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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Social Chat > Other Mysteries > A6 Murders

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  #4301  
Old 12-31-2017, 05:00 AM
OneRound OneRound is offline
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Thanks in turn for your comments, AS.

Two factors were particularly significant in the ending of the death penalty here and they both relate to your post.

The first was the risk of an innocent person being executed and the concern that it had actually happened. During parliamentary debates leading to abolition, Timothy Evans was the prime cause of concern in this respect although doubts were also expressed about the safety of the convictions of certain others who had been executed, including James Hanratty.

The second was public concern as to the unclear and at times baffling way in which the Home Secretary chose to grant a reprieve to a condemned person or not. His decision was never publicly explained. Leading cases in this respect were those of Derek Bentley and Ruth Ellis who both went to the gallows despite campaigns to save them (an especially vigorous one for Bentley).

As I mentioned on the associated thread that I flagged recently, I have some sympathy for the position in which the Home Secretary was sometimes placed in. Once a case reached his desk, he had no choice other than to proceed on the basis that the convicted person was guilty. He had to respect the verdict of the jury and the judgement of the Appeal Court in dismissing an appeal (if one had been made).

Hanratty's loyal barrister Sherrard passionately and determinedly raised issues of identification evidence with Rab Butler, the Home Secretary at the time, in a final attempt to save his client's life. However, in my opinion Sherrard had very little hope of success and it was not surprising that his efforts failed. For all his eloquence, Sherrard was simply repeating earlier arguments and raising nothing new. Butler had to proceed on the basis that Hanratty had been rightly convicted of one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century and a reprieve was never going to be granted in that situation.

Good to have you on the A6. I am sure you will soon find out that others here know much more than me about this road.

Best regards,

OneRound
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  #4302  
Old 12-31-2017, 08:17 AM
NickB NickB is offline
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In the absence of a challenge to the 2002 Appeal decision it will become generally accepted that Hanratty was guilty. Opposition could be reinvigorated if Woffinden issued a revised or new book making such a challenge, but he appears to have gone very quiet on the subject.

I believe Hanratty could have avoided the rope by pleading mental deficiency. In the Sunday Times article I posted recently it claimed that this could even have been done after the trial in the original Appeal process. He didn’t do so because that would mean he admitted guilt, but if you could go back in time and tell him about the DNA tests, wouldn’t he have done so?

If he had served a prison sentence instead it would have been interesting to have heard his account of what he really did in August 1961.
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  #4303  
Old 12-31-2017, 09:28 AM
cobalt cobalt is offline
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OR,
Congratulations on a masterful summation of the question marks concerning DNA evidence in relation to James Hanratty.

NickB,
Pleading mental deficiency would not have been an option considered by Hanratty if he were innocent of course.

Had he been guilty, then I am less convinced such an appeal would have saved him from execution. He would have then changed his story three times: from Liverpool alibi, to Rhyl alibi; to mental deficiency. I doubt if legal opinion, far less the British public, would have seen this as anything more than a desperate, late ploy to avoid responsibility for a terrible crime involving gratuitous murder, rape and the paralysis of the surviving victim.

It may be that we already know what Hanratty did at the time of the murder, in so far as he gave his account at trial. Hanratty went to the gallows not just protesting his innocence but asking his family to fight to clear his name. Now, Hanratty did not have much of a reputation to uphold so he presumably believed he was being wronged. Of course, he could have been trying to save face in front of his family in order that they did not feel disgraced, but there were ways to do this short of asking them to continue the fight after his death. Convicted murderers normally accepted their lot with a degree of fatalism before execution, finding a cryptic form of words which indicated they were being punished for mistakes and poor decisions in life. This was open to Hanratty, short of making a confession to his guilt, but instead he went in the opposite direction and placed a responsibility upon his family which is still being carried out 55 years later.
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  #4304  
Old 12-31-2017, 10:43 AM
Derrick Derrick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cobalt View Post
...It may be that we already know what Hanratty did at the time of the murder, in so far as he gave his account at trial. Hanratty went to the gallows not just protesting his innocence but asking his family to fight to clear his name. Now, Hanratty did not have much of a reputation to uphold so he presumably believed he was being wronged. Of course, he could have been trying to save face in front of his family in order that they did not feel disgraced, but there were ways to do this short of asking them to continue the fight after his death. Convicted murderers normally accepted their lot with a degree of fatalism before execution, finding a cryptic form of words which indicated they were being punished for mistakes and poor decisions in life. This was open to Hanratty, short of making a confession to his guilt, but instead he went in the opposite direction and placed a responsibility upon his family which is still being carried out 55 years later.
Cobalt
I find that the most Christian and profound comment on this forum for a long while.

Bless you.
Del

Happy New Year everyone.
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  #4305  
Old 12-31-2017, 12:34 PM
NickB NickB is offline
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The 1957 Homicide Act introduced the defence of ‘diminished responsibility’ reducing a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter. Following the Act, of the 64 people sentenced to death half (32) were reprieved. This is why I believe that a plea of diminished responsibility would have been successful.
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  #4306  
Old 12-31-2017, 01:58 PM
OneRound OneRound is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickB View Post
The 1957 Homicide Act introduced the defence of ‘diminished responsibility’ reducing a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter. Following the Act, of the 64 people sentenced to death half (32) were reprieved. This is why I believe that a plea of diminished responsibility would have been successful.
Hi Nick - the frequency of reprieves granted under the '57 Act is somewhat skewed upwards though as the final 13 individuals sentenced to be hanged between December 1964 and November 1965 were automatically reprieved as Parliament debated and brought in legislation to stop the use of the death penalty.

I am firmly in cobalt's camp that a plea of 'diminished responsibility' upon behalf of Hanratty would have failed for the reasons he gives.

Best regards,

OneRound
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  #4307  
Old 01-03-2018, 06:27 AM
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caz caz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cobalt View Post
OR,
Congratulations on a masterful summation of the question marks concerning DNA evidence in relation to James Hanratty.

NickB,
Pleading mental deficiency would not have been an option considered by Hanratty if he were innocent of course.

Had he been guilty, then I am less convinced such an appeal would have saved him from execution. He would have then changed his story three times: from Liverpool alibi, to Rhyl alibi; to mental deficiency. I doubt if legal opinion, far less the British public, would have seen this as anything more than a desperate, late ploy to avoid responsibility for a terrible crime involving gratuitous murder, rape and the paralysis of the surviving victim.

It may be that we already know what Hanratty did at the time of the murder, in so far as he gave his account at trial. Hanratty went to the gallows not just protesting his innocence but asking his family to fight to clear his name. Now, Hanratty did not have much of a reputation to uphold so he presumably believed he was being wronged. Of course, he could have been trying to save face in front of his family in order that they did not feel disgraced, but there were ways to do this short of asking them to continue the fight after his death. Convicted murderers normally accepted their lot with a degree of fatalism before execution, finding a cryptic form of words which indicated they were being punished for mistakes and poor decisions in life. This was open to Hanratty, short of making a confession to his guilt, but instead he went in the opposite direction and placed a responsibility upon his family which is still being carried out 55 years later.
Good post, cobalt, and a happy new year to all.

I was only thinking last night about the disgrace that would have attached to a crime like this, and wondered if this, in part, contributed to Dixie France's suicide.

Petty crime was one thing, but the honour system within the criminal fraternity would have considered the senseless and horrific A6 shootings and rape quite another matter. While stealing from someone better off, or even trading in firearms, would have been seen as relatively minor law-breaking, nobody would have wanted to be associated with whoever had left one man dead for no apparent reason, then raped and shot his helpless girlfriend before fleeing the scene using the couple's car. So whatever France may or may not have known about all this, and regardless of the truth, he would have found himself in a deeply uncomfortable position, given his association with the man convicted of such an appalling crime.

If Hanratty was indeed the guilty man, it might help to explain why he went to his grave protesting his innocence and asking his family to clear his name. He must have appreciated by then just how shaming it was for them to have to face a world that believed their son/brother could have done such a thing. Had he confessed, or even gone for a diminished responsibility plea, his family would have continued to bear the stigma - and possibly the responsibility - for the rest of their own lives. I'm pretty sure I would, if I thought a child of mine had committed a crime of this magnitude.

Revisiting 10 Rillington Place for a moment, I strongly suspect Christie's reasons for refusing to admit to the murder of baby Geraldine were along similar lines. It was bad enough to confess to killing several adult women [while claiming, IIRC, not to have caused them any pain ], but doing away with a helpless little tot was on a whole other level. A coward like Christie, who had sent an innocent man to the gallows, would have been right to fear the reaction of his fellow prison inmates had he confessed to that one.

Love,

Caz
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Last edited by caz : 01-03-2018 at 06:36 AM.
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  #4308  
Old 01-04-2018, 09:35 AM
ansonman ansonman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caz View Post
Good post, cobalt, and a happy new year to all.

I was only thinking last night about the disgrace that would have attached to a crime like this, and wondered if this, in part, contributed to Dixie France's suicide.

Petty crime was one thing, but the honour system within the criminal fraternity would have considered the senseless and horrific A6 shootings and rape quite another matter. While stealing from someone better off, or even trading in firearms, would have been seen as relatively minor law-breaking, nobody would have wanted to be associated with whoever had left one man dead for no apparent reason, then raped and shot his helpless girlfriend before fleeing the scene using the couple's car. So whatever France may or may not have known about all this, and regardless of the truth, he would have found himself in a deeply uncomfortable position, given his association with the man convicted of such an appalling crime.

If Hanratty was indeed the guilty man, it might help to explain why he went to his grave protesting his innocence and asking his family to clear his name. He must have appreciated by then just how shaming it was for them to have to face a world that believed their son/brother could have done such a thing. Had he confessed, or even gone for a diminished responsibility plea, his family would have continued to bear the stigma - and possibly the responsibility - for the rest of their own lives. I'm pretty sure I would, if I thought a child of mine had committed a crime of this magnitude.

Revisiting 10 Rillington Place for a moment, I strongly suspect Christie's reasons for refusing to admit to the murder of baby Geraldine were along similar lines. It was bad enough to confess to killing several adult women [while claiming, IIRC, not to have caused them any pain ], but doing away with a helpless little tot was on a whole other level. A coward like Christie, who had sent an innocent man to the gallows, would have been right to fear the reaction of his fellow prison inmates had he confessed to that one.

Love,

Caz
X
I cannot believe that France committed suicide, in part, because of any disgrace associated with having let Hanratty into his home.

The appeal was dismissed on the Tuesday, reported on the Wednesday and on the Thursday France checked into a boarding house bedsit. Before gassing himself he wrote about 100 pages of writing paper, all of which were taken by the police and most of which have never been disclosed.

I find it impossible to believe that France killed himself because of the "shame" his association with Hanratty had brought to his family, or that it would take 100 or so pages of writing to express that shame and justify an act that would devastate his (France's) family. What makes far more sense to me is Woffinden's assertion that France was indeed an associate in a very filthy act: the framing of Hanratty.

For my money, France held the key to what really happened and was the central player in this case. He killed himself because he knew an innocent man was about to be hanged and that his evidence had been crucial to the guilty verdict.

Ansonman
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  #4309  
Old 01-04-2018, 10:19 AM
Spitfire Spitfire is offline
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For my money, France held the key to what really happened and was the central player in this case. He killed himself because he knew an innocent man was about to be hanged and that his evidence had been crucial to the guilty verdict.

Ansonman
The most important part of France's evidence was the conversation with Hanratty about getting rid of stuff under the back seat of a double-decker bus and, as Hanratty never denied this conversation, we can assume that France told the truth which is hardly a reason for killing oneself.
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  #4310  
Old 01-04-2018, 10:24 AM
OneRound OneRound is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ansonman View Post
I cannot believe that France committed suicide, in part, because of any disgrace associated with having let Hanratty into his home.

The appeal was dismissed on the Tuesday, reported on the Wednesday and on the Thursday France checked into a boarding house bedsit. Before gassing himself he wrote about 100 pages of writing paper, all of which were taken by the police and most of which have never been disclosed.

I find it impossible to believe that France killed himself because of the "shame" his association with Hanratty had brought to his family, or that it would take 100 or so pages of writing to express that shame and justify an act that would devastate his (France's) family. What makes far more sense to me is Woffinden's assertion that France was indeed an associate in a very filthy act: the framing of Hanratty.

For my money, France held the key to what really happened and was the central player in this case. He killed himself because he knew an innocent man was about to be hanged and that his evidence had been crucial to the guilty verdict.

Ansonman
Hi Anson,

If ''France was indeed an associate in a very filthy act:the framing of Hanratty'', he presumably was a willing participant. It strikes me as odd that such a hideous individual would then have a belated attack of conscience and do himself in as a result.

Foot saw France's written notes (not sure if it was all of them?) and commented along the lines that France slated Hanratty rather than sympathised with him.


PS Cobalt - meant to say this before, many thanks for your generous feedback on my ''concerns about the DNA'' post.

Best regards,

OneRound
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