JAMES HANRATTY PETER ALPHONS
In the afternoon of a dull August day in the year of 1961 a strange event took place just outside of London in Bedfordshire countryside. A scientist was shot dead in the head.His young mistress raped and shot 5 times but survived to give witness details that may have hanged the wrong man.
looking deep into the files we must keep an open mind on all told. We have a body and no motive at all. A random killing. Or was it revenge? We now will relate the basic facts as bones to our build. a record of a case with out motive, is hard to nail. So to this one gives opinion with facts that may support a case with different outcome.
The Victim a young 36 year old Michael Gregston a married man was about to have be intimate with his 22 year old lover Valerie Storie. In a parked grey Morris Minor car. They had been to a near by pub to talk about planing a rally for the people they worked with in the Slough Research Laboratory. Gregston was a trained scientist and Storie but an assistant .The affair had grown over time.
Gregston had run his car into a cropped corn field away from the roads. Suddenly a man is said to have knocked hard on the drivers window. Gregston was stunned but wound down the window only to have a large pistol poked in his face.
It is said that he told it was a hold up and that he had been on the run for months. He was well dressed with polished shoes and clean shaven, this according to Stories statement. So she did not believe he had been on the run.
He then entered the rear of the car. Storie in the passenger seat must have seen his face clearly as no mention ever of him having worn a mask. We need to keep this in mind as we proceed. Also police had known that a suspect named Peter Alphon had been in the Station Inn at the same time as the lovers had dined before driving to the corn field.
The man in the back told Gregston to drive and for hours he made them drive around the outskirts of London. Eventually it was dark early as the day was not warm and rain had covered most of the country at times. Gregston had to then buy milk from a vending machine whilst the gun man held Valerie as hostage in the car.
Another hour and the car needed fuel. The gun man was suspicious and his anger now rose. The car fueled and Greston back driving, the gun man told him to stop in a lay by on the A6 trunk road near corner of Dorley Hill Road. Here he asked what was in a duffle bag on the back ledge .Greston picked it up hurriedly and the gun man fired twice each to his victims head. He fell dead. Storie screamed and the gun man ordered her out of the car. He asked Storie how to drive the car. She showed him the gears and how to dip the clutch. He then made her remove her bra and underwear and raped her at gun point. She told the court that she saw his face in car lights only for a split second as they passed.
The gun man then left her but turned suddenly and fired his last shots at her laying on the ground near the body of her lover. He then reloaded and fired off all together 5 shots at her.
She said that one hit her in the shoulder another in the neck the rest whistled over her. He came over and kicked and she played dead. He then drove off, crashing gears and braking jack rabbit style but did manage finally to drive away. She lay there most of the night until a man came forth next morning he was a traffic recorded. He spoke to Storie and called a farmer as he passed to help him. Storie than had an ambulance called.
The facts we have as told by Valerie Storie in hospital as statement to police.
Now good readers we have a line up set in the police station. Storie is without feeling from waist down but has survived. She is shown the men in line but picks out an innocent sailor as the gun man. The police now are worried. They make her go down the line again but she walks past the real accused to fall on someone else.This time it is James Hanratty a convicted car thief .
What Storie said was that she had not seen the gun mans face and only a brief outline in the head lights of a car and she therefore could not be sure.This is surprising as she told them in statement that he was well dressed with even polished shoes yet could not recall his face???
But then police had to check. The man they suspected was a hired gun man called Peter Alphon who was in the line up but Storie failed to pick him out.She did not even stop to observe him. Had see been seriously warned off or was she in shock? after time details do slip from memory after such an ordeal. But would you ever forget the face of man who did all that to you,ever?
Hanratty had an alibi and so police went to find fault. Then Hanratty changed his story that he was not in Liverpool but In Rhyl in North Wales. He could not recall the name of his lodgings but it was run by a woman and the room he had was at top of house and had a green bath. He told that he had gone there to sell a gold watch to a man he knew. Police went to check this and found that very place with all that Hanratty had told them being correct down to his name in the guest book and the green bath in the top bed room being in place as he had said.
One would think that enough , but no owing to Hanratty changing his defense that Crown Prosection in Court disregarded The Rhyl evidence as they called the poor lady who owned it and was giving evidence that she had made it all up to promote her business in fame of a big murder case. On top of that the witness now shaking with upset dropped her guest books in the dock and all became mixed up. So Hanrattys signing the book on that date was now lost in the pages on the dock floor.
She was so insulted that they broke her down like a common madam that she cried. Now all was set to sentence on Valerie Stories witness naming Hanratty as killer of her lover and her raper and shooter. Before that she had not a single clue and she openly told all that many times. Suddenly police take her to one side and make it clear all hung on her as they had all the evidence it was him. So she came out as told and so Hanratty was convicted as planed.
Over the limits of the city the main case that day was the painting of the Duke of Wellington by Goya 1812 had been stolen by the thieves from the National Gallery and USA had launched the stage platform Ranger one into orbit. In all events Hanratty should have had his case in the main court of the Old Bailey not as it was in a tiny packed court in the same place as the murder with all public upset that it happened in their patch. The police designed it just that way fora reason.
Hanratty was waiting in his cell and asked his family to clear his name. He admitted he was a petty thief and had stolen cars but would never had owned a gun or killed anyone.
He was hanged on the 4th April 1962 still pleading his innocence.
So we now go back a bit. Peter Alphon was related to a high ranking police officer. He Alphon towards the end of his life confessed on TV that he had in fact committed the crime and had left his gun loaded with a box of bullets under that back seat of the 36a London bus. Indeed the police had found that gun that had been totally whiped clean
it was the gun that shot Gregston and Storie.
On the evidence stated would you as a jury member have found James Hanratty guilty?
I can recall the case as I was a school boy at the time and its was news everyplace one looked. The name Hanratty not a name know to us was so strange we all remember him.
i believe a huge crime by police was then produced to blame an innocent man of a terrible crime and so a travesty of justice was in progress that day.
My way is to have gone down the motive side and it may come down to a hired gun as motive , kill my cheating husband. That can be the only logical motive no matter how I turn this case inside out.
Therefore Peter Alphon, who was police first suspect was the killer after all if one takes all into view there is your motive. As there can be no other it must be the way it was.
To even think that this was a random killing there is no purpose in a well dressed gun man telling he had been on the run for months if it was for no other reason than to make them scared. It defeats imagination as he was in the inn and then followed them to the field by car. He was not alone as he clearly could not drive a car.
We know that Alphon was a hired gun and he was the suspect .The thing is all falls down to the witness Valerie Storie who told the police, three times, that she had not a clue of the killers face. If she had not been coached Storie would not have pointed to Hanratty who had been far away and had no gun ever in his hands. A petty car thief who was a master driver. Storie told us that the gunman asked how to drive the car and when he did it was to crash gears and jump on brakes until he could find it running. We know that Peter Alphon was not a driver which puts the cap on this case I think.
Thank you once again for being with me on this singularly horrid case. Not one to linger on but important for the family who have worked for years to clear James Hanratty on murder and rape. I hope this helps you understand how cheap live is under a system that was ruled by hanging. If all is 100% witnessed and with out a shadow of human doubt but this case is one of many a very many cases where justice was blindfolded.
Copyright Kevin Parr Bt 2018