Monday, August 27, 2007

The Rhyl Alibi

In the bloody annals of True Crime the town of Rhyl is of considerable importance. Firstly, of course, it is the birthplace of murderess Ruth Ellis, the last woman to hang in Britain. (74 West Parade if you're ever in the area).

Secondly, the north Wales resort was a significant location in 'The A6 Murder' trial - one of the most celebrated murder cases in British criminal history.

It was in Rhyl that the accused, James Hanratty, claimed he was staying at the time Michael Gregsten was brutally slain in a layby on the A6 near Bedford in 1961. Gregsten's lover Valerie Storie was also shot (and raped) although she managed to survive the ordeal.

The so-called 'Rhyl alibi' formed an integral part of Hanratty's defence. At 19 Kinmel Street in the town stood a boarding house (Ingledene) and it was here that Hanratty said he lodged. His room, he recalled, was in an attic and had a green bath. The place was near the station and he could hear the sound of trains shunting.

The landlady of the boarding house one Grace Jones came forward to testify that Hanratty had stayed at Ingledene at the time of the murder. Unfortunately her inept performance in court where she dropped her register book, scattering pages everywhere, didn't help. The prosecution accused her of trying to gain cheap publicity for her guest house - an accusation that left the old woman in tears.

The reason Hanratty was in Rhyl he told the court was to meet an associate, a fence called Terry Evans, to whom he wanted to sell a gold watch stolen in Liverpool. But the Rhyl alibi didn't wash with the jury who found him guilty of murder. He was hanged at Bedford Prison on April 4, 1962.

In the years after his execution many witnesses came forwad to confirm that Hanratty had indeed been in Rhyl at the time of the murder but it was too late. One lady said that he'd asked about lodgings at her B&B; another that Hanratty had tried to sell him a gold watch. A campaign was started to prove Hanratty's innocence and to win him a posthumous pardon.

In 2002 with advancements in DNA testing his body was exhumed and samples taken. They were compared with DNA found on mucus on a handkerchief (used to wipe the gun); and on semen found on Valerie Storie's underwear. This would prove his innocence or guilt absolutely. The result? A perfect match - Hanratty was indeed the A6 murderer and there had been no miscarriage of justice after all.

You can still find the Edwardian property in Kinmel Street, Rhyl, where Hanratty may, or may not, have stayed. It still belongs to the family of the long deceased Grace Jones and it still contains the green bath.