His previous lawyer, the colourful and somewhat notorious David Jacobs, had recently (15-Dec-68) been found hanged in his garage
Jacobs was well-known for representing gay showbiz celebrities who were being libelled - they said - by the media. Odd, really, as Jacobs was gay himself. One of his most famous clients, who he successfully represented, was Liberace, who sued the Daily Mirror for comments made about him in the 'Cassandra' column. There was rumour and speculation at the time that his early death could have been linked to the Krays, but his friends denied this. Life at the top was certainly not dull in those days.
We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze
Looking at Hanratty senior’s comments on that clip, he does not seem to acknowledge that Jim was estranged from his family at the time of the murder. He was in the Burnt Oak area a lot, but avoided visiting his parents. Apart from a 3 month period when he tried (and failed) to go straight, his parents did not know what he was like for the last few years of his life.
With regards to violence, this is what the Sunday Times said about his last prison term:
‘During this term he became recalcitrant, with a particular habit of spitting in warders’ faces, and was put on 19 separate charges. He was one of only four men out of 1,300 in the fifties who served his three years without remission.’
There was also the punch up in Liverpool, about which we have only Jim’s account.
And we do not know whether he would have committed violence during his robberies because (as far as I know) only once did he encounter anyone. On this occasion he was burgling a house and saw a woman coming up the drive. His reaction was interesting - to open the front door and invite her in.
... Apart from a 3 month period when he tried (and failed) to go straight, his parents did not know what he was like for the last few years of his life.
This is a good point. With the possible exception of Dixie France, Louise Anderson, and maybe Laurence Lanigan, nobody seems to have gotten close to Hanratty in this period. And France and Anderson turned their backs on him as soon as he was charged with the A6 murder.
We're all guessing when it comes to deciding what sort of person Hanratty really was.
The second semen deposit in Valerie Storie's knickers
Delicate subject, but as far as I know, it is generally accepted that the last time Valerie and Gregsten had sexual intercourse was in the cornfield on Sunday, Aug 20. Yet an earlier deposit of semen was found in her knickers, along with the rapist's, when they were tested following the rape.
I can think of only three ways that earlier deposit would have gotten there:
(1) Valerie was wearing the same knickers she'd worn on the Sunday previous.
(2) She and Gregsten had sex in the Morris Minor on the evening of Aug 22.
(3) She had sex with someone else that day, prior to being raped.
I think (3) can be safely ruled out, and I'm inclined to disregard one, also - I can't imagine a young woman like Valerie wearing the same soiled knickers for three days running.
Which leaves (2), Valerie and Gregsten having sex in the car prior to being accosted by Hanratty, n'est pas?
Matters are set out by the Court of Appeal in paras 106 to 128 of their 2002 judgement (link in Caz's post #4282 above).
For any newcomers to this thread (and it's great there are some), it's only right to flag from outset that Hanratty's family and legal team were originally very keen to use DNA findings in an attempt to establish his innocence. However, they challenged its integrity once the findings pointed more towards his guilt.
It is also only right to declare up front that I am far more a scientific numbskull than an eminent scientist, of whom several convinced the Court of Appeal of his guilt. I am no position to say anyone was wrong but I do feel aspects of this part of the Court's judgement raise queries.
Main aspects for me are as below:
1. As well as Hanratty's DNA (he was a blood group O secretor), the Court also refer to DNA from the semen of an AB blood group secretor being shown to be on the fragment of Valerie Storie's knickers and ''attribute'' that to her lover Michael Gregsten. The Court could of course be right there but, nonetheless, I feel the ''presumption'' (another term used by the Court) should have been thoroughly checked. After all, the Court insisted on Hanratty's body being exhumed to check on the accuracy of findings for him. The contrast in approach between the two DNA findings is massive and to my mind just as much surprising. If the AB DNA had been cross-checked to Gregsten and found not to be his, that would have invalidated the DNA evidence totally. Admittedly, that is a big ''if''. However, in my opinion, the Court should have been relying on a thorough cross-check and not a ''presumption''.
Something else which increases my unease in this regard relates to when Gregsten last had sex with Ms Storie. I believe she said this was several days before the murder. If that's right, it would seem to lessen the likelihood of it being his AB semen on the knickers. Odd.
[I appreciate Del has strong views about the reported AB findings. My comments stem from the Court's judgement.]
2. The Court regarded it as very damning for Hanratty that only his and Valerie Storie's DNA plus that ''attributed'' to Gregsten were located on the knicker fragment tested in 1997. The Court effectively took the view that if Hanratty's DNA got there through contamination and he was not the rapist, the DNA of another male (ie the rapist) would have had to have been there as well. As there wasn't, that meant Hanratty had to be the rapist. I follow the logic. However, what was being checked was only ''a fragment'' which had been cut away from the knickers for basic tests thirty-six years earlier following the crime and then reduced further in 1995 when another part was removed for initial and unsuccessful DNA testing. Could the rapist's DNA have been on the part that was removed in 1995 and destroyed when unsuccessfully tested? I obviously don't know but feel it's a fair question.
3. At the 2002 appeal, Hanratty's legal team argued that the knicker fragment might have been contaminated as a result of spillage from a broken vial, containing a liquidised sample from Hanratty, stored and found in an envelope alongside it. A boffin with thirty years' experience told the Court he had never come across a vial containing contents to be stored in this way and, whilst acknowledging their own lack of scientific experience, the Court commented that it would seem strange to do so. Fair enough. However, wouldn't it have been even more strange to store an empty vial in this way?
4. A fair bit of weight appears to have been given by the Court to the DNA findings of Hanratty and Valerie showing a ''typical distribution'' consistent with them having had sex. That does seem pretty damning. I would just like it to have been clarified whether the distribution would have definitely been different if Hanratty's DNA was as a result of contamination.
5. Discussion about the DNA here usually involves the knicker fragment and/or the hanky. Understandably so. However, a third item was also submitted for DNA testing. This was one of Valerie Storie's slips upon which semen was identified immediately after the crime. No result was found from this DNA testing. Given Hanratty's DNA was readily identified on the knicker fragment, why didn't it show up on the slip? As I say, I'm no scientist but might it suggest the DNA on the knicker fragment got there through different means (ie contamination)?
Having assessed the scientific evidence, the Court concluded that the possibility of contamination of the knicker fragment or the hanky was ''fanciful'' and of both ''beyond belief''. However, if you include the slip, only 2 of the 3 items tested are indicators of Hanratty's guilt. If you then doubt the knicker fragment (see particularly points 1 and 3 above re the unestablished AB finding and broken vial), that only leaves the hanky.
6. The hanky. Caz's favourite. Again understandably so. That is very damning. Unless you buy into ideas of police corruption and manipulation of exhibits and evidence, the DNA findings prove that the hanky wrapped around the murder weapon was Hanratty's. Although that leaves extremely serious questions to be answered by Hanratty's remaining supporters, it does not actually prove he fired the gun that killed Gregsten, raped Valerie Storie or even hid the gun and hanky where it was found. We do know others had access to his laundry.
Let me make very clear that none of the above points go any way to suggesting innocence on the part of James Hanratty, let alone proving it which was the aim of those who first campaigned for DNA use. I'm actually as sure as I can be taking everything in the round that Hanratty was guilty. I'm just not as convinced as some that his guilt was proved fairly at trial or that the DNA evidence almost forty years later (inevitably without the safeguards being taken which are now so mandatory) was so unanswerably conclusive.
If things had been very different in a make believe legal world - in particular, Hanratty not being executed and still being alive, the appeal of 2002 being heard many years earlier but with DNA being used years earlier than it was and able to be brought to the appeal - I would have thought it fair and just for Hanratty to have been granted a retrial.
Obviously that could not happen and didn't. I therefore remain uncomfortable that a man - even though I consider him guilty - on trial for his life did not get a fair hearing. This though is where the hypocrite in me comes out. If Michael Gregsten or Valerie Storie had been my son or daughter, hangman Harry Allen could have got any required help from me in an instant.
With apologies for the length and best regards,
Hi Alfie - this post of mine at the end of last year attempted to raise various queries about the DNA findings and the Court's 2002 judgement. The first point above was and remains a significant concern for me. It particularly ties in with your post today.