The A6 Bedfordshire Murder
In an ideal world it is tempting to think that we might find solutions to mysteries like the ‘a6 murder’ by simply paying attention to detail. This particular puzzle however has taken many a mind around in circles for years. My attempt to solve the mystery was to create a chronology of events from the facts and statements and to disregard the fiasco that followed the trial surrounding Alphon and his unscrupulous friends. That chronology is now published here.
James Hanratty was a petty crook and controversially convicted and hanged after being found guilty of carrying out the murder of Michael Gregsten at ‘Deadman’s Hill’ in Bedfordshire in August 1961. The case against Hanratty never stood up to scrutiny even in the presence of later DNA evidence. Hanratty always denied the murder although the evidence he gave was marred by lies in the dock which further exacerbated the jury and his position.
Astonishingly and despite numerous coincidences, the A6 murder was eventually regarded as motiveless by Scotland Yard detectives. If Hanratty was guilty, was he really acting alone? Did Hanratty die a scapegoat? Whatever the truth, Hanratty’s family devotedly campaigned long and hard to clear his name. Whether Hanratty was guilty or innocent, it appears to me that he should not have been charged alone.
The document will be useful to those who already assume a knowledge of the case.
Events Surrounding the Build up to James Hanratty’s Arrest.
Sunday 4 October
James Hanratty is born in Bromley. The family are living in Farnborough, Kent.
1937 – 1944
The family move from the South East of London to the North West settling at 29 Hillfield Avenue, Wembley.
James and Michael are evacuated to Barrow in Furness in Cumberland. They are billeted to a house run by Mr and Mrs Everside. They remain there for approximately one year.
James and Michael return as evacuees to their mother at home which is Elthorne Court, Church Lane, Kingsbury. Their father is at sea in the Navy but when he returns the family move into a semi-detatched house at 12 Sycamore Grove, Kingsbury. James enrolls at St James Catholic School, Orange Hill Road, Burnt Oak. The school doctor is called by the head-mistress of the school (Sister Catherine) to assess James, who recommends he should be sent to a special school for backward children. James’ parents being protective, disagree with the given diagnosis of their son, and James continues his schooling at St James.
Hanratty leaves Kingsbury High School. His father is working as a dustman. Hanratty gets a job sorting refuse for the Public Cleansing Department of Wembley Borough Council.
Hanratty falls off his bicycle, bumping his head. He is unconscious for 10 hours. He is kept under observation at Wembley hospital. He is supposed to return to work a week after being discharged from hospital but he fails to do so. One morning, soon after, Hanratty walks to the corner shop with a ration book with his brother Michael. Hanratty buys some sweets, gives them to Michael and sends him home alone. Hanratty flees for the first time and finds himself in Brighton working for a Mr Smith loading logs onto lorries and delivering them to London with the driver. He sleeps in the cab of the lorry but about one month after disappearing he collapses and is found unconscious and suffering from exposure.
The police call at the Hanratty household to tell them that they have just found their son. Hanratty is in the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, the family are asked by the police to identify him. Doctors are concerned that Hanratty might be suffering from a brain haemorrhage. They shave his head and perform a surgical operation which involves taking bone flaps from the skull to access the brain, but no sign of bleeding is found. The doctors conclude that Hanratty is simply mentally deficient. Hanratty spends two weeks recuperating with his mothers sister, aunt Annie Cunningham in Bedford, a place he and Michael had visited as children on holiday. Hanratty eventually takes a job driving a mechanical shovel for a company called ‘Green Brothers’ who make breeze blocks. He seems settled doing this job and continues with it for three years.
Hanratty appears before Harrow magistrates for his first offense. He is accused of stealing a motorbike.
1954 – 1955
It is about this time that Hanratty soon discovers he can earn big money in Soho. He begins to frequent ‘Solomon’s Gym’ on the top floor of a building on Great Windmill Street, Westminster. He begins to hang out at ‘The Rehearsal Club’ around the corner from Solomon’s on Archer Street, renowned for staging regular girlie shows and being a haunt for criminals.
It is around this time that Hanratty becomes aquainted with Charles ‘Dixie’ France. Hanratty explained ‘I met him when I was a teenager and didn’t know the ropes. I had lots of dealings in bits and pieces. He was more experienced. He learned me previous occasions when I was younger.’
Hanratty is convicted of his second offence for housebreaking. He is remanded in custody and attempts to slash his wrists. The prison medical officer concludes that Hanratty is a potential psychopath.
Hanratty is sentenced to two years in prison for two house breaking offences and one burglary.
Hanratty is released from prison.
Hanratty steals a car and gets caught. Hanratty explains:
I met a man called Bill from Bloxwich, Wallsall, who taught me how to drive. We nicked a car from the West End. It was a Ford Zephyr with continental plates. After two days we abondoned it in Leighton Buzzard(Bedfordshire.) Then we took a Morris Oxford 10. I took Bill to Brighton where I left him with the car. I took a Humber Hawk but I got caught.
Hanratty is back in court on trial for motor theft and serves four months in Walton prison, Liverpool.
Hanratty is released from Walton prison.
Hanratty is convicted of stealing two cars at the Inner London Crown Court and sentenced to three years corrective training in prison. Hanratty will now have to serve the entire three years to be released in March 1961. He begins in Wandsworth before being transferred to Maidstone where he befriends Laurence Lannigan. Hanratty attempts to escape twice from Maidstone and is transferred to Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight as punishment.
Hanratty attempts to escape from Camp Hill.
Hanratty attempts to escape from Camp Hill a second time and is sent to Strangeways, Manchester instead.
Hanratty is transferred to Durham where he bumps into Laurence Lannigan again. Hanratty’s conduct is poor however and he is returned back to Strangeways.
Michael Gregsten returns to his home and estranged wife, having left her for Valerie Storie for an unspecified amount of time earlier, following a discussion in which Janet Gregsten had invited Valerie Storie over to her house to explain that her husbands roots were at home and that she shouldn’t be persuading him to leave.
Having served three years corrective training, Hanratty is released from Strangeways prison in Manchester. Between 1959 and 1961, Hanratty was one of only five people out of 1,300 who had been given and had served a full term of corrective training.
Hanratty returns back to his family from prison.
Wednesday 2 August
Later police investigations suggest Hanratty was in Northwood on this day burgling houses.
Thursday 3 August
Later police investigations suggest Hanratty was in Northwood on this day burgling houses.
Saturday 5 August
Hanratty is at the France’s house. He had noticed Carole France putting mascara on and suggested that he wanted something like that for his hair. Carole who is an apprentice hairdresser dyes Hanratty’s ginger/auburn hair black. Hanratty pays her £2 for her trouble. Hanratty believed the long summer days and the colour of his hair made him look conspicuous during burglaries. Hanratty explains:
‘I was doing business, my breakings; and I had to do it in the day, and my hair is auburn colour and it is very outstanding, so I had it dyed dark.’
Monday 7 August
Hanratty and Charles France go to Hendon Dog Track. After the meeting, they board a bus and go upstairs where they have a conversation about the back seat of a bus being a good hiding place. France described it as follows:
‘I started to go towards the front of the bus but he pulled me back to the back seat. He made a remark something like, “This is the only seat on the bus that lifts up and is a good hiding place.”‘
Tuesday 8 August
Robert Crocker is employed to work at the ‘Broadway’ hotel.
Thursday 10 August
William Nudds said he was released from prison on this day having served a lengthy sentence in at least seven different prisons where he was ultimately disliked and victimised by inmates. Nudds boasted he had found employment at the ‘Vienna’ hotel within three days of his release.
Saturday 12 August
Hanratty is in Harrow burgling a house. He steals 1 solitaire ring, 7 eternity rings with a ruby and surrounding pearls, £14 in cash from a ladies purse in the bedroom, 1 gentleman’s ring, 6 pairs of gold cuff links with the initial E on them, a ¾ length fur coat which Hanratty says he thought was ‘not mink, I think it was ermine.’ and a brand new ‘Bolex’ German cine-camera in a leather pigskin case which he had noticed in the lounge on his way out. William Nudds is employed to work at the ‘Vienna’ hotel.
Bet: Saturday 12 August – Sunday 13 August
Hanratty offers her the takings from his Harrow robbery the day before.
She gives him £45 in cash for the fur coat and £15 for the cine-camera which he says he ‘accepted because I didn’t know what it was worth then.’
That night Hanratty sleeps at Louise Anderson’s flat between two chairs.
Thursday 17 August
Hanratty bumps into his cousin, Eileen Cunningham in Willesden, London. They are close but they have not seen each other for some time. Hanratty calls her over from across the street. She does not recognize him as she explained later in a statement.
‘His hair was dyed absolutely jet-black. You would not have been able to tell he was really ginger.’
Hanratty tells her he is trying to arrange a date with a girl. Eileen believed that
‘He phoned her twice at two different numbers. I know, I had to dial for him. He finds difficulty in dialling phone numbers.’
Friday 18 August
Hanratty collects his new dark suit with a stripe from Hepworth’s Tailors in Burnt Oak, London. He wears it for the whole of the following week.
Saturday 19 August
Hanratty sleeps over at Louise Anderson’s flat.
Sunday 20 August
Hanratty arrives at the France household with two suitcases. N.B. Hanratty’s presence at the France household was evidence given by Charles France at Hanratty’s trial, Hanratty also admitted calling at the France household this day. He asks Charlotte France if she will wash a brown pigskin suitcase full of dirty laundry for him. He tells her the lie that he is travelling to Liverpool on Mon 21 August to visit an Aunt who he intends to take to see ‘the dogs.’ By all accounts, Charlotte France was unaware of her husbands criminal activities and as Hanratty explained later, he could not tell her the real reason for his visit to Liverpool which he explained as follows:
‘I was going to get rid of stolen rings. Three men with whom I stayed in Liverpool had connections. I thought they could get me the best price. I didn’t want to tell Mrs France that I was going to Liverpool to dispose of stolen property.’
Hanratty said he had already tried to sell the rings to a fence in London around this time and had been told that they were fake. Louise Anderson had run out of money and so he could not sell them to her either. Believing the jewellery to be genuine, especially a solitare diamond ring stolen from the ‘Stanmore-Harrow area’ worth £350, Hanratty thought of someone called ‘Aspinall’ who he had met in prison 3 or 4 years earlier who might take the rings.
’I was going to Liverpool to see a friend of mine who I knew as a past prisoner. I knew he was in the grocery business…’
He could only remember that Aspinall lived on Talbot, Carleton or Tarleton Road in Liverpool. Hanratty sleeps over at Louise Anderson’s flat.
Monday 21 August
Hanratty takes a green check suit, stolen during one of his household burglaries, to be cleaned at ‘Burtol’s’ dry cleaner’s in the station arcade at Swiss Cottage, North London. He also asks them to taper the trousers. He gives his name as Ryan and his address as the fictitious 72 Boundary Rd, London.
2:30 P.M. – 7.00 P.M.
Hanratty travels the short distance from Swiss Cottage and visits the France family to collect his brown pigskin suitcase full of clothing. He is wearing his ‘Hepworth’s’ suit. Charlotte France has packed it with five clean white shirts, ties, socks and toiletries. When Hanratty arrives there, Carole France is lying on the sofa having had a tooth removed at the dentists. Hanratty has a cup of tea and stays for a few hours. He gives Charlotte France £15 to collect her sewing machine and clock from the pawn shop. He leaves another £15 for Charles ‘Dixie’ France. This is the last the France’s hear of Hanratty until they receive a telegram on Friday 25 August 1961.
N.B. Olive Dinwoodie and Barbara Ford’s evidence, that Hanratty was in a sweetshop on Scotland Road, Liverpool where they were serving on this afternoon, 21 August 1961 between 4:15 and 4:30p.m; contradicts the events listed here between 2:30 and 7:00p.m. This evidence was given by Carole France and Charles France, that Hanratty was at their house this afternoon.
11:30 P.M. – Midnight
Hanratty says he arrived at the Vienna Hotel between 11:30pm and midnight and stayed the night in room 24. William Nudds(Glickberg) who was an employed assistant at the hotel, in his first statement which dates from Fri 15 Sept 1961, gives the following account of Hanratty’s arrival at the Vienna:
‘I have been shown an entry in the register dated 21 Aug, signed J.Ryan, 72 Wood Lane, Kinsbury who was allocated room 24. I remember this booking quite well. It was one which came from the Broadway Hotel and the man was brought over by one of the waiter’s in the company’s vehicle. It was between 9:00 and 11:00pm. I showed him into his room. There are a number of beds in the room and he occupied the bed on the left hand side as you go in the door.’
James Hanratty’s Account
Tuesday 22 August
9:00 – 9:30 A.M. approx.
Hanratty wakes up at the Vienna Hotel and goes for breakfast. He has a stolen solitaire diamond ring worth £350 amongst other items to sell and is destined for Liverpool. He is hoping to find an old friend he had met in prison 3 to 4 years earlier who he knew was in the grocery business called Aspinall, to sell the ring to. He is ‘in no hurry.’ He eats Cornflakes, Bacon and Eggs, and Toast and Marmalade. There are about six other people dining at the time. He says he was served by an oldish woman who was almost certainly Florence Snell. After breakfast he has a shave, collects his case and leaves.
9:30+ A.M. approx.
Hanratty said he walked up Sutherland Avenue and onto Paddington Station by mistake. Trains to Liverpool run from Euston Station. Hanratty knew this saying,
‘I do not know why I made this mistake. Perhaps I was excited by the jewellery and the deal I was going to do. ’
- 10:45 A.M. approx.
Hanratty said that realising his mistake, he then took a black cab to Euston buying a ticket to Lime Street Station, Liverpool for just under £3. He then bought some magazines from a newspaper stall and read them over a coffee whilst he waited for the train. Hanratty said he checked the platform but the train still had not arrived so he went back for refreshments and had a tea. He also bought a tube of toothpaste and spoke with a porter. Hanratty said that when he arrived on the platform for a second time to check for his train, it had arrived and was filling up fast. He had difficulty finding a seat. Hanratty explains.
‘I always like to sit next to the window. I had to go to the far end near the engine. I got into a compartment and tried to get a window seat but someone had got there first. A man like a college boy was kissing his girl goodbye but he had reserved his seat by leaving his books and papers there. There was another man in the opposite seat though I didn’t pay too much attention to him.’
One man looked like a ‘clerky gent.’ according to Hanratty.
‘I watched him and studied his dress closely as I am interested in the way people dress. He had very fine nylon stockings and shiny shoes with pinstripe trousers and a briefcase (like Mr. Kleinman’s.) He had very fine reading glasses which he put over his ordinary spectacles to read some papers. He had a gold pen too, and a gold watch, a beautiful watch which he wore on his right arm. He had initialled gold cuff links too. He smoked a black pipe. He had the inside seat. First I sat on the other side, then I changed seats so that I was sitting next to him.’
Hanratty said the gent was making notes and he wore a black barathea jacket. He had a briefcase and pad which could be turned over at the top. He was wearing black shoes which were shinier at the toe than on the upper part. He was sitting with his legs crossed. The man had a pair of glasses and he also had a separate lens which could be joined onto the first pair to save him having two separate pairs of glasses.
‘The man had his sleeve cut short to show the white cuff and he had gold cufflinks and there was an initial on them, but I could only make out an ‘E.’’
Hanratty said the train was full with many passengers standing in the corridors.
‘I did not speak to anyone. Most of the men got up and went to the restaurant car. The train stopped at Crewe, but no-one got in. We got into Liverpool at about 3:30 in the afternoon.’
N.B. Some newspapers reported that Hanratty said the train arrived in Liverpool at 4:30 in the afternoon.
3:30 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. approx.
At Liverpool Lime Street Station, Hanratty says he went down some stairs and had a wash and brush up in the lavatory under the buffet. He had a conversation with the attendant about horse racing then had a cup of tea in the buffet and deposited his pigskin suitcase in the left luggage office. Hanratty said,
‘The man who took it had a turned or withered hand. I said to him, “How much?” He said “A shilling.” I said, “It’s usually sixpence.” He said, “We charge a shilling for all bags.” I said, “Well it’s only sixpence in London.” I asked what time they closed and he said they were open until the last train went.’
During the trial the prosecution called Peter Stringer, who had an artificial arm, who denied ever having seen the suitcase or Hanratty. However, William Usher did have two fingers missing from one hand, which looked ‘turned’. He said he recalled Hanratty and the suitcase, remembering the name of the man as ‘Ratty.’ Hanratty said he then asked a woman outside the station where ‘Carlton Avenue’ was. His explaination for doing so being:
‘I was looking for Aspinall to sell him the rings.’
The woman is said to have told Hanratty that it was a two penny bus ride away, up the Scotland Road. Hanratty said he caught the bus, but then had to get off it when he was asked to pay the fare, because the conductor did not know where he was looking for. Hanratty said he got off by a picture house which he thought was ‘The Regal.’ He then asked a few pedestrians if they were aware of the address ’Carleton’, ‘Tarleton’ Road, but they could not help him either. Hanratty said he then went into a sweet shop and tobacconist opposite the picture house. He said there was a lady serving and a little girl was with her. The shop assistant said she was not aware of a Carleton or Tarleton Road and told Hanratty, ‘This is Bank Hall.’ She told Hanratty he had come too far and he needed to go back into town. She went to the shop door with Hanratty and pointed out the nearest convenient bus stop. Hanratty said it was about then, he had a change of heart about finding the illusive ‘Aspinall.’
‘When the woman told me I had to go back into town, I abandoned my intention of going to the road which I think is called Talbot Road.’
The woman in the sweetshop later came forward to give evidence as Olive Dinwoodie. Hanratty returned to the city centre and there he asked a man if he would be interested in buying a gold omega watch he had stolen. It had a gold strap and an inscription on the back which said, “To Tony with Love from Mum.” The man was not interested. Hanratty then walked back to Lime Street Railway Station.
‘‘I only had eight or nine pounds on me. To me, that is not a lot of money.’
He had a meal before walking across the road to a billiard hall on the other side of Lime Street where he came across a man standing on some steps. Hanratty said he had asked the man if he would be interested in buying a gold watch. The watch was a gold Omega with a gold strap and inscription on the back which said, ‘To Tony with Love from Mum.’ The man was not interested. Hanratty proceeded to go up the stairs into the hall to sell the watch but was told by the man that he was not permitted to go in there as the premises were licenced. Hanratty replied, ‘What difference does that make?’ and the man said, ‘It makes a lot of difference. I don’t want you to go in there with it. Robert Kempt, the Manager of the billiard hall at 12 Lime Street, Liverpool gave his account.
‘I am the managing licensee of Reynold’s Billiard Hall. It is my custom during the summer evenings when the hall is quiet, to stand at the entrance to have a breath of fresh air. That is any time between 6:00 and 7:30pm. One evening when I was standing at the door, a young fellow in his early twentie’s came to me and said, “Will you buy a watch?” I replied “No.” He said, “It’s mine, I want some cash to go to the dogs.” I still refused and he went to go up the stairs. I told him he could not go in there to sell that watch, “It’s not a sale room, it’s licensed premises.” He said,”I’m only going to the toilet.” and went up, and was down again in two minutes and he went away. I have no idea of the day, date or month, except that it was in the evening time. He was small and young and I might know him again.’
Hanratty gave two alibi’s at his trial that explained events following the previous statements. The false alibi was labelled ‘The Liverpool Alibi’ and his final alibi was labelled ‘The Rhyl’ alibi.
Where did Hanratty say he was on this night, the 22 August 1961, the Night of the ‘A6 Murder?’
The ‘Liverpool Alibi’
Before his trial, Hanratty initially concocted an alibi saying he had slept over in Liverpool on the night of 22 August 1961, the night of the A6 murder, with three friends in a flat on Scotland Road, whose identity he was unwilling to disclose on account of the fact that they had stolen jewelry and gelignite there, and that one of them owed money on a television set he had bought on HP. Hanratty persisted with this false alibi for months until well into his trial. This alibi was first revealed to Detective Superintendent Bob Acott on 7 October 1961, during a telephone conversation days after Hanratty appeared to have learned he was wanted for the A6 murder. If the police transcript of the conversation is to be believed, Hanratty appears to have been assisting the police with an unequivocally clear understanding, that he is wanted for the A6 murder. During his trial however, when Hanratty was asked why he hadn’t told DS Acott the truth that he had been in Rhyl, Hanratty replied:
‘My Lord. I didn’t tell Superintendent Acott because at that point I did not know the name of the street, the number of the house or even the name of the people in the house. At that stage, I knew that I was only wanted for interviewing, not for the actual A6 murder charge, which I found out later or the truth would have been told straight away. I know I made a terrible mistake by telling Superintendent Acott about these three men, but I have been advised that the truth only counts in this matte, and might I say here, every word of it is the truth.’
If Hanratty was telling the truth in court, that during his telephone conversation with Acott he wasn’t aware he was wanted in relation to the A6 murder, then the conversation with DS Acott on 7 Oct 1961, must have been pure fiction and a police invention. Or was Hanratty just reeling out an incessant web of lies even now, extremely late in the game. If he was, asking a jury to believe his Rhyl alibi was a tall order indeed. The comment about being unaware he was wanted for questioning about the A6 murder could simply point to another ‘faux pas’ by Hanratty, although the timing of these inconsistencies clearly didn’t help him. So Hanratty would have us believe that he had actually been in Rhyl. Why didn’t he just say so and tell DS Acott at the time.
‘My Lord. I didn’t tell Superintendent Acott because at that point I did not know the name of the street, the number of the house or even the name of the people in the house.’
Why did he persist so long with an alibi he knew to be lies?
‘Because my Lord, I am a man with a prison record and I know that in such a serious trial as this, it is very vital for a man once to change his evidence in such a serious trial. But I know inside of me somewhere, in Rhyl this house does exist, and by telling the truth, these people will come to my assistance.’
At the trial and when asked if the previous statements were now the truth of the matter, Hanratty replied:
‘Every word, sir.’
The ‘Rhyl Alibi’
During the A6 murder trial, Hanratty changed his alibi, saying he had not spent the night of 22 August 1961 in a flat on Scotland Road, Liverpool with three friends after all. It had been a lie, because he was worried he couldn’t prove his real whereabouts to the police which was in Rhyl, North Wales.
Hanratty now said he had travelled to Rhyl by coach arriving there at approximately 7:30 p.m. His reason for going was he said, to try to find a friend he had met in July 1961, who he knew only as John in the hope that he might be able to assist him in selling the stolen jewellery and gold watch he was carrying. This friend was Terry Evans who worked at a fairground in Rhyl. Hanratty said he arrived in Rhyl and needing lodgings for the night, he wandered around looking for somewhere to stay. Hanratty, who was unsure of the name of the guest house and the street, was asked to describe everything about the house in as much detail as he could. He said a woman had answered the door. She was “about 50, like my mother.” of average build and wore glasses. There was a large coat rack in the hall. He recalled a green plant in a bowl and said he had heard trains running close by and so it must have been near a railway line. Hanratty also said his room was in the attic and had a green bath in it. He said he had paid 25 shillings to stay two nights.
In the morning Hanratty said he ate breakfast in a back room away from the other guests in the main dining room. He said the room had “Two tables in the back, where I had breakfast” and that the window looked out onto a rear courtyard. This description fitted ’Ingledene’, 19 Kinmel Street which was run by Grace Jones. Christopher Larman stated that he had directed James Hanratty to ‘Ingledene’ guest house on the night of 22 August 1961. The room with the green bath in the attic was infact a bathroom that Grace Jones sometimes let to visitors if the guest house was busy. A bed would have been moved into the bathroom on the night Hanratty stayed. Hanratty said he spent the next day Wednesday 23 August 1961, looking for ‘John’ but did not go to the fairground where Evans worked because during his July visit, he had been given a job at the fair with Evans, spent the night at his house and been given a pair of Evans’ shoes that should have been paid for out of his wages. Instead, Hanratty did a bunk with Evans’ shoes. Consequently, he felt unable to return to the fair. Instead, he went for lunch and a coffee to ’Dixie’s’ cafe where he thought he might find Evans who often went there. He said he then went to a barber’s shop for a shave and spent the rest of the afternoon in amusement arcades. He said he visited Woolworth’s and returned to Dixie’s for another coffee.
That night he is said to have stayed at ‘Ingledene’ for a second night, this time being moved from the bathroom to a proper guest room. The next morning, Thursday 24 August 1961, having failed to find ‘John’, Hanratty said he returned to Liverpool. There he went to the cinema and watched ‘The Guns of Navarone.’ He also attempted to get a ticket to see a boxing match. When he failed to do so, he bought a ticket for the night train back to London. Before he left, he sent a telegram to a friend, Dixie France, in Finchley Road, London, saying he would be back on Friday. He said that during the journey back to London he had aquainted two cockney plumbers, who boarded the train at Stafford. He said they had discussed the A6 murder. Hanratty told the police:
‘We thought what a shocking thing it was.’
Because of Hanratty’s earlier visit to Rhyl, some believe that Hanratty was simply recalling events from then. If this was so, the likelihood was that he wasn’t recalling the known July visit because he is alleged to have slept at Terry Evans house one night and was said to have slept in Liverpool the next. Hanratty didn’t appear to have been to Rhyl looking for Evans on any other occasions. Terry Evans said that James Hanratty had no reason to believe that he would be interested in stolen property. Many more witnesses came forward after the trial in support of Hanratty’s alibi.
Chronological Events Continued
Tuesday 22 August
Louise Anderson stated that Hanratty visited her this morning.
Michael Gregsten, aged 36 arrives at his next door neighbours house, the Catton’s. He takes his children, Simon and Anthony to Cassiobury Park, Watford where they play with their boats.
Peter Alphon books a room at the ‘Vienna’ hotel in Maida Vale. He complains that he doesn’t like the room. Scotland Yard identify fingerprints from burglaries in Northwood on the 2/3 August as Hanratty’s. He claimed that he rarely used gloves.
4:00 – 4:15 P.M.
Gregsten sets off in his aunt’s Morris Minor car, registration 847 BHN, to collect Valerie Storie, aged 23 from the Road Research Laboratory at Langley, Buckinghamshire where they are both employed as Civil Servants. He collects some laundry and sets off.
5:00 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. approx.
Gregsten picks Valerie Storie up from work and heads to the barbers with her for a haircut. They then head for Storie’s parents house at Anthony Way, Cippenham, Nr Slough where they have tea. Mr. John Storie explained this visit the day after the murder saying:
Michael came here last night and had tea with Valerie. They then left at about 7:30 in a grey Morris car which I understood belonged to Michael’s mother. They took with them maps and other things to organize a car rally being held at their office this weekend. Valerie has worked at the laboratory since she left school five years ago and she has known Michael for a long time.
7:30 – 7:45 P.M.
Gregsten and Storie leave Storie’s home and go to the Old Station Inn, Taplow, a public house where Gregsten has friends. They arrive there and are recognized by the landlady Mary Lanz who also reported seeing Peter Alphon there with another person.
8:45 – 9:20 P.M.
Gregsten and Storie leave the Old Station Inn. Valerie Storie believed the time to be 8:45 P.M. Mary Lanz the landlady believed they left at nearer 9:20 P.M.
They drive out onto the A4 and travel a short distance before turning right onto Huntercombe Lane. They then drive over the newly laid stretch of M4, bearing right onto Court Lane and following the road round before turning into a cornfield at Dorney Reach, Buckinghamshire.
Gregsten and Storie have been parked in the cornfield for approximately twenty minutes when someone taps on the car window. They assume it must be the farmer or owner of the field. Gregsten winds the window half way down. A large black revolver is thrust through the window and a Cockney voice says, ‘This is a hold-up. I am a desperate man. I have been on the run for four months. If you do as I tell you, you will be all right.’ He instructs Gregsten to give him the car ignition keys. He attempts to open the rear door but it is locked, so he orders Gregsten to open it. Gregsten obliges by unlocking the door and the man gets into the rear. They ask the gunman what he wants and are told to keep facing the front and not to turn around. The gunman tells them that the gun is loaded and that they should do as he says and everything will be OK. The gunman is sitting behind Gregsten on the rear off side. The gun is in his right hand pointing directly at Gregsten. He tells them the gun is real, that he had not had it very long and that it was like a cowboys gun. He tells them he feels like a cowboy and that the gun is a .38 and taps his pocket which makes a rattling sound similar to a pocketful of ‘marbles.’ He says ‘These are all the bullets’ but he had never shot anyone before. Storie later said ‘I thought he was a burglar and waiting for someone.’ After a short while, the gunman returns the car keys to Gregsten andtells him to drive further into the field. They drive along the track then swing the car around parking next to what looks like a haystack covered in tarpaulin. They are now facing the entrance of the field ready to drive out. The engine is stopped and they remain there for some time. Every time Storie or Gregsten make an attempt to turn around they are told to face the front.
They ask the gunman where he has been, he tells them he has been in the ‘Oxford area.’ He tells them he has been living rough for two days and that he had woken up the ‘previous’ morning wet through because it had been raining. This surprises Storie who observes that the man is ‘immaculately dressed.’ The gunman tells them he’d never had a chance in life and how he’d been locked up in a cellar for days as a child, beaten and given bread and water to eat. He tells them he had been in institutions since he was eight years old andhad been in remand homes and Borstal. He tells them he had done C.T. or Corrective Training and the next thing he would be getting would be P.D. or Preventive Detention. He told them ‘I have done the lot’ and that he had done five years for housebreaking. The gunman asks Gregsten who he lives with. He also asks them both if they are married, they say no. He then demands their watches and money and is handed Gregsten’s wallet and Storie’s purse from her shopping basket, although she removes seven pounds first which she places in her bra escaping the gunman’s attention.
A light comes on at one of the cottages adjoining the field nearby to the North. Someone appears to be putting a bicycle away in a shed which agitates the gunman momentarily.
The gunman tells them that he is hungry and that they should find somewhere to eat and then return to the cornfield. Both he and Gregsten get out of the car, he orders Gregsten into the boot. Storie persuades the gunman that there is a crack in the exhaust pipe and that Gregsten could be asphyxiated. She notices that the gunman has a handkerchief covering his face like an outlaw. The gunman changes his mind and instructs Gregsten to drive instead. They travel back along the A4 until they reach a T-junction. They ask the gun man which way he wants to go, left to Maidenhead or right towards Slough. The gunman says he’s ‘had enough of Maidenhead’ and so they turn right. The gunman is familiar with the Bear Hotel, Maidenhead.
Outside Nevill andGriffins dairy in Slough they suggest that the gunman can get some milk from a milk machine opposite but they find that don’t have a sixpence between them. They suggest that they could go and ask someone for a sixpence and the gunman tells them it doesn’t matter, he knows a cafe near Northolt Airport where they can get some food. As they set off driving again along Slough High Street, Storie notices a post office clock, the time is 11:45 p.m. The gunman asks how much petrol is left in the car. Gregsten tells him there is only one gallon left although in actual fact there are two gallons. The gunman asks how far it will go and Storie tells him that it is good for twenty/thirty miles. The gunman decides they should get some petrol.
Wednesday 23 August
12:15 – 12:30 A.M.
Near London airport they see a ‘Regent’ Garage on their left. The gunman tells Gregstenthat he is to drive into the garage, stay in the car, wind down the window and ask the attendant for two gallons of petrol only. He tells Gregsten he has the gun pointing to him still and if he tries to say anything else or gives the attendant any indication to believe something is wrong, he will shoot. He hands Gregsten one pound of the money. Gregsten carries out the gunman’s instructions. The garage attendant, Harold Hirons puts two gallons in and charges Gregsten nine shillings and nine pence giving him a ten shilling note and a three pence change. Hirons pays little attention to the man in the rear and is later unable to identify Hanratty in court. The gunman takes the note from Gregsten, handing the three pence piece to Storie mockingly saying she can have that ‘as a wedding present.’
12:30 – 2:00 A.M.
They continue left passing through Hayes and crossing what used to be the A4010, emerging onto Western Avenue. They reach the Greenford intersection and Gregsten is told to drive straight ahead. At this point it appears that the man has either overlooked or abandoned his idea of going to Northolt for food, it is also extremely unlikely that the gunman has any intention of returning to the cornfield as he had suggested earlier. The gunman is by now continuously and nervously giving directions to Gregsten and repeatingly asking questions such as what gear is he in, why did he change gear then and telling him to mind cars and be careful of the traffic lights. They ask the gunman if he drives, he tells them, ‘Oh yes…’ he does. He can drive, ‘all sorts of cars.’ They drive North East for a few miles passing through a major junction with Kenton Road and Kingsbury where they drive straight ahead up Brookshill just West of Stanmore. This North Easterly territory is familiar to the gunman, who during this phase of the journey tells them to be careful of roadworks around the corner. He is correct, as Gregsten turns the corner the roadworks are indeed there. The gunman deceitfully adds, ‘I do not know this area.’
They decide to stop for cigarettes somewhere in the Harrow region. Gregsten is given permission to get out of the vehicle and purchase ten ‘Nelson Tipped’ from a cigarette machine. The gunman asks for a cigarette himself. Storie lights one each for both Gregsten and the gunman who as she passes him the cigarette, notices he is wearing black gloves. The gunman gives Storie the impression that he is not a regular smoker. The car heads north towards Watford and then north east through Aldenham, taking them along Park Street before joining the A5 towards St Albans in Southern Hertfordshire. Gregsten and Storie have been able to speak very quietly with one another on occasion without upsetting the gunman. When they reach the centre of St Albans they join the A6. The gunman insists they are in Watford. Gregsten’s speed occasionally exceeds fifty miles per hour on occasion and whenever he does, is instructed by the gunman not to go so fast. Gregsten complies with his requests. Still on the A6, the car passes through Luton. They drive along a stretch of ‘restricted road’ which has no speed limit, Gregsten attempts to attract the attention of other motorists by flashing his reversing lights. A car does pull alongside the Morris Minor and the driver sounds his horn and gestures to the back of the Morris Minor indicating that something is wrong. Gregsten is given permission to stop the vehicle and both the gunman and Gregsten get out to check the rear lights.
Storie see’s her chance to make a break for it by hopping into the drivers seat and driving away but she doesn’t want to abandon Gregsten and decides against the idea. The gun man tells them he is tired and needs to stop for a ‘kip’ meaning sleep. Still traveling north along the A6, they pass through Barton-Le-Clay and Silsoe. The gunman asks Gregsten to stop the vehicle and so they turn onto a small lane which has a ‘Private – No Parking’ sign. The gunman is not comfortable with this and so they move off again. They turn onto another lane which has houses on it which the gun man again insists is unsatisfactory. They drive through Clophill and about one mile north of the village at ‘Deadman’s Hill’. Gregsten is instructed for a third time to turn off, this time into a lay-by parallel to the main road. Gregsten refuses, but the man became aggressive and threatens them with the gun. When they reach the end of the lay-by, Gregsten is instructed to turn the car around to face the direction they just came in and to switch off the lights. Gregsten and Storie plead with the gun man several times to take what he wants including the car and the money, they ask him to leave them alone and not to shoot them. However, whenever they say this, the gun man simply looks at his watch and says ‘There is plenty of time.’ The gun man assures them, if he was going to shoot them, he would have done it before now. The man has been continually looking at his watch occasionally saying that it is not much longer to day-break. The man again tells them he is tired and wants to ‘kip’ and will have to tie them both up. He ties Valerie Stories arms. He tells Gregsten, ‘I have got to find something to tie you up with.’ They suggest he uses his tie but the gunman says, ‘No, I need that.’ He considers cutting up a rug in the car for the purpose but changes his mind. He looks in the boot of the car with Gregsten where there is a short length of cord in the toolkit. They get back inside the car and Gregsten is told to remove his tie which is used to tie Storie’s wrists non too successfully. He attempts to tie her wrists with the cord instead but again and fastens them to the nearside door handle. The gunman sees the green duffel bag containing Gregsten’s laundry in the front with a length of rope attached to it.
2:00 – 2:15 A.M.
The gunman is sitting in the centre of the back seat. He says to Gregsten, ’Give me that bag up.’ whilst still pointing the gun at him. The gun has been in his right hand all the time. Gregsten picks up the bag with both hands and half turns to the middle of the car which is on his left, to pass the bag back. There is a terrific noise as two shots ring out in quick succession. Gregsten has been shot through the left of his head almost through the ear at point blank range, the bullets exiting through the right hand side of his head. Storie watches him fall forward and slump over the steering wheel, blood pouring from his head. She can smell something like gunpowder. She says to the gunman, ‘You shot him you swine… you bastard. Why did you do that?’ The gunman tells her Gregsten frightened him and that he moved too quickly. Storie begs him to allow her to go for help and fetch a doctor, but the gunman tells her Gregsten was not dead and to, ‘Be quiet. I am thinking.’ which he pronounces ‘finking. For the next 20 minutes Storie sobs and screams not believing Gregsten was dead. During that time they sit and argue as to whether Gregsten is dead or alive. Finally the gunman accepts that Gregsten is dead. The gunman says, ‘He is the first man I have ever killed.’ He takes a pair of pyjama bottoms from the duffel bag and places them over Gregsten’s head. Storie suggests that she can drive until they meet an on-coming vehicle, get the gunman a lift and see to Gregsten, but the man does not like her plan and continues ‘contradicting himself’ giving Storie the impression that he is ‘round the twist.’
2:15 – 2:35 A.M. approx.
The gunman repositions himself so he is sitting behind Storie. He asks her to tell him her name which she does. He asks her to get into the back of the car with. She says ‘No.’ He says he knows her hands are free and asks her to kiss him. Storie refuses again and he tells her he will count to five and if she does not do as he says, he will shoot her. Storie allowed him to kiss her. He says, ‘Come on, get into the back with me.’ Storie refuses a third time. During this time a car has passed by lighting up the gunman’s face giving Storie the first and last real opportunity of ‘seeing what he looked like.’ This time he gets out of the car and opens her door He threatening her again saying, ‘I will count to five. Get into the back.’ Storie does as he says. The gunman attempts to remove the black glove from his right hand which is still holding the gun. He has difficulty removing it and tells Storie to pull one of them off which she notices were of a very thin nylon type texture. He asks her to remove an article of clothing. She refuses and he says, ‘I will count if you do not.’ She does as he asks. The gunman then rapes her placing the gun on the rear window ledge.
2:35 – 2:50 A.M. approx.
After the gunman is satisfied he places the glove back on his right hand. The gunman makes a statement about Storie being inexperienced sexually and continues asking for her name, but no sooner has he been told what it is, he has forgotten it again. They continue talking and arguing. Storie is finding it awkward talking to the gunman and asks for his name saying ‘Well look, I must call you something.’ He mumbles, ‘Jim.’ The man is still looking at his watch and tells Storie it is nearly 2:50 a.m. Storie tells him it will be light at 3.30 a.m. Storie tells the gunman ‘For goodness sake, take the car and go. It is almost daybreak.’ The gunman seems to have made up his mind up this time.
They open the driver’s door of the car and he tells Storie she will have to get Gregsten’s body out of the car since he doesn’t want to get Gregsten’s blood on him. Gregsten’s hands are gripping the steering wheel. Storie notices they are stone cold and manages to get the top half of his body out of the car but his feet are caught around the pedals and he is proving too heavy for her. Storie tells the gunman he will have to help her and so he assists her by pulling Gregstens legs from the car. Storie drags Gregstens body around the back of the car to the edge of the concrete strip and lays him down. She says to the gunman ‘Let me have my things out of the car. I must have my basket. It has some rally things in for work. I must have it.’ The gunman replies, ‘I do not want your things. You can have them. There is no hurry.’ Storie says, ‘You must go quickly or it will be daybreak and someone will see you.’ She takes her basket from the front of the car, the duffel bag containing the washing and tries to grab a few things out of the glove pocket including one of two paperback books ‘Blackboard Jungle’ and’The Life of Suzie Wong’ stuffing it all into her basket. She places the items down on the ground beside Gregsten saying to the gunman ‘Go on. Take the car.’ The gunman takes the rug from the boot of the car and places it over the drivers seat repeating that he does not want to get blood on him. He wipes the steering wheel and then asks Storie to start the car for him and show him the positions of the gears. She does so. The gunman asks how to get reverse gear. Storie shows him. He asks how the lights work. Again Storie shows him. Leaving the car running, she goes to sit by Gregsten’s body.
The gunman looks undecided. He is concerned and says, ‘You will go for help.’ Storie replies ‘No, I won’t. Just go… hurry.’ The car suddenly stops. Storie says, ‘I will start the car again for you. You must go quickly.’ She re-starts the car and shows him how the gears work again. The gunman tells her he understands and sits in the driver’s seat. Storie goes back andsits on the ground beside Gregsten with her legs tucked up underneath her, almost with her back towards the car. The gunman gets out of the car again, walking over to where Storie is sitting and says, ‘I think I had better hit you on the head or something to knock you out, or else you will go for help.’ Storie pleads with him not to hurt her. She says, ‘No, I won’t. I won’t move. Just go.’ Storie puts her handin her mack pocket taking out a one pound note. She holds it out to saying, ‘Here you are. You can have that if you will go quickly.’ The gunman momentarily wonders how Storie had produced it saying, ‘Where did you get that from?’ Storiereplies, ‘Oh it was just in my pocket.’ The gunman does not ask if she has any more money hidden. The gunman takes the one pound and he begins to walk away but when he is six to ten feet away from Storie, he suddenly turns on his heels and begins to fire shots into Storie’s body. Storie feels the first bullet hit her and she slumps forward. When the second bullet hits her, she feels the use of her legs leave her and falls over.
The gunmans fires at her again hitting her five times altogether, once in the neck and four times on her left shoulder. There is a pause. Storie hears a ‘clicking sound’ as he reloads the gun and fires another three times but Storie feels at least two of those shots go over her head. She lay perfectly still and heard the gunman walk towards her. She dared not give him the impression she was still alive and tried to stop breathing ‘not daring to moan.’ She feels the gunman touch her. She isn’t sure whether it is with his hand or whether he has kicked her. He looks at her for a few seconds and walks away back to the car. He gets into the car, puts on the headlights and drives away, gears crashing, back in the direction they came in, towards Luton. Storie lay there paralyzed from her waist down but she is still conscious. She screams for help to attract attention and waves her petticoat from time to time but there is very little traffic and she goes unnoticed. She attempts to write, ‘Brown hair and blue eyes.’ with stones in hope that the killer will be caught if she dies. She loses consciousness some three hours later.
Storie and the body of Gregsten are discovered by Sydney Burton a farm labourer. He hurries down the road and summons John Kerr an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford who is working as a traffic enumerator occupied with taking the trunk road census. Kerr flags down two cars shouting at them to get an ambulance. He returns to Storie and checks for a pulse on Gregsten. He notices some empty cartridge cases lying nearby. There are six altogether. Kerr writes down some notes of Valerie Stories account on a census form.
The notes are given to the first policeman to arrive on the scene never to be seen again.
7:00 – 7:10 A.M.
John Jellicoe Skillett, a foreman from Leytonstone, East London and Edward Richard Blackhall from Brentwood, Essex observe the Morris Minor being driven erratically on the outskirts of East London. They are travelling from Brentwood west along Eastern Avenue towards the traffic lights at Ley Street to the left of them. They pull up behind an Austin A40 when a Grey Morris Minor comes speeding on the inside of them swerving in front, practically hitting them. The driver of the Morris Minor brakes heavily and skids the back of the car. He pulls up between Skillett and the Austin A40 at the traffic lights which are red. The lights turn green and the Morris Minor shoots off in the nearside lane getting wedged in by a greenline bus. A little further down the road they reach Gants Hill roundabout. The driver of the Grey Morris Minor comes out from behind the bus and shoots in front of them again. The car is swerving in his own lane and keeps trying to come into their lane as if he is in a hurry. They notice that the driver hasn’t signalled once. At the next roundabout they manage to pull alongside the Morris Minor on his offside to the right. Skillett asks Blackhall to wind his passenger window down so that he could tell the driver off. Skillett shouts some obscenities at the driver of the car who ‘just had a horrible smile on his face, sort of half a smile and half a sneer.’ The Morris Minor continues down Eastern Avenue.
It is about now that James Richard Trower of Appleby Road, Forest Gate, East London see’s a grey Morris Minor on Redbridge Lane, Ilford. Mr. S. Lawrence of Avondale Crescent, Ilford, East London notices the Morris Minor parked on Avondale Crescent.
Janet Gregsten arrives to identify the body of her husband. It is around now that Trevor Dutton said he recalled being asked if he wanted to buy a watch in Rhyl, Wales.
Four police tracker dogs are employed to comb scrubland in a detailed search near the lay-by in an effort to find the murder weapon. Royal Engineers from Cambridge search for a murder weapon using mine-detectors. Detectives visit every house in Clophill asking for reports of anything unusual.
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott arrives at the murder scene. He says cartridges have been discovered near the body and that:
‘This indicates that the shooting took place in the layby.’
A post mortem is conducted by Dr. Keith Simpson who is called to the scene.
The Morris Minor is found on Avondale Crescent, Ilford, East London, Near to Redbridge Underground some 42 miles away from the scene of the crime. The seats are bloodstained and the rear numberplate had been bent under.
Police issue a description of the car, a grey Morris Minor with the registration number 847 BHN. Mr. S. Lawrence who lived on the corner of Avondale Cresent said he had seen it parked there since 7:45 a.m. Detective Sergeant Charles Arnold arranges for the car to be towed to Scotland Yard for examination.
Detective-superintendent B.Acott discloses that cartridges had been found near Gregsten’s body indicating that shooting had taken place in the layby.
Dr. Keith Simpson, a Home Office pathologist is called to the scene. Tracker dogs and detectives make a detailed search of the area trying to find a weapon. Royal engineers use mine detectors to find the weapon.
Valerie Storie’s condition is reported to have improved after an operation.
Thursday 24 August
Audrey Willis is held up in her house by a gunman in Old Knebworth, Hertfordshire. Police issue a description of the man they wish to interview.
Hanratty sends a telegram to Charles ‘Dixie’ France from a telephone bar in the forecourt of St. George’s Hall opposite the main railway station at Lime Street, Liverpool. The sender is given as ‘Mr P Ryan, Imperial Hotel, Russell Square, London.’ It reads:
‘Having a nice time. Be home early Friday morning for business. Yours sincerely Jim.’
The murder weapon, a .38 Enfield revolver, and 60 rounds of ammunition in five boxes, is found under the rear back seat on the top deck of a 36A London bus by Edwin Cooke, a London Transport cleaner at Rye Lane bus garage in Peckham, London. The 36A covers 13 miles between West Kilburn and Brockley Rise, Forest Hill, South East London. The bus is on a route that passes Sussex Gardens.
A senior detective visits Valerie Storie at Bedford General Hospital. She tells him that on the drive from Slough, Gregsten continuously flashed his white reversing light to attract attention and that somewhere on the A6 north of Luton another car driving behind noticed the light. It waited for some time then overtook them. The driver of the car sounded his horn to draw attention to the light. As well as having discovered the cartridges, the police discover several bullets.
Friday 25 August
Hanratty claimed to have returned to London from Liverpool on this morning whereupon he went to see the France family. The France family disputed his claim. (see. Sat 26 Aug) Charles France receives Hanratty’s telegram.
Saturday 26 August
At Hanratty’s trial, Charles France gave evidence that Hanratty returned to London from Liverpool on this morning at 9:00 a.m. He explained that Hanratty had told him that he had been waiting at the station for a couple of hours in order not to disturb them and that Hanratty told him he had stayed the night at the Vienna hotel on 21 August 1961 even producing the hotel bill. France said that at no stage did Hanratty mention to any member of his family that he had been to Rhyl. N.B. Hanratty had told them quite clearly he was going to Liverpool. France said that Hanratty was wearing new brown slacks and a grey jacket and that his daughter Carole told Hanratty:
‘The dye is fading out of your hair.’
Hanratty asked Carole France to re-tint his hair again. France said:
‘His hair at that time was all different colours. It was streaky, not one colour.’
Carole France then re-dyed Hanratty’s hair. France said he reprimanded her for getting dye on some towels.
5:30 – 5:45 P.M.
Louise Anderson stated that Hanratty visited her antiques shop. She noticed his hair had been dyed and that he had scratches which she thought were razor cuts down his left cheek.
Sunday 27 August
Hanratty’s parents are notified that he is wanted by the police for house breakings. Peter Sims telephones the police to report the suspicious behaviour of his hotel guest Peter Louis Alphon who has booked in under the alias ‘Durrant’ at the Alexandra Court Hotel. Consequently, Peter Alphon is interviewed at Blackstock Road Police Station, Finsbury Park. This is the date the police become aware of the ‘Vienna Hotel’ since Peter Alphon had mentioned he stayed there in his alibi. Conversely, this is also the date the ‘Vienna Hotel’ staff would have become aware that police were now investigating the hotel following a telephone call from police investigating a guest called Frederick Durrant, namely Peter Alphon.
Tuesday 29 August
Two identikit pictures of the wanted man are issued by the police.
Thursday 31 August
Valerie Storie is moved from Bedford to Guys Hospital, London. Police issue a revised description of the suspect.
Saturday 2 September
Hanratty is in Harrow, London burgling a house. Between the period of 1 September 1961 to 9 September 1961, Hanratty will receive £350 in total from Louise Anderson for stolen goods.
Monday 4 September
Hanratty is at the France household. At some point, he has been advised that he can obtain a driving licence from Dublin, Ireland with relative ease. He uses their telephone to book a 4:55p.m. BEA flight to Dublin using his usual alias ‘Ryan.’ Hanratty goes to ‘Burtol’s’ dry cleaner’s in the station arcade at Swiss Cottage, North London to collect the green check suit he had taken there on 21 August 1961. He makes a complaint that they have kept it too long. The suit has bloodstains on it that the dry cleaning has failed to remove. Hanratty later claims that the blood was deposited onto the suit when he cut himself on a broken window during a burglary.
4:55 – 6:55 P.M.
Hanratty calls Charlotte France from Heathrow airport. He is nervous. Hanratty gave his reason as:
‘I don’t know why, no real reason. Just to say, I thought there was a man watching me.’
The flight is delayed and two hours late. Hanratty flies to from Heathrow to Dublin, Ireland. He stays at O’Flynn’s Hotel and signs the register ‘J.Ryan’ giving his address as 72 Wood Lane, Kingsbury, London.
Tuesday 5 September
Hanratty travels to the town hall and with the help of a policeman, completes the documentation and obtains a driving licence. Hanratty travels to Limerick. Hanratty hires a car from ‘Ryans’ for £21. He makes enquiries about staying at hotel ‘Hanratty’s’ which is full. He is disappointed that he has to settle for the alternative ‘Lomond’ Hotel.
Wednesday 6 September
Julianna Galves makes a first statement to the police:
About 11:30a.m. on 22 August, a man phoned up the Vienna and asked for a room for one night and said he would be late coming in. We told him we would save him the room and waited up for him. He arrived at about 11:30p.m. and said he was the man who had phoned up in the morning for a room in the name of Durrant. He was shown to his room and in the morning he declined breakfast and left about 12:10. I would describe him as about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches with straight black hair greased back. He had a dark suit on and a white shirt. He had a darkish complexion and spoke with a cockney accent. When he arrived he looked unshaven and grubby. He signed the book as Durrant. The only luggage he had was a small brown suitcase, almost an attache case, and when I looked into his room to ask when he was leaving, it was open and contained very dirty clothing.
Hanratty drives from Limerick to Tralee to the races.
9:00 – 10:00 P.M.
Hanratty drives to Cork, Ireland arriving just before 9:00 P.M. He arrives at ’O’Flynns’ Hotel and is met by Miss Ita Susan O’Donovan who said Hanratty was by himself and looking for accomodation but they had no single rooms vacant. She offers him a room to share and he signs the register in the name of J.Ryan, Wood Lane, London drawing a line under the word ‘London.’ In his room, Hanratty meets commercial traveller, Mr. Gerrard Joseph Leonard of Lower Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin. Leonard said:
‘He introduced himself as Jim. After he had, had a wash , he said he was going to a dance and asked me if I would like to go with him. I said I would, but I would like to have a drink first. So he agreed. We drove round Cork for a few minutes looking for a dance hall. We were in a car he had with him. He said he had come over from London and had hired the car and he showed me the hire agreement.’
They find a dance hall close to the hotel but go for a drink as planned. Hanratty who doesn’t normally drink has a Lager and Lime.
10:00 – 11:25 P.M.
Hanratty and Leonard spend the evening at the dance hall. When Mr. Leonard was asked in court, what was Hanratty’s driving was like he replied:
‘He was quite reckless. He drove at a very high speed and was inclined to weave in and out of traffic.’
Thursday 7 September
Hanratty has breakfast with Leonard. Leonard describes what happened next:
‘He asked me to write some postcards for him. He said his handwriting was pretty bad. I wrote six postcards.’
One of the postcards written by Leonard for Hanratty was addressed to Miss L. Andrew, 23 Cambridge Court, Sussex Gardens, Paddington. N.B. Mr. Leonard will eventually inform the police of the link between the name “J. Ryan” and James Hanratty. Hanratty leaves ‘O’Flynns’ Hotel and pays his bill of 17s. 6d.
Hanratty’s hire car is involved in a collision with a car driven by Mr. Arthur Gordon Sindall on holiday in Ireland from Saratt, near Watford, Hertfordshire. He is passing through Castlemartyr, County Cork, Ireland when the collision occurs. Sindall said it wasn’t his fault.
‘I got particulars from the other man and wrote them down on a map. He gave his name as James Ryan, 72 Wood Lane, Kingbury, N.W. he produced an Irish driving licence and on it, it said that he was a window cleaner. He said the car was hired from a firm named Ryan in Dublin.’
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott of Scotland Yard and Detective Superintendent C.H. Barron, head of Bedfordshire C.I.D., interview their first suspect at Cannon Row police station in London. The man had gone to the police station late on Wednesday 6 September to volunteer information. He was later questioned by Scotland Yard. Meike Dalal is attacked at her home at Barnes, South West London. The attacker claims to be the ‘A6 murderer.’
Friday 8 September
Hanratty returns from Ireland and leaves his two suitcases at Louise Anderson’s flat. The police release their first suspect without charge.
Monday 11 September
Two cartridge cases from the .38 murder weapon are found by the hotel manager at Vienna Hotel, Maida Vale, London. Valerie Storie is interviewed for four hours by police. William Nudds is fired from his position at the Vienna hotel by Robert Crocker. This is the date Detective Superintendent Bob Acott told the court during the a6 murder trial, that he recovered the hotel register from the Vienna Hotel. Michael Hanratty’s appeal of 2002 suggests that there was evidence to the contrary that Detective Sergeant Oxford had made a statement that the hotel register was recovered on 20 September 1961 and that DS Bob Acott’s notebook should have been disclosed at the trial to verify the date.
Tuesday 12 September
Julianna Galves makes a statement that she did not see Peter Alphon until 12:00 p.m. on the 23rd August at the Vienna Hotel, Maida Vale, London.
Friday 15 September
William Nudds makes his 1st statement to the police.
I have been shown an entry in the register dated 21 August signed J.Ryan, 72 Wood Lane, Kingsbury who was allocated room 24. I remember this booking quite well. It was one which came from the Broadway hotel and the man was brought over by one of the waiters in the company’s vehicle. It was between 9 and 11p.m. I showed him into his room. There are a number of beds in the room and he occupied the bed on the left hand side as you go in the door. At about 7:45a.m. Mr. Ryan came up to the dining room and was served with breakfast. He left soon after. It would be about 8:30 when he left. He returned a few minutes later and said he had forgotten something in his room. He asked if he could return there and I allowed him to go and didn’t go with him. He was gone a few minutes and re-appeared from the basement and asked me how he could get to Queensway. I told him to walk to Harrow Road, which is about half a mile away, and get a 36 bus…
Nudds also comments on Peter Alphon’s stay at the Vienna hotel.
I have been shown another entry in the hotel register signed F. Durrant. I remember this particular man. He arrived very late in the evening . I think about 11:30 to midnight. He was dealt with by my wife, but I saw him and stood by whilst my wife dealt with him. My wife took him to his room. I didn’t see him again until the following morning when I went to his room to see if he wanted breakfast. He was in room 6 which is on the 2nd floor. He told me he didn’t want breakfast and he stayed in his room as far as I know until about noon.
Wednesday 20 September
Hanratty purchases a cream Sunbeam Alpine car. Janet Gregsten visits Valerie Storie in Guys Hospital, London.
Thursday 21 September
William Nudds makes a second statement.
Friday 22 September
Felix and Gladys Alphon are interviewed again by the police.
Scotland Yard press conference. Peter Alphon is named by Detective Superintendent Bob Acott as the man wanted for the A6 murder.
Janet Gregsten visits Valerie Storiein Guys Hospital, London a second time.
Peter Alphon contacts local newspapers and has his photgraph taken before surrendering himself at Cannon Row Police Station.
Saturday 23 September
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott arrives at Scotland Yard.
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott interviews Peter Alphon.
Just after 3:00 A.M.
Peter Alphon is placed on two identity parades. William Nudds picks out two individuals one of whom is Alphon. Hanratty calls at the house of Miss. Gladys Mary Deacon of Langham Gardens, Burnt Oak, North London. She is a receptionist-telephonist who has known Hanratty for 3 years. During Hanratty’s trial she gave the following information:
‘He wanted to take me out for the day to Bedford. I was quite surprised at seeing him.’
Did she agree to go?
She went on to say they got into Bedford at 4:00 p.m. She did not know the way to Bedford but she was sure Hanratty did. How was Hanratty driving?
The journey back took about an hour. Hanratty dropped her off between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m.
Sunday 24 September
Peter Alphon is placed on a third identity parade before Valerie Storie at Guys Hospital, London. Ten men are on the parade. Some of the men are volunteers from the Union Jack Club at Waterloo. They are made to stand in line at the foot of Storie’s bed. Storie identifies RAF airman Michael Clark. Alphon is ruled out as the A6 murder suspect but remanded in custody on the charge of assaulting Meike Dalal.
Monday 25 September
William Nudds makes his third statement to the police.
‘I want to explain that my correct name is William Richard George Nudds. I have been using the name Jack Glickberg since my discharge from Oxford prison in July 1958 after serving a sentence of nine years preventive detention imposed at the County of London Sessions on November 29, 1950, for stealing a motor car and two cases of false pretences. While in prison I went to the assistance of two prison officers attacked by prisoners and from that time on to the end of my sentence, I was hounded by my fellow men, kicked and beaten and put in hospital. I took a solemn oath in memory of my mother, that if any of the criminal fraternity came my way, I would assist the police and give them any help they wanted to get my own back. Since I came out of prison in order to keep straight, I have always wanted to help the police and have helped them on some occasions with information. When the police came to the hotel checking on Durrant, I jumped to the conclusion they wanted Durrant for the murder.’
Hanratty takes Gladys Mary Deacon out for another drive, this time to Richmond. Valerie Storie is transferred from Guy’s Hospital, London to Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
Tuesday 26 September
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott and Oxford visit the home of James and Mary Hanratty in Kingsbury, North London. Robert Crocker leaves his managerial position at the Vienna hotel giving his reason as that he disagreed with the hotel conditions.
Friday 29 September
Peter Alphon is placed on another identity parade and then brought before Mortlake magistrates and released on bail. Detective Superintendent Bob Acott and Oxford go to Dublin, Ireland in pursuit of second suspect.
James Hanratty senior learns from the press that his son is now the new ‘A6 murder’ suspect.
Saturday 30 September
Hanratty breaks into two houses in Stanmore tearing the jacket of his suit.
Sunday 1 October
A mystery caller from Windsor telephones Stoke Mandeville hospital and threatens to ‘finish off’ Valerie Storie.
Tuesday 3 October
The police case against Peter Alphon is dropped. ‘The Express’ newspaper reporters drive James Hanratty senior to Scotland Yard with a birthday card from Hanratty. They then drive him and his son Michael to Archer Street, Soho, London. Michael enters the ‘Rehearsal Club’ alone and asks Ann Pryce if she has seen anything of Hanratty. She tells him she has not seen him but Charles France should be arriving soon. Michael buys a drink and waits an hour. His account of what happened next is as follows:
‘After about an hour, he came in. He had a slim build and was older than I expected. I could see him talking to Ann Pryce and her gesturing to me. He seemed to want to go straight back out but I caught him. He turned white and said to me, “You’re Jimmy’s brother.” I said, “There’s been a terrible mistake. They’re after him for this a6 business.” He said, “Don’t worry, he’s got nothing to do with that.” I said, “Do you know where he is?” He said he didn’t, but he couldn’t get away fast enough. He just said, “I’ve got to go.” and ran up the stairs.’
Hanratty attempts to have the dye washed from his hair at a barbers in Kilburn, London.
Wednesday 4 October
It is Hanratty’s twenty fifth birthday. He leaves his suitcases at Louise Anderson’s flat. By now Louise Anderson had introduced Hanratty to an aquaintance named Mary Meadon who she had known for about 2 years and who was about the same age as Hanratty. Anderson stated in court, she had done this because she was frightened of Hanratty who had overstayed his welcome at her flat and she felt that introducing Hanratty to Mary might divert his intentions.
Thursday 5 October
Hanratty learns that he is now officially wanted by the police for the ‘a6 murder.’ He telephones Charles ‘Dixie’ France and tells him he is wanted by police in connection with the murder. This is how France described the telephone conversation:
‘He blurted out, “Dixie, Dixie, I am wanted for the A6 murder!” I told him to, “Cool down again lad. Now talk to me. Tell me what it’s all about.”
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott and Detective Sergeant Kenneth Oxford fly back from Dublin, Ireland to London.
Friday 6 October
11:35 A.M. approx.
Hanratty telephones Detective Superintendent Bob Acott’s office at Scotland Yard for the first time from a phone box in Soho. Detective Inspector W. Holmes answers the phone. The conversation is as follows:
SGT HOLMES: Can I help you?
HANRATTY: Is that Superintendent Acott?
SGT HOLMES: No, I am Detective Inspector Holmes. Superintendent Acott is not available. What is your name?
HANRATTY: I can’t give you that. I know the police are after me for the A6 murder, but I can assure you that I did not do it.
SGT HOLMES: Who is speaking? Give me your name.
SGT HOLMES: Have you another name?
HANRATTY: Yes, Hanratty. I phoned Scotland Yard last night but they seemed to think it was somebody playing about.
SGT HOLMES: Superintendent Acott would like to see you. Where are you?
HANRATTY: I cannot tell you that. I cannot come forward. I have been doing other little things, but I’d like to get this other business cleared up.
SGT HOLMES: We can only do that if we can see you.
HANRATTY: I want to explain some things about Ireland. I am who you are looking for and some embarrassing things are happening for my family and friends.(Later in the conversation.) I went to Ireland and hired a car. That’s right. I went from London Airport.
SGT HOLMES: London Airport?
HANRATTY: London Airport. The police are…
The call was then cut off and the line went dead.
Hanratty telephones Detective Superintendent Bob Acott’s office back. He is transferred straight through to Acott. Excerpts from the conversation are as follows:
HANRATTY: I’m Jim Hanratty.
DS ACOTT: I’m Superintendant Acott.
HANRATTY: I want to talk to you and clear up this whole thing but I cannot come in there. I’m very worried and don’t know what to do. I know you are the only one who can help me… …I know I have left my fingerprints at different places and done things and the police want me, but I want to tell you one thing Mr. Acott, that I did not do that A6 murder…
… I’d like to see you but I’ve just come out from doing three and if I’m caught I’ll get at least five. I had to ring off last time because I saw a policeman go by on the other side of the road…
DS ACOTT: Why don’t you phone your mother? I’ve seen her and she’s very worried. I’ve promised her I will do all I can for you.
HANRATTY: I can’t ring her because I’ve upset her. I am so upset, I do not know what I am doing and what I am saying. I don’t know what to do. I have got a very bad head and suffer from blackouts and lose my memory. Look, I will have to go now and think it over. I’ll phone you tonight between 10:00 and 12:00 and tell you what I’ve decided. I must go now. My head’s bad and I’ve got to think.
When Hanratty was asked at his trial why he did not give himself up at this point he said:
‘… because I knew in my heart and soul that I didn’t commit this crime and there was no need to do so.’
N.B. Eileen Cunningham, Hanratty’s cousin, stated that Hanratty had difficulty calling numbers which may suggest that he was not dialling Acott himself during these conversations.
Hanratty telephones the Daily Mirror newspaper and speaks to the Assistant Editor Barry Harding. Hanratty is offered one of the Mirror’s solicitors so he can go to see DS Acott. They tell Hanratty they will do everything they can to help him. Hanratty also said:
‘I explained it was impossible for me to come forward because of my housebreaking charges.’
This call may also have had something to do with later newspaper reports that the ‘a6 murderer’ had, ‘Bert and a picture of a snake’ tattooed on his arm. The Herald and Telegraph reported that the tatooed name may have been Bett.
11:04 P.M. – 11:45 P.M.
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott receives a second telephone call from Hanratty at Scotland Yard. Hanratty’s location could not be traced.
HANRATTY: This is Jimmy Ryan.
DS ACOTT: How are you now Jimmy, tired?
HANRATTY: No, I’m feeling fine now. I rang my mum but I couldn’t get any answer.
DS ACOTT: I know. I’ve rung her number this evening but I can’t get a reply. Perhaps they’ve all gone out.
HANRATTY: Yes, they’re looking for me. Look, I’ll have to go soon Mr. Acott because you’ll have me caught in this box if I’m not careful. You nearly caught me this afternoon when I went to collect my car at a garage.
DS ACOTT: What garage was that Jimmy? I didn’t know you had a car.
HANRATTY: One of the gears went and I put it in a garage for repair. I went to collect it this afternoon but as I got near it, two plain clothes men saw me and chased me up the street. I got away, but it was a near squeak.
DS ACOTT: I think you’ve made a mistake Jimmy. They couldn’t have been policemen or I would have known about it. I haven’t heard anything about you having a car or any policemen at a garage.
HANRATTY: I’m going to try to phone mum again.
DS ACOTT: By the way Jimmy. When I saw your parents the other day, your mother told me you had sent her some flowers and she was very pleased and wanted me to thank you for them if I should see you. She also showed me a card you had sent her from Ireland and she was very pleased with that. If I were you Jimmy, I would send her another card or some more flowers.
HANRATTY: Yes, I’ll try to write to her and send her some more flowers if I can’t get her on the phone.
DS ACOTT: How are you feeling Jimmy?
HANRATTY: I’m very worried and I don’t know what to do. I saw in the papers this morning, you’re looking for a friend of mine, Louise. I can tell you who she is. I left my luggage with her. You ought to see her. She knows a lot about me.
DS ACOTT: What is her name Jimmy?
HANRATTY: Louise and she lives at 23 Cambridge Court, Sussex Gardens.
DS ACOTT: What is her surname?
HANRATTY: I can’t remember that but she is a widow about fifty years old. See her and get my luggage. It will help you. Now I must go Mr. Acott. I can’t stay any longer. I want to talk to you but you’ll catch me. I’m going Mr. Acott.
Hanratty rings off.
N.B. Hanratty makes no mention of a forthcoming visit to Liverpool to revisit his friends on this Friday night as he later stated in court having introduced his Rhyl alibi. He does however state that he ‘is’ calling from Liverpool during the next day on Saturday 7th October 1961.
Saturday 7 October
Hanratty steals a black Mark VII Jaguar saloon from central London and drives it to ‘Manchester.’ Infact, the jaguar was later found in Oldham. Hanratty catches a train to Liverpool.
Police collect Hanratty’s belongings from Louise Anderson’s flat contained in two suitcases. One of the cases contains the waistcoat and trousers of the suit he ordered from ‘Hepworth’s’ tailors on 8 July, collecting it on 18 August. The Jacket was missing. The police trace the garage where Hanratty’s new Sunbeam Alpine car is in for repairs to the gears. They recover stolen items from the car.
Hanratty telephones Detective Superintendent Bob Acott at Scotland Yard for a third and final time. The conversation is as follows:
DS ACOTT: Superintendent Acott speaking.
HANRATTY: Hello Mr. Acott. This is Jimmy Ryan again but you’ll never guess where I’m speaking from… Liverpool.
DS ACOTT: How did you get up there Jimmy?
HANRATTY: After I telephoned you last night, I caught the night train to Liverpool from Euston. I read in the paper this morning that you and your mate slept at the yard all night on a couple of camp beds. I’m sorry I’m causing you so much trouble Mr. Acott.
DS ACOTT: That’s all right Jimmy. I bet you slept well last night.
HANRATTY: Yes, I slept all night on the train. It was very comfortable. I can’t stay long Mr. Acott as I haven’t any more money for the phone.
DS ACOTT: Don’t worry Jimmy, when the pips go, I’ll get the call reversed to me.
The line went dead. Acott reverses the charges and calls Hanratty back.
DS ACOTT: That’s all right. What did you want to speak to me about this time Jimmy?
HANRATTY: Mr. Acott, I’m in trouble and I know you are the only one who can help me. I’ve come up to Liverpool to see some friends, but they can’t help me. You see it is very difficult for them. I asked them to say I couldn’t have committed your murder, but they wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t let me stay with them ,as they said I’d bring the police down on them. You can’t blame them because they’re fences. You know what I mean, they receive jewelry. They are known to the police here and one of them is wanted now. I don’t know what to do. I want you to help me but you’ll only charge me and get me at least five.
DS ACOTT: Let me get this clear Jimmy. Are you telling me that these three friends of yours in Liverpool can clear you of the murder by giving you an alibi?
HANRATTY: Yes, but they don’t want to know.
DS ACOTT: Listen to me carefully Jimmy. My duty is to investigate this murder and find out the truth. If you are innocent, it is my job to try and prove you are innocent. It is not my job just to charge you and get you convicted. If I can help you, I will do my best for you. Is that clear Jimmy?
HANRATTY: Yes, I understand Mr. Acott, but there’s nothing you can do for me.
DS ACOTT: I’m ready to listen. Tell me how you think your three friends in Liverpool can prove you didn’t commit the murder.
HANRATTY: Allright, I’ll tell you. On 21st August… that was a Monday wasn’t it? I went to the Vienna Hotel and booked a room for the night, a basement room. I only stayed one night and next morning after breakfast, I left and went to Paddington by mistake. When I got there, I found the train to Liverpool went from Euston, so I caught a cab to Euston and caught a train to Liverpool, Lime Street Station. I caught the 11:55am… or was it the 10:55… no, I think it was the 11:55. Anyway, you can find out what it was. Now, that was Tuesday and the murder was Tuesday and Wednesday wasn’t it? Well, I went to Liverpool and stayed five days with these three friends I told you about there. I went back to London on Friday and stayed with friends in St. John’s Wood. There you are, you see, I couldn’t have committed the murder could I? But you’ll never believe me.
N.B. During his trial, Hanratty admitted he had invented this account of events and introduced his ‘Rhyl Alibi’ instead. His explaination:
‘At that stage I made up a lie, and to cover that lie I made up other lies to cover up the lies which I had already said.’
DS ACOTT: I cannot accept your story Jimmy, without some corroboration from any witness. Now as I understand it, you are telling me that at the time of the murder you were staying with these three friends in Liverpool. If they support your story, you won’t have anything to worry about. Give me their names and addresses Jimmy and I’ll see them as quickly as possible.
HANRATTY: No, that won’t do. They couldn’t get mixed up with the police and they don’t want to know anything about me or this murder. One of them is wanted for a warrant for non-payment of a fine or something. I’ve told them I’ll pay this for him and gave them all some money, I have plenty now Mr. Acott, but they won’t listen. They say I embarrass them and they’ve kicked me out today and told me not to come back again.
DS ACOTT: Jimmy, I can’t tell you how important it is for you that I should see these three men. How did you know them Jimmy?
HANRATTY: I was in detention in Liverpool with one of them and I’ve been selling them gear from screwings.
DS ACOTT: Is there any other person who could say he saw you in Liverpool after you travelled there from the Vienna?
DS ACOTT: Can you tell me any place you went to during those five days in Liverpool or anything you bought that might help me check your story?
HANRATTY: No, I’m on my own now Mr. Acott. Tomorrow, I’m going to do what you said and send some flowers (to his mother.) I’m going to write and send her the papers for the car and tell her to go and collect the deposit. I paid out £105 for it. Mum can have that from me. That will help her. Now I must go Mr. Acott before you catch me. One day when all my money has gone, you’ll get the cuffs on me and I’ll tell you the whole story then, but until then I’m going to give you a good run Mr. Acott. I stuck a few hundred away for a rainy day and it will last me a good few months. I’m a bit fly you know. Now I must go.
N.B. As mentioned on the previous date; somewhat confusingly and during his trial at a point when he had just introduced his ‘Rhyl’ alibi, Hanratty said he told Detective Superintendent Acott that he intended going back to Liverpool during this October conversation. If we are to believe Hanratty what he meant to say was that he did return to Liverpool this day. Why?
‘…because in the previous conversation he asked me where I was on the night of the twenty-second and twenty-third and I told him I was in Liverpool, which was not correct.’
Did you get to Liverpool?
So if Hanratty was not in Liverpool around the time of the murder and he admitted that his Liverpool alibi was a bunch of lies why did he go back to Liverpool at all? Hanratty admitted that he had told lies to Superintendent Acott to set up a false alibi.
Monday 9 October
3:45 P.M. – 5:50 P.M.
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott and Oxford visit the Hanratty family home again. Detective Constable D.Langdon takes a call from Hanratty at Scotland Yard which is traced to Liverpool:
‘I want to speak to Superintendent Acott please. Mr. Ryan here.’
Langdon tells Hanratty that Superintendent Acott is not there and can he take a message. Hanratty says:
‘Yes. I am very disgusted in what I have read in the papers today.’
Langdon asks Hanratty what is it he has seen in the papers. Hanratty answers:
‘Look, I have spoken to him before and I have tried to help him. You can tell him that my luggage is at Louise’s place. The green suit is bloodstained. It is my blood. I cut my hand on some glass. It has nothing to do with the A6 murder. I thought I would explain before things got worse.’
The operator interrupts and tells Hanratty he has exceeded his time. Langdon reverses the charges saying:
‘Hello Jimmy. Are you still there? What else did you want to tell Mr. Acott?’
‘You can tell him I am disgusted with him. I thought he was a very fair man. What he told the press about me giving the police a hard chase is all false. Tell him it is worrying my mother.’
Hanratty sends flowers to his mother from Liverpool. At some point during this time, 8 October 1961 – 11 October 1961 when Hanratty is concerned for his mother, he telephones Miss. Gladys Deacon and asks her to call his mother for him. Instead she notifies the police.
Tuesday 10 October
Hanratty walks into a barbers in Liverpool and asks to have his hair bleached.
Wednesday 11 October
Hanratty travels from Liverpool to Blackpool.
Detective Constables James Williams and Albert Stillings visit the Stevonia Cafe, Central Drive, Blackpool for a coffee. They see Hanratty who matches the description of a man circulated to all police forces. They keep watch of him. When Hanratty attempts to leave, Williams apprehends him outside and asks if he is James Hanratty. Hanratty replies:
‘You are making a big mistake. I am Peter Bates.’
Williams cautions Hanratty who tells him he lives on Scotland Road in Liverpool. He searches Hanratty who says he has only lived in Liverpool recently and that he had come to Blackpool that night. Hanratty asks Williams:
‘What have I done wrong?’
Hanratty is taken to police head-quarters a few hundred yards away. On the way Hanratty says:
‘I might as well get it all over with now. I will clear up the A6 job for you and and other jobs in the south.’
Scotland Yard are notified of Hanratty’s arrest.
Thursday 12 October
Detective Superintendent Bob Acott and Detective Sergeant Oxford arrive at Blackpool. DS Acott interviews Hanratty twice . During Hanratty’s trial, Acott gave evidence that during the interview in Blackpool, Hanratty had said these things to him:
‘I told you I was Jimmy Ryan when I phoned you last weekend. By the way, I want you to keep calling me Jimmy Ryan because I don’t want to embarrass my parents.’ ‘As I told you on the phone, I have got a perfect alibi for the murder. I am not worried about the murder, but as I promised you last weekend I will tell you the whole story now you’ve caught me. Fire away and ask me any questions you like. I will answer them and you will see that I have nothing to do with this horrible murder. I know exactly where I was when it happened. What do you want to ask me about? The murder was on Tuesday night wasn’t it? I have already told you what my alibi was. I was in Liverpool then. That puts me in the clear doesn’t it?’
Hanratty also talks about his movements on 21 August 1961, saying he had been staying with some friends in St. John’s Wood, namely the France’s. He adds:
‘I can’t tell you who they were Mr. Acott. I don’t want to get them into trouble.’
Hanratty goes on to say he had gone to a hotel in Baker Street and from there he had been sent to a hotel on Sutherland Avenue where he had spent the night. The next morning he ate breakfast and went straight to Liverpool. Detective Superintendent Acott asks where Hanratty had slept at the ‘Vienna’ Hotel. Hanratty remembers it was Room 24 in the basement. Hanratty adds:
‘I went to my friends in Liverpool and stayed with them until the Thursday night and got back to London on the Friday morning and walked to Camden Town, and then I went to my friends in Boundary Road and stayed a few days with them. That is all there is that week. As I told you, I have a perfect alibi Mr. Acott.’
Hanratty refuses to give the names of his three friends but says they live in some flats off Scotland Road. As with the telephone conversation Detective Superintendent Acott had, had with Hanratty earlier in October he asks:
DS ACOTT: Returning to your alibi. I cannot stress too much the serious position you are in. What are the names and addresses of the three men in Liverpool so I can interview them and take statements from them and if it is true, prove it with three witnesses?
HANRATTY: No, Mr. Acott. I have told you, I cannot tell you their names. They helped me and I cannot give you their names. They got really choked when they heard I was wanted for the A6 murder.
Hanratty goes on to say that the men, ‘kicked me out’ and that the three men could not be blamed because they were already in trouble with the police. Their flat was full of jewelry and a lot of gelignite and one of them was wanted for non-payment of a fine in connexion with television sets on hire purchase. Detective Superintendent Acott later says to Hanratty:
‘I can’t make it too clear how desperate your position is. I must tell you now, after leaving your Room 24 on August 22 and before it was occupied again, two empty cartridge cases were found at the end of the bed you slept in that night.’
Hanratty responds by asking what size the bullets were. Acott responds:
DS ACOTT: I can’t tell you that.
HANRATTY: Well that is the end for me isn’t it? I told you I have never had any bullets and never fired a gun.
Detective Superintendent Acott asks a final time who the three men were and where Hanratty stayed on August 22 and 23. Hanratty replies:
‘I am a very good gambler Mr. Acott. I have gambled all my life. I am going to gamble now. I am not going to name the three men. I can get out of this without them.’
Friday 13 October
Detective Superintendent C.H. Barron, head of Bedfordshire C.I.D. and Detective Chief Inspector Whiffen see Hanratty at Blackpool Police Station. Barron says to Hanratty:
‘At 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23, 1961 with Detective Superintendent Acott, I saw the dead body of Michael John Gregsten on a concrete strip of road by the side of the A6 at Deadman’s Hill. I am arresting you for the murder of Gregsten and you will be taken to Bedfordshire where you will later be charged.’
Barron then cautioned Hanratty and asked him, ‘Do you understand?’ Hanratty replied, ‘Yes.’
Hanratty is taken to Bedford police headquarters in a car, his face hidden by a fawn raincoat. He is placed on an identity parade. Detective Superintendent Acott and Detective Sergeant Oxford arrive in a car behind Hanratty’s. Hanratty is fingerprinted. In the next room Detective Superintendent Acott is approached by Mr. Kleinmann, Hanratty’s solicitor who tells him that Hanratty had remembered going into a sweetshop on Scotland Road on 22 August 1961. There was a woman in the sweetshop and he had asked directions to Carleton or Tarleton Road. John Jellicoe Skillet, a foreman from Leytonstone, East London identifies Hanratty as the man he had seen driving a Morris Minor erratically on the morning of 23 August 1961. Edward Richard Blackall of Brentwood, Essex is next to make an identification but picks out someone different. James Richard Trower of Forest Gate, East London identifies Hanratty as the driver of the car he saw on Redbridge Lane, Ilford. During Hanratty’s trial Hanratty’s hair was part ginger, part brown and part black. Trower said:
‘His hair was dark when I saw him on August 23.’
Saturday 14 October
Hanratty is placed on a second identity parade before Valerie Storie at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. There are twelve other men on the parade, thirteen including Hanratty. Storie asks for each of the men in the parade to repeat the phrase used by the a6 murderer, “Be quiet, will you? I’m thinking.” Storie was hoping the murderer would identify himself because the killer had said these words during after the murder of Gregsten pronouncing ‘thinking’ as ‘finking.’ This identity parade however was said to be unfair and is the cause for much debate since Hanratty is said to have been the only man with a cockney accent and also had bright orange hair having tried to bleach it. This time, after 10-15 minutes Storie picks Hanratty out. The Scotland Yard fingerprint bureau informs Acott that they have failed to find any prints for Hanratty in the Morris Minor. Valerie Storie stated that the gunman wore gloves.
Hanratty is charged with murder.
Tuesday 17 October
‘On Monday 21 August, I was engaged as assistant for two days. I was accompanied in the shop by my thirteen year old grand-daughter, Barbara Ford. Between 3:30 and 4:00p.m. on the Monday, a chap came into the shop and asked me to direct him to ‘Tarleton Road.’ I did not know where Tarleton Road was though I knew Tarleton street, and he said, “No, Road.” It was definitely the Monday because I was alone on the Tuesday. My grand-daughter was only with me on the Monday. The photograph you have shown me, is one of the man who came in on Monday, 21 August asking for Tarleton Road.’