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James Hanratty was hanged in 1962 after being convicted of shooting a couple near London, but his guilt is still disputed.
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This was an unusual step, as such a change meant Hanratty was facing a credible level of prejudice from a local area where the murder and rape took place.
The defense for Hanratty initially appeared sound, as they claimed their client was in Liverpool on the day of the murder. For some unknown reason, Hanratty then claimed he was in Rhyl in North Wales. Their was no forensic evidence to support the case against Hanratty other than the fact that he was a known petty criminal,
not noted for violence or handling guns, but had at least been picked out by Storie herself.
Hanratty's blood group was the same as the murderer, but it was a common blood group shared by millions. Still there was nothing linking him to being near the scene of the crime. Also Hanratty did not know the two victims and had no logical motive for abducting them.
Although the first statement by Hanratty, that he had been in Liverpool on the day of the crime, was later dismissed by the defense, it was shown that the defendant had been in London. Hanratty had definitely collected a suit from a dry cleaners in Swiss Cottage and also been to a friend's house on the afternoon of Monday, August 21, before staying at the Vienna hotel in the evening. His defense argued that it was impossible for him to have gone to Liverpool the next day and then returned to London to carry out the crime at 9 p.m. Despite this compelling argument there was little information revealing where Hanratty actually was on the night of the murder on Tuesday August 22.
Shortly afterwards Hanratty changed his alibi. It must have appeared odd to the jury that he now claimed to have been in Rhyl, in north Wales on the day of the murder. His reason for providing the Liverpool alibi was he said because he didn't know how he could prove where he really was. But the Rhyl alibi appeared to have greater potential for witnesses who may have seen him. According to the defendant he went to the Welsh coast town in order to fence a stolen watch. He had arrived late on the evening of Tuesday August 22 and stayed at a boarding house near a railway station. Hanratty described the hotel, his attic room and a green bath, which was inside it.
Investigations tracked down the hotel and its landlady, Grace Jones. The room that Hanratty said he stayed in seemed to match his description and Jones did remember a man resembling Hanratty during the week of August 19-26.
However, the prosecution took advantage of the fact that Jones's hotel registers were in disarray and little conclusive evidence could be gleaned from them. The prosecution also brought in several witnesses which showed that all the rooms were occupied at the time. Jones was accused of lying in order to get publicity for her hotel.
Despite the claim that all the rooms had been full, the defence managed to prove that the attic was empty on the night of August 22. This was the bedroom that Hanratty had described as having a green bath. After six hours, the jury returned to ask the judge for a definition of "reasonable doubt."
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