James Hanratty

James Hanratty Nickname: The A6 Killer

Date of Crime: 22nd August 1961

Motive: Unknown

Crimes: Murder of Michael Gregsten and sexual assault and shooting of Gregsten's lover, Valerie Storie

Method: Shot twice in the head with a .38 Enfield gun.

Sentence: Hanratty received the death penalty and was hanged on 4th April 1962

Interesting facts: Gregsten and Storie were sitting in a car in a lonely field near Slough when the killer found them. He spent several hours talking to them, and finally ordered them to drive him where he wanted to go. They eventually drove up the A6 towards Bedford. The journey ended in a layby on the aptly named Deadman's Hill.

The murder weapon was found several days later under the back seat of the 36A bus in London. Spent cartridges from the gun were also found in a guest house room where Hanratty had stayed the night before the murder.

There has always been great controversy over whether Hanratty was, in fact, the A6 Killer. One of the main reasons for this was the description given by Storie to the police. It is alleged that her very first description, given to the man who first contacted the police, was of a man with light fairish hair and staring eyes. Her first description to the police was of a man aged about 30, 5 foot 6, medium build, pale faced, with dark hair and deep-set brown eyes. An Identikit picture was based on this description. Another composite Identikit picture was based on the evidence of three witnesses who saw the killer driving the car after the murder - it also had dark staring eyes and dark brushed back hair. On 31st August Storie gave another description of the man saying that he had "large, icy-blue, saucer-like eyes". This final description matched Hanratty.

The first suspect in the enquiry was Peter Alphon, who matched the Identikit descriptions. He had allegedly been seen near the field on the evening of the murder, and was noted to have been acting strangely in the period after it. After Hanratty's death, he also admitted to the crime several times.

In March 2001, after years of arguing about the identity of the A6 Killer, Hanratty's body was exhumed, and forensic samples from the crime scene received DNA testing. These tests concluded that there was a 2.5 million to one chance that the samples did not come from Hanratty. In May 2002, the Court of Appeal ruled that Hanratty's conviction was not unsound. A posthumous pardon was therefore not granted.