Police investigating the murder of a woman who disappeared more than two decades ago have found DNA that may finally lead them to her killer.
They were discovered in a plastic bin bag tied with a blue rope, which has now been found to carry traces of DNA that could belong to the murderer.
Detective Chief Inspector James Riccio, of Avon and Somerset Police, appealed for anyone with information on who owned similar blue polypropylene rope or whose demeanour changed around the time of Ms Hall’s disappearance to come forward.
“A small or seemingly insignificant piece of information could be the key to solving this case,” he added.
“Whoever left Melanie’s body in the undergrowth off the northbound slip road of junction 14 of the M5 would have done so in haste.
“It would have happened on the morning of 9 June 1996, or within a few days of this date … it’s highly likely the person who left Melanie’s body at this location was familiar with this area.”
Police said the 13m length of 4mm rope was made up of four separate pieces tied together, with a total of seven knots.
The rope was commercially manufactured and commonly used on building sites and for drawing electrical cable through trunking.
Det Ch Insp Riccio, the senior investigating officer, said the person who dumped the body would then have driven onto the northbound M5 or used the local road network from Michaelwood Services.
“The person who deposited the body may not be the person who killed Melanie,” he said. “If this is the case, I’m directly appealing to this person to come forward and provide us with information for the sake of Melanie’s family.”
Two rewards – £50,000 from her parents and £10,000 from Crimestoppers – remain in place for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her murderer.
Officers previously revealed that DNA had been recovered from an item found by Ms Hall’s body, and said advances in the technology were being made every day.
“We’re confident that, with corroborative evidence, that will lead to a charge,” Det Ch Insp Riccio said.
Ms Hall was working as a clerical worker at the Royal United Hospital in Bath when she went on a night out with her boyfriend and another couple when she disappeared.
She was last seen at 1.10am on 9 June 1996, sitting on a stool at the edge of the dancefloor in Cadillacs nightclub in Walcot Street.
Her remains were found next to the junction 14 northbound slip road of the M5, near Thornbury, by a workman cutting grass on 5 October 2009.
Her father, Steve Hall, said the family remains “eternally optimistic” that her killer will be found – but the secret lies with those involved rather than the public.
“In our family, we will forever grieve for, and miss our lovely daughter,” he added.
“She will never fulfil her life’s ambitions, never marry, never have children and my wife and I will never have another grandchild. Her mother’s lasting memory of her youngest daughter is the day she viewed a battered skull and a few broken bones in the coroner’s office.”
Mr Hall said the family would never feel closure over his daughter’s death, and that his “real thoughts towards her killer are totally unprintable”.
He said his wife “just stares at the wall”, their living daughter “struggles to get her day together” and he “puts it in all a box and tries to shut the lid”.
There have been 11 arrests during the investigation into Ms Hall’s murder, but no one has ever been charged.
To date, Avon and Somerset Police has received 1,751 calls from the public about the case and taken 1,668 statements.
Police want to speak to anyone who saw Ms Hall after 1.10am on the night she disappeared or saw her leave the nightclub, or anyone who saw suspicious activity near the site where her remains were discovered.
Ms Hall’s pale blue silk dress, black suede shoes, cream jacket and black handbag have never been found, along with cosmetics, her cheque book and bank card.
Her jewellery, including a Next watch with expanding bracelet and a pair of silver drop earrings, are also missing.
Anyone with information should call the Operation Denmark incident room on 01278 648934 or give information online.