The Finchampstead Society

The Finchampstead Society Talk January 11th 2019

Historical Crimes - The A6 Murder

On January 11th Ex Chief Inspector Paul Stickler of the Hampshire Constabulary gave an excellent talk about the A6 murder to a well attended audience of Members of and visitors to the Finchampstead Society.

Paul was awarded the British Crime Diploma from Southampton University and as a result has always been very interested in Historical Crimes. In particular that of the A6 murder which took place in 1961. Before giving his detailed talk Paul said that the subject matter should be approached with sensitivity and respect for individuals concerned, especially the victims. He felt it was important that such stories as these should be told with factually related context of “What happened, happened”.

Introducing the story Paul revealed many arbitrary facts about this murder. This particular crime happened in 1961 when Michael Gregston and Valerie Storie were parked in a side lane near Dorney Reach. The immaculately dressed and unknown attacker appeared from nowhere and rapped with his gloved hands on the window, which immediately affected Michael and Valerie. The situation got out of control. A series of events then occurred which left Michael Gregston dead from two bullet wounds and Valerie seriously wounded from five life threatening bullet wounds. Although Valerie survived she spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair unable to walk.

The perpetrator of this heinous crime was James Hanratty who was finally found guilty of Gregston’s murder. He was hanged in 1962 although there were doubts still held by some people that the evidence was flawed. In the same year and after the hanging a witness in the case named Peter Alphon confessed that he had committed the murder. The A6 committee was formed in order to establish Hanratty’s innocence as the revelation by Peter Alphon led to further speculation. This was subsequently dissolved. Although DNA testing started in the 1980s it was only in the mid 1990s that it was used here in the UK. Initial tests were inconclusive, as there was insufficient DNA material. Techniques improved by 1999 so that tests were possible using small quantities of DNA. It was 2001 when the new DNA taken from the exhumation of James Hanratty’s body when compared with DNA on items found at the scene of the crime proved beyond doubt that he was guilty of the murder.

After the talk members of the audience were invited to ask questions. Paul answered them with great accuracy and detail. The final comments about Valerie Storie were that she died at the age of 77 years in 2016. She was able to work until her retirement and led an exemplary life involving herself in many charitable projects within the community.

It was a pleasure to listen to Paul Stickler speaking with so much knowledge about this case. The talk was informative, interesting and professionally delivered with appropriate sensitivity.

- Jane Parle -

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