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  • cobalt
    replied
    It’s a reasonable point made by Caz: that in our haste to exculpate James Hanratty there is a danger that we end up throwing Peter Alphon under the very same bus! The dodgy Vienna Hotel testimony by Nudds was as damning to Alphon in one version as it was to Hanratty in another. We can’t have it both ways which is why I have tended to ignore Nudds’ testimony, for example, as utterly useless. Likewise the ID evidence of Mrs. Lanz placing Alphon as an occasional customer in the hotel where the victims had been drinking that night (which she claimed was given to the police soon after the murder) cannot carry more weight than the disputed ID of Valerie Storie.

    The treatment of Alphon by the police seems to support my point about a wish to close the case down. The police may have lost interest in him after his ID parade but he subsequently became an absolute nuisance to them and others. There was a serious attack on a woman in her home. There was an assault on Mrs. Hanratty. There were threatening phone calls, some recorded on tape. And of course his performance in Paris where he casually admitted guilt to the A6 murder and attempted murder. All these actions had witnesses to support legal action against Alphon but none was forthcoming so far as I am aware. You might have thought it was in the police and public interest to put a stop to his various antics but the authorities seem to have been more concerned by the prospect of a trial which would have offered Alphon a platform to make his claims.

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  • caz
    replied
    Originally posted by cobalt View Post
    The first ID parade was carried out fairly and the police suspect, Alphon, was not identified. Had the individuals been asked to speak we have no idea if Alphon, depending on what accent he favoured at the time, would have been identified by Valerie Storie or not. Maybe he would and none of us would be here.
    And if Hanratty had not been identified by Valerie at the second ID parade, the police would quite rightly have had to let him go, just as they had to let Alphon go after the first parade.

    The double standard here always troubles me. The suggestion seems to be that if only Valerie had identified Alphon, by speech if necessary, all would have been well, and if he'd hanged as a result, good riddance to bad rubbish. The smell of poor policing hanging over the investigation would somehow never have existed with Alphon firmly in the frame and friendless, despite the same lack of any forensic evidence putting him in the car, and no evidence ever connecting him to the crime itself.

    Alphon never got the chance to defend himself in court, but he doesn't apparently deserve the presumption of innocence that Hanratty had and lost.

    Love,

    Caz
    X
    Last edited by caz; 09-01-2021, 01:31 PM.

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  • cobalt
    replied
    The first ID parade was carried out fairly and the police suspect, Alphon, was not identified. Had the individuals been asked to speak we have no idea if Alphon, depending on what accent he favoured at the time, would have been identified by Valerie Storie or not. Maybe he would and none of us would be here. The speaking element was introduced at the second ID parade which makes it different from the first, and it has been reported that Hanratty’s clumsy efforts at dyeing his hair made that parade less than satisfactory.

    There is a problem inherent in all ID parades and which may have led to what happened. The victim knows for sure that the police have someone ‘in the frame’ otherwise there would be no need to have an ID parade at all. So there is pressure on the victim to pick out the likely lad that the police have spent a great deal of time putting on that parade. This is not the same as being asked to identify a suspect from a book of police photos, which the victim realises may not contain the guilty party. An ID parade is only organised when the police have a certain confidence that they actually have the specific culprit in the line up and that could explain the two identifications made by Valerie Storie. She felt duty bound to finger someone.

    The handkerchief I have never seen in as clear a light as Caz does. Police basements generally lose materials in the years after a murder case has been judged, which is only natural, but occasionally some artefact is discovered. What is remarkable is that these discovered artefacts- whether material evidence or lost statements- inevitably bolster the case as required politically at the time. The Stephen Lawrence case which caused tremendous embarrassment for the police saw a breakthrough when some evidence of fibre transfer was discovered on garments in a black bin bag down in the inevitable police basement. So two of the gang who attacked Lawrence were jailed. On the other hand the names of the Birmingham bombers from 1974 are widely known and one has effectively confessed, available on youtube. Yet given the delicacy of Northern Ireland’s politics it is fortunate that no forensic material has been discovered in the basement to establish a case that the UK government basically wants to draw a line under. The basement can reveal or conceal as required.

    The A6 Case retains a political element in respect of capital punishment and the credibility of the UK legal process including the appeals procedure. From memory I think the handkerchief disappeared for a few years and then was found in a police basement. Was it actually Hanratty’s? Probably, but the police obtained quite a few articles of his clothing at the time. Was it even the same handkerchief that the presumed murderer carelessly left while depositing the gun? I am sure it was a handkerchief and I have no doubt DNA from James Hanratty was detected on it. That’s as far as I can go with the handkerchief.

    So does that make me an advocate of corruption? I think it does, but I have distinguished previously between the police investigation and the legal system itself. The A6 investigation may have been poor, but I don’t believe it was corrupt. Vulnerable witnesses were no doubt threatened and badgered into tailoring statements but that is part and parcel of any high profile case. The police believed they had their man and maybe they did: I can’t prove otherwise. Any corruption that occurred came after the verdict when the legal system, under political pressure, fought might and main to draw a line under a case that has never really gone away. A few artefacts have emerged from the police basement and there might even be some more to follow, all damning to James Hanratty, but the case will not lie down, not even when William Ewer’s protected statements are revealed around 2053.

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  • caz
    replied
    To be fair, cobalt, we don't know that Valerie would still have picked out the wrong person on that first ID parade if Hanratty had been there.

    Also, if the jury considered it a matter of whether to accept Valerie's testimony or one of Hanratty's two alibis, I can see how they reached a verdict of guilty beyond reasonable [if not all possible] doubt. IF the jury got it wrong - a big IF in hindsight, given the supporting DNA evidence - then I feel Hanratty's lies were as much, if not more to blame than Valerie's honestly held beliefs about the man who raped and shot her.

    I would not have expected the DNA evidence - from the knicker fragment and also the hankie found with the murder weapon - to support Valerie's account if she had picked out Hanratty in error, and he had no knowledge or involvement whatsoever. His family clearly expected the DNA evidence to endorse their belief in his innocence, but it had the opposite effect.

    As I've said on many an occasion, the hankie does it for me every time. I have seen no other reasonable or credible explanation for the DNA match to Hanratty.

    Love,

    Caz
    X
    Last edited by caz; 08-31-2021, 01:53 PM.

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  • cobalt
    replied
    To answer Derrick’s point, I don’t think that absolute mathematical proof is often available in a murder case. ‘Beyond a reasonable doubt’ means that the jury are satisfied the prosecution has made the case convincingly and that they can be confident in their verdict. But that is not the same as 100% certainty. Nor should their verdict be reached on the balance of probability drawn from what they consider the superior narrative offered up to them: ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ requires a higher level of proof than that.

    Was the A6 Case proved beyond a reasonable doubt? Valerie Storie was surely the key witness for the prosecution and the only person who ever saw James Hanratty in Taplow or carrying a gun for that matter. The jury were prepared, it seems, to accept her testimony as being truthful (which I’m sure it was) and accurate (which I’m not so sure about.) Having done that, it was a small step to believe that Hanratty was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Which brings us back to Sherrard. It was crucial to Hanratty’s defence that the testimony given by Valerie Storie was cast in doubt before the jury. She had but a fleeting glimpse of her attacker and had picked out another person on an ID parade, so there was enough ammunition to work with. For whatever reasons this did not happen. Sherrard was not able to sow enough doubt about Valerie Storie’s ID evidence in the minds of the jurors

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  • djw
    replied
    Hello, I notice a new book about this case has been released called The Long Silence: The Story of Hanratty and the A6 murder by Valerie Storie, the Woman who Lived to Tell the Tale written by Paul Stickler.
    A Freedom of Information request has also been submitted requesting the release of the Matthews report into the case here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/reque...coming-1590935

    Finally, I have been trying to get hold of the works on the case by Norma Buddle, can anyone help me out?

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  • Derrick
    replied
    It's all gone quiet again hasn't it?

    Can anybody point me to incontrovertible proof that James Hanratty was the A6 murderer beyond any doubt whatsoever.

    Yes, maybe we have a feeling or perhaps a gut instinct or maybe by adding up circumstantial evidence which leads us to believe that he is indeed guilty but just believing isn't really good enough to hang a noose around somebody's neck and then open the trap-door is it?

    Surely we need to KNOW beyond ANY DOUBT that someone is TRULY guilty of a crime to then pass sentence. No?

    Delboy

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  • moste
    replied
    Originally posted by Pcdunn View Post

    19th century novelists of the "dear reader" school would tend to do that, particularly if the digression was on a topic in which they had a personal interest.
    I recall being puzzled by the long passages in "Les Miserables" about the sewers of Paris and their deficiencies, until I learned later that water quality was a pet interest of Victor Hugo's.
    Right you are.

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  • Pcdunn
    replied
    Originally posted by moste View Post
    Good posts both , Cobalt , I now have a hankering for Dickens’ Pickwicks adventures in particular. I haven’t read that one in 30 years. I do seem to recall a section where Dickens goes off on a digression, where he explains in depth his perception of the workings of a murderers mind. Quite a fascinating chapter if I recall.
    19th century novelists of the "dear reader" school would tend to do that, particularly if the digression was on a topic in which they had a personal interest.
    I recall being puzzled by the long passages in "Les Miserables" about the sewers of Paris and their deficiencies, until I learned later that water quality was a pet interest of Victor Hugo's.

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  • moste
    replied
    Balmerism and Corruption , are synonymous . Balmer was wielding the power in his hands, to get results on cases ,by hook or by crook,and didn’t give a Tinkers cuss, who was sent down innocently, or incredibly even hanged. As long as he was seen to get his man. I would wager he was giving Acott the benefit of his advice on how to deal with scoundrel Hanratty, who had the audacity to trespass on Balmers sacred Liverpool ground,
    Last edited by moste; 05-15-2021, 01:16 AM.

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  • ansonman
    replied
    I think "corruption" is nearer the mark than "Balmerism". The recent TV series about police corruption was a stark reminder of the levels that the police would (and probably still do) go to in order to secure convictions of innocent people and line their own pockets.

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  • moste
    replied
    ‘Balmerism.’ A very senior police officer refusing to accept that he is stumped on a high profile serious case . And as a consequence, resorting to illegal manipulation of the facts and statements ,and witness pressuring, to suit his own ends,

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  • moste
    replied
    Someone invited us to look in on a black and white ‘B’ movie from the late 50s. ‘The man in the back seat’. with Darrin Nesbit. It was an ok drama ,but of course somewhat dated ,and apart from the man in the back seat, didn’t really have a lot in common with the real life A6 Saga. I have though just finished watching a John Mills movie from 1947, called ‘October man’ . It’s intriguing, and cleverly acted. Man with mental issues, suspected strongly of being the killer, is he though? And the police activity ,well you can certainly draw a parallel with Acott and Oxford.
    Back in those days it seems, once they have their claws into a serious suspect, it’s difficult to shake them off , innocent or not . It should be called ‘Balmerism’ .Acott reached a pitch where having seemingly almost staked his reputation on Alphon being his man, (when almost at a point of major celebrations at Scotland Yard,) the whole case nose dived, and with a lot of time gone by, he, Acott, had to come up with something quick. This movie puts me in mind of the whole sad affair.
    Last edited by moste; 05-07-2021, 02:03 AM.

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  • caz
    replied
    Originally posted by cobalt View Post
    Thanks for your considered response Caz. We are coming at the A6 Case from different directions so the chances of meeting in the middle might not always be great. And congratulations on your sterling jury duty: the facts must trump the shady character of the defendant otherwise we would end up with 100% conviction rate. No doubt he was convicted, fairly, at a later assizes.
    Hi cobalt,

    I don't think it was fairly established in court that 'my' defendant was a 'shady character'; it was kind of implied, which was one of many things that raised my hackles! He just came across as a very young man, who was not very literate or very bright, and seemed out of his depth. The picture of him in my mind makes me think he was like Hanratty in those respects. Maybe I was naive, but I hoped that the experience would teach him to value his freedom and put him off offending in the future. It would have been a very unsafe guilty verdict.

    I began by disagreeing with moste regarding Sherrard’s performance as a barrister. I still think he was too hard on Sherrard’s failure. However more generally I think he is correct. If Sherrard was unaware of the Gregsten/Valerie Storie affair then he was incompetent: it was local knowledge. I assume he was aware and decided that to reveal it in open court might have been counter productive. Perhaps he was aware of his limitations to do this without seeming to attack the undeniable victim, Valerie Storie, who was propped up in a wheelchair. However he was duty bound to do this in my view, to taint her evidence in the eyes of the jury to the benefit of the defendant. Yes, it’s filthy work but less so than hanging.
    This is why I think Sherrard was ahead of his time. These days, it's very much frowned upon to attack a victim's character in court, just to try and gain some advantage for the defendant, where there is no actual evidence that the victim is making it all up, or lying about one or more aspects of the alleged offence - including the motive for it - or protecting the real offender by identifying someone who could be entirely innocent. There is no reasonable doubt about the fact that Valerie was raped and shot by someone she didn't know, after this man had killed her boyfriend. There was no reason for her to accuse the defendant - a stranger - unless she sincerely believed this was the same man who did it. So if Valerie was convinced in her own mind that she had correctly identified Hanratty as that stranger, but could have been honestly mistaken, then whatever she got up to in her private life should have had no bearing on whether the jury accepted that identification or not. Okay, so she had been having an affair with the murder victim, who was married. But the killer was still a stranger to her, whether it was Hanratty or A.N. Other. So no known - or indeed knowable - connection to her or Gregsten. How could Sherrard have put it to the jury that this stranger had been sent to break up a love affair between the victims, when Valerie was the only surviving witness and claimed to have no idea who he was? Can you not see how desperate that would have sounded, and how futile, since Hanratty himself was a stranger to Valerie, and as such could have been the person Sherrard was proposing for the job?

    As a result Sherrard was now effectively fighting the case on the prosecution’s terms: that is to say, that the guilty man was a crazed gunman with no connection to the victims. Sherrard did a decent job I am sure but the jury were then left with three options: the killer was either a) Hanratty or b) Alphon or c) AN Other. This was before Alphon’s mea culpa rants so after due consideration, and they did take around eight hours, the jury plumped not unreasonably for Hanratty. What they, in my view, got wrong was that although they preferred the prosecution case – and it was reasonable I think to do so- they did not consider whether it met the bar of being beyond reasonable doubt.
    I agree with you entirely there, cobalt. But we mustn't make the mistake of equating 'not guilty beyond reasonable doubt' with 'proven innocent'. Had the jury acquitted, Hanratty would have been back to his original status of 'presumed innocent', unless proof had later emerged that he was definitely elsewhere at the time, or that someone else had definitely - 'beyond all reasonable doubt' - committed the crime. If Hanratty deserves to be presumed innocent, following the 2002 appeal, then that has to apply to Alphon and any other person of interest, who never had the chance to be defended by Sherrard or anyone else. Fair's fair.

    An alibi is a defensive manoeuvre and as I said in a previous post they are very hard to prove. Sherrard was wrong footed by Hanratty on this account and can hardly be blamed for Hanratty’s panic when Jim realised the case might be going against him. But all Hanratty could ever do at this juncture- and Sherrard probably realised this- was replace a weak as water alibi in Liverpool with a slightly better one in Rhyl. It took the defence no further forward and exposed Hanratty before the jury as a man who chopped and changed his evidence when it suited. One crap alibi bad: two crap alibis worse. That was not Sherrard’s fault.
    Agreed, and Hanratty should have been very strongly advised to keep his trap shut, because no alibi was better than one crap alibi, never mind two. It was for the prosecution to put him at the crime scene, beyond reasonable doubt - not for the defendant to prove he was not.

    But once again, there is nobody else who could reasonably fill those shoes, with anything like the witness or forensic evidence that would be needed for a safe guilty verdict.

    Have a great weekend all.

    Love,

    Caz
    X
    Last edited by caz; 03-26-2021, 05:04 PM.

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  • cobalt
    replied
    Thanks for the newspaper article which clarifies matters a little. Aggressive questioning would have been counter productive I am sure. All that was required from Sherrard was three simple questions: to establish that a relationship existed between the couple, that they spent a fair bit of working and social time in each other’s company, and that this had been the case for a few years.

    Working from what was available to him there was little more Sherrard could do. With the benefit of hindsight and information which became available in later years Sherrard would have been able to develop a different line of defence. One that focused on the dynamics of the extended Gregsten family and could question under oath the person(s) who alerted a landlord and workplace about the relationship. This would have included Mr. William Ewer who could testify as to his family relationships, his business associates, his familiarity with Dixie France and Ms. Anderson as well as where he was on the night of the crime and any involvement in the police enquiries at Swiss Cottage.

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