach, Berkshire, and forced them to drive to Deadman's Hill on the A6, south of Bedford, where they were shot.

Charges of rape and the attempted murder of Miss Storie, who was paralysed from the waist down by the bullets, were held in reserve.

Hanratty's conviction was based largely on Miss Storie's recollection of the voice of her attacker, whom she saw for only a few seconds; she later failed to pick him out of the first police identity parade.

Hanratty claimed he was 250 miles from the scene in a bed-and-breakfast in Rhyl in north Wales at the time of the attack. The landlady at the guest house backed up his claim, and in the years after his execution witnesses came forward to support his story.

Valerie Storie said yesterday: "James Hanratty was found guilty of murder on the evidence available at the time of his trial and hanged according to the law of the land. Evidence of DNA profiling given today supports my total and absolute belief that James Hanratty was guilty of the crime for which he was hanged."

Ms Allen said the real issue was not whether a DNA match had been obtained but how reliable that new evidencewas likely to be, given the obvious risks of contamination because nearly 40 years had passed since the murder.