What options are open to detectives after 22 years? what are the prospects of finding her killer?
The investigation into the murder of Melanie Hall has been one of the biggest, highest profile inquiries in Avon and Somerset Police’s history. Although her killer contunues to evade justice, detectives still have some evidence to go on. They still have not found Melanie’s clothes – the pale blue dress, her black shoes and her cream jacket.
But a DNA sample was recovered at the motorway slip road among Melanie’s bones in the bin liners. Police will not say if they have actually turned this into a full DNA profile.
But they have a sample at the very least. Dr. Monckton- Smith explained that the passage of time works both for and against investigators: “22 years ago, you’ve lost evidence because it’s such a long time ago. But also, from a positive aspect, a 22- year gap gives us potential for evidence that we couldn’t possibly have got then [ in 1996]. That gap is positive because of the advances of DNA processing and the type of item that they get DNA from, and even degraded DNA you can get a profile from.”
But DNA itself is not enough. That is just one part of the inquiry. DNA may lead them to a person, but it does not prove that the suspect is Melanie’s killer. Police must also find corroborating evidence that the suspect was in Bath in the early hours of 9 June 1996 and had the means and opportunity to kill Melanie Hall.
Police have made various attempts at appealing to people’s consciences. They may not be able to persuade the killer to confess, but perhaps someone close may have an inkling. Detectives are appealing for people whose loyalties have changed. And as far- fetched as that may appear, Dr. Monckton- Smith said stranger things have happened: “When people’s allegiances change it doesn’t necessarily fit into the context of ‘ I know about this now I’m going to split on you because we’re not friends anymore. It may be as simple as this person was married, has just gone through a messy divorce and the wife was thinking, ‘ He did behave suspiciously around that time. As the marriage has gone on I’ve found him more suspicious’ – it needn’t be anything conspiratorial.
“People’s suspicions are suppressed by themselves: ‘ Oh, don’t be so silly, nothing like that ever happens to me. I’m just being dramatic,’ or the people around them will suppress them, saying, ‘ You have got to be careful, you will get someone in trouble if you say something like that.’ But the more times they see Melanie Hall’s face in the press, they might think – I am going to say something. I’m not silly.’”
Lack of evidence
The inquiry does not boast hours of CCTV, as would happen with a disappearance today. There is no telephony involved. No GPS coordinates, no social media accounts to look at. No pings from mobile masts.
An Avon and Somerset Police source told Real Crime, “Unsolved murder cases are never closed. They are subject to regular reviews to check whether new techniques, such as advances in DNA technology, can be used to generate further lines of enquiry. The disappearance and murder of Melanie Hall remains unsolved. Her killer or killers need to be brought to justice to help give her family some form of closure. I would urge anyone with information on who killed Melanie, or why she was killed, to come forward now. Even the most seemingly insignificant piece of information could be the key to solving this case.”
Still Steve and Pat Hall wait for news of a murder charge. Upstairs in their home, kept as it has been for 22 years, is Melanie’s bedroom, left just as she would have wanted it. Melanie’s parents still wait for their daughter’s murderer to be caught.