THE AF­TER­MATH

What op­tions are open to de­tec­tives after 22 years? what are the prospects of find­ing her killer?

Real Crime - - Taken In The Night -

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.

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