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  • Wishing Michael Hanratty a very happy 80th birthday today.
    *************************************
    "A body of men, HOLDING THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO NOBODY, ought not to be trusted by anybody." --Thomas Paine ["Rights of Man"]

    "Justice is an ideal which transcends the expedience of the State, or the sensitivities of Government officials, or private individuals. IT HAS TO BE PURSUED WHATEVER THE COST IN PEACE OF MIND TO THOSE CONCERNED." --'Justice of the Peace' [July 12th 1975]

    Comment


    • Me too...I wonder if chief superintendent Roger Mathews is still around? It would be a great time for him to release information that only himself and the authorities are privy to. If he broke the official secrets act, what would be the worst outcome ? Probably prison I guess.

      Comment


      • Hi Moste,

        as far as I know and can recall, the Matthews Report was never made public, but the News Of The World headlined 'Police Admit They Hanged An Innocent Man', adding that there was a grave miscarriage of justice, etc. The paper also quoted Geoffrey Bindman QC as saying that JH was entirely innocent and had been wrongly hanged. Yet all this was reported in NOTW before the Matthews Report had actually been delivered by Scotland Yard to the Home Office! So how did they manage to get a peep at a document the contents of which were still officially confidential? Bob Woffinden asked this question, and with good cause. Were they just guessing, or did they really have inside information? I don't believe there were any repercussions regarding what the NOTW printed, which rather suggests to me that they were either (a) way off the mark or (b) Scotland Yard and later the Home Office saw nothing actionable in what the paper printed. Woffinden goes on to describe how the Home Office umm-ed and ahh-ed over the Report, which (as far as I'm aware) wasn't, and still hasn't, been published. Geoffrey Bindman commented that all the Home Office were being asked to do was refer the Hanratty Case to the CCRC. This, I believe, was in early 1997, and it took another 5 years before an Appeal was heard.

        So what was in the Matthews Report that prevented it being made public? Did it name the 'real' killer? Did it name 'other people' who were concerned in the A6 Murder? Rather than fear of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, I rather suspect that it was the risk of libel action or actions that prevented its publication. Of course, I may be completely wrong on this. However, moving on to 2019, it is now more than 20 years since the Matthews Report was written, and the 'major players' in the A6 drama are now mostly deceased. Or it could be that a name or names mentioned in the Report are still alive, and a libel action is still a possibility if the name/names were to be made public. Of course, this is largely guesswork on my part - I openly admit it - and there could well be other reasons why the Report remains unpublished. Will it ever be published?

        Graham
        We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

        Comment


        • Hi Graham,

          I would assume names were mentioned. Matthews was at great pains to say his enquiries were all based on knowledge within the public domain. This is obviously rubbish- there would be no point having san enquiry otherwise. It is what he discovered within police files and interview statements that led him to the conclusion he did.

          His conclusion may be wrong of course. That seemed to been confirmed by later DNA tests, but these have been justifiably questioned. For me, Matthews was, in his reported allegation of three people being involved, not exculpating Hanratty entirely, but focusing on William Ewer and the domestic situation. The Swiss Cottage witness statements may be very revealing.

          Comment


          • Hi Cobalt,

            yes, without a doubt names were mentioned. But if Ewer's was one of them, then he's been dead for years, so what would be the problem of identifying today, in 2019? I agree totally with what you say about the Report and knowledge within the public domain. If, as you suggest, Matthews made discoveries within reports, files and statements not in the public domain, then that is a totally different situation.

            I have never bought into the theory - and that's all it is - that Ewer financed a 'hit-man' to get rid of Gregsten. Or even financed someone to scare him off. Even though he and Janet Gregsten lived together for some time after her husband's murder, I still don't buy it. Ewer was an oddball all right, and something of a bullshit-merchant, but I seriously don't see him as some kind of 'Mister Big' or prime-mover in the A6 Case.

            As it goes, I'm currently reading a new account of The Great Train Robbery. Lots of new information, including confirmation, if such were needed, that the police contacted known underworld figures in an attempt to glean information on possible members of the Gang. They had some success too, apparently. Now, the A6 Case was only 2 years before the GTR, so I think it's fair to say that Acott, Oxford and the boys in blue 'had a chat with' not a few members of London's (very) extensive criminal underground concerning the A6. As in, 'if you needed a hit-man to do the job on an errant husband, who would that be?' If they gained any 'result' from these chats, they were never made public, as far as I'm aware. The police do not normally disclose the identities of their criminal contacts and informers. Hanratty was not a part of the mainline criminal underworld, but of course when his name was first connected to the Case the police were not aware of that, and so 'had a few chats' just to see if they could learn anything. Which I don't think they did.

            So where does this leave us? Matthews apparently obtained information which he, or his superiors, or the Home Office, felt was not yet ready for public consumption. I think by now anyone who has made a study of the A6 Case has a pretty good idea of who the principal players were, so I would suggest that if Matthews really did find new evidence that the murderer was not James Hanratty, then the real killer's identity, if of course he existed, would come as a complete surprise to us. In the 'old days' on the A6 Forum, it was quite common to respond to a poster who stated that 'Hanratty was not the A6 killer, full stop', then to please name who the real killer was. As far as I can recall, no name(s) ever came forward. But whoever it was, it sure as hell wasn't Peter Alphon.

            I'm still puzzled about the non-publication of the Matthews Report.

            Graham
            We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Graham View Post
              But whoever it was, it sure as hell wasn't Peter Alphon.
              Yet ... Peter Alphon is precisely who Matthews fingered in his report, according to The Independent.

              https://www.independent.co.uk/news/h...r-1264556.html

              Comment


              • In case the link is blocked asking you to subscribe, it says Matthews "concluded the man who carried out the attack on 22 August 1961 at Deadman's Hill, Bedfordshire, was probably hired to break up the illicit liaison. His report is believed to recommend that a new inquiry should in particular examine evidence regarding Peter Alphon, a salesman who was the original suspect."

                Comment


                • I can see a couple of reasons for the Matthews report, even in redacted form, not being published. Given the DNA conclusions reached after the report was compiled there is now a clear conflict of evidence. Either Matthews and his team spent much time and money barking up the wrong tree, or the DNA evidence is unreliable. Neither of these is something the justice system would wish to be brought into public view.

                  Secondly, whilst Valerie Storie was alive, it would have been a very cruel decision to publish a report that suggested she had unwittingly help send an innocent man to the gallows. No more than cruel than what befell the Hanratty family, but having waited so long for a verdict they had sought, on balance it might have been considered less cruel for them to wait a little longer rather than undermine Ms. Storie’'s credibility.

                  As an alternative suspect Alphon ticks most of the boxes and would be an obvious place to start were anyone re-investigating the crime. William Ewer remains a man of mystery but emerges as someone able to wield influence. My suspicion was that Ewer had been involved in intelligence work during the war and could call in some favours as a result, but I have never found anything to substantiate this.

                  Comment


                  • Yes, I was aware that Matthews pointed the finger at Alphon in his Report, even though Alphon had been cleared during the original police investigation. It is, I suppose, not impossible for the Home Office to have spiked the Report due to its suggesting that a man already cleared was in fact guilty; this wouldn't look good either for the police or the Home Office. This, I believe, was the correct decision, especially in view of the later DNA results in which Alphon did not figure at all, apart from submitting when requested a sample of his own DNA, which it seems he did without objection, and was cleared. And of course there is the much simpler fact that Valerie Storie was confronted by Alphon on the ID parade, and did not pick him out.

                    Many of Alphon's actions following the murder lead one to believe that he was unbalanced, and a fantasist; but never once did he state categorically that he'd been paid to carry out the A6 murder. He perhaps led Paul Foot a bit of a merry dance (which much later Foot effectively admitted) over his bank-balance, but if Ewer or someone else paid someone to kill Gregsten they could have engaged the services of a professional for a hell of a lot less than the mysterious £5000. Jack 'The Hat' McVitie was bumped off by the Krays because they'd paid him £1000 to kill someone, and when he failed to complete the contract they wanted both the money back and him out of the way. But that's really by the by.

                    Given all the on-the-ground and forensic evidence against him, I must still consider Hanratty as the guilty party; but if he didn't do it, then I suppose that there may still be (faint) grounds for suspecting Alphon - except he doesn't strike me as being the man anyone in their right mind would select to carry out any crime, let alone murder and rape. And of course he's dead, and cannot be questioned - and even if he could still be questioned, would it be possible for anyone to take at face value anything he said? So if it wasn't Hanratty or Alphon, then it must have been someone who identity has been lost in the mists of time, so to speak. Yet the crime was so manifestly awful that I find it almost impossible to accept that the identity of a thus-far publicly un-named perp could remain a close secret for nearly 60 years. I do recall another East End gangster, Frankie Fraser, once suggesting that if it wasn't Hanratty, then someone in the underworld would know who it was.

                    Cobalt describes Ewer as being 'able to wield influence'. How, and with whom? In his statement to The Times, Ewer even makes the spurious claim that he 'applied' to be present at the trial of Hanratty - a criminal trial, unless brought by the Home Office 'in camera', is a public function, and no-one has to apply to attend. In fairness to Ewer, he was a little more substantial than a mere 'umbrella repair man', as writers on the case have described him; he was quite an accomplished art and antiques dealer, reference the high-value painting that Janet helped him to hang in his shop after the murder (sorrym can't remember who the artist was!). He was also seemingly generously-minded, and took Janet (his sister-in-law) and her two sons to live with him and his wife at the family home in Golders Green. Later, he and Janet entered into a fairly long-lived relationship - which of course is probably still seen by some as the ultimate motive for Gregsten's being killed. If a more accomplished investigator than I can dig out further information regarding William Ewer and his life, I'd be more than interested, as he certainly is a 'mystery man'.

                    Enough.

                    Graham
                    We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by cobalt View Post
                      It is what he discovered within police files and interview statements that led him to the conclusion he did.
                      We must not lose sight of the fact that it was not just his conclusion. It was the conclusion of the whole investigative team which was working alongside him, under his supervision. And it was a lengthy and exhaustive inquiry.


                      *************************************
                      "A body of men, HOLDING THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO NOBODY, ought not to be trusted by anybody." --Thomas Paine ["Rights of Man"]

                      "Justice is an ideal which transcends the expedience of the State, or the sensitivities of Government officials, or private individuals. IT HAS TO BE PURSUED WHATEVER THE COST IN PEACE OF MIND TO THOSE CONCERNED." --'Justice of the Peace' [July 12th 1975]

                      Comment


                      • I doubt that his team were as unanimous as you suggest. In May-99 Matthews wrote an article in the Daily Mail which appeared to be a very personal opinion. The article is riddled with wild claims.

                        Soon after the article appeared the Met appointed Steve Dann to look at the Matthews Report and, after examining its supporting documentation, concluded that it was wrong. Presumably any release of the Matthews Report would be accompanied by Dann's rebuttal.

                        But the ultimate test of Matthews work was at the 2002 Appeal when the defence team rejected his conclusion that Alphon did it. Not only did they rule out Alphon as the culprit but, as we have been discussing, they made a ground of objection that the police tried to frame him.

                        Comment


                        • "Roger, really, what on earth are you trying to do to us ? You and your team were not supposed to come to that conclusion, do you know the damage that damned honesty of yours has done ? Now we will have to get someone else in to rectify the situation, someone we can rely on not to rock the boat. We all know Hanratty was innocent but you cannot bring a dead man back to life."
                          *************************************
                          "A body of men, HOLDING THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO NOBODY, ought not to be trusted by anybody." --Thomas Paine ["Rights of Man"]

                          "Justice is an ideal which transcends the expedience of the State, or the sensitivities of Government officials, or private individuals. IT HAS TO BE PURSUED WHATEVER THE COST IN PEACE OF MIND TO THOSE CONCERNED." --'Justice of the Peace' [July 12th 1975]

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Sherlock Houses View Post
                            "Roger, really, what on earth are you trying to do to us ? You and your team were not supposed to come to that conclusion, do you know the damage that damned honesty of yours has done ? Now we will have to get someone else in to rectify the situation, someone we can rely on not to rock the boat. We all know Hanratty was innocent but you cannot bring a dead man back to life."
                            Steve Dann eh? Desperate Dann? LOL.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Sherlock Houses View Post

                              We must not lose sight of the fact that it was not just his conclusion. It was the conclusion of the whole investigative team which was working alongside him, under his supervision. And it was a lengthy and exhaustive inquiry.

                              How do you know? Have you ever read it?

                              Graham
                              We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

                              Comment


                              • Let us look at some of the things Matthews wrote in the Mail article ...

                                "Gregsten wound down [the window] and was forced out of the car at gunpoint."
                                Valerie said they unlocked the back door, the gunman got in the car and sat in the back seat.

                                "Staff at the Maida Vale hotel said they had not seen Alphon on the crucial night."
                                He is swallowing Nudds discredited and disavowed second statement. As the defence team realised, this was part of the framing of Alphon by the police.

                                "[Hanratty] bore not the remotest resemblance to the man she had identified (wrongly, of course) at the Alphon parade."
                                Did he find Michael Clark?

                                "[Valerie] was unable to visually identify any one."
                                Valerie said that she did identify him visually, and subsequently the voice confirmed it.

                                "Hanratty was the only man on the parade born within a hundred miles of London!!"
                                Did he track down all id parade volunteers?

                                "The room [where the bullet cases were found] had been occupied on at least two occasions in the intervening period."
                                There is doubt about one intervening occupant, let alone two or more.

                                "[Skillet and Trower’s] evidence was totally unreliable – and was in fact rejected at the trial."
                                It was cross-examined at the tiral, but unless he talked to the jurors he has no basis for suggesting it was rejected.

                                ''His graphic description of the room was quite extraordinarily accurate - and the landlady was uncertain as to the date upon which he had stayed.''
                                In fact his description of the room specifically ruled out ‘Room 4’ in which the landlady claimed he stayed.

                                ''[Foot] discovered, incidentally, fourteen witnesses who supported Hanratty's claim to have been in Rhyl at the time of the atrocity''.
                                Does he really accept the claims of all these witnesses – for example, Charlie Jones?

                                "[Hanratty] had in his pocket the keys for a Jaguar which he had stolen and driven around England for some weeks."
                                The Jaguar had been driven once for a few hours, not around England for some weeks.

                                This does not sound like someone who has made a thorough inquiry.

                                Comment

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