Highways to hell – murder on UK roads, from mystery gunman to biker killer

Next week marks 60 years since the A6 Murder shocked Britain and led to one of the nation's most controversial executions.

On the morning of August 23, 1961, the lifeless body of a 36-year-old man was found in a lay-by near Deadman's Hill, Bedfordshire, along with a semi-conscious 22-year-old woman.

Both had been shot and the culprit had vanished with their car. It's just one of the notorious killings that have taken place along our highways down the decades.

Here JAMES MOORE looks at what happened in that case and other murders associated with the UK road network…

SHOT ON THE A6

Scientist and dad-of-two Michael Gregsten, who was separated from his wife, worked at the Road Research Laboratory in Slough with his mistress Valerie Storie.

On the evening of August 22, 1961, the pair were parked up by a Berkshire field in his Morris Minor when a man with a gun suddenly tapped on the window.

He got in and made them drive around for hours – seemingly aimlessly – before ordering Gregsten to pull over on the A6 in Bedfordshire.

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Then he shot Gregsten dead before raping Valerie and shooting her five times. The killer left her for dead by the roadside before fleeing in the motor.

She would survive but was left paralysed from the waist down. When she picked petty thief James Hanratty out of a police line-up, he insisted he’d been 200 miles away at the time of the crime.

But he was found guilty and hanged at Bedford Prison on April 4, 1962, one of the last people to face execution before capital punishment was abolished.

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Hanratty went to the gallows insisting: “I’m dying tomorrow but I’m innocent. Clear my name.”

After a high-profile campaign, supported by the likes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, apparent flaws in the original evidence led to the case being reopened.

Storie’s underwear and a handkerchief found with the murder weapon – a revolver later discovered on a London bus – were examined. They showed matches for Hanratty’s DNA, after his body was exhumed.

In 2002 the Court of Appeal declared "beyond doubt" the new findings proved his guilt.

But Hanratty’s family maintain his innocence believing the exhibits were cross-contaminated.

STABBED ON THE M25

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By the time he stabbed a man to death in a bout of road rage Kenneth Noye had already been cleared of killing a policeman, then convicted of laundering gold bullion from the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery.

Out of prison on licence, it was on May 19, 1996, that the serial offender got into an argument with 21-year-old electrician Stephen Cameron on a slip road off the M25 near Swanley, Kent.

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His girlfriend Danielle had been at the wheel of his red Rascal van when it collided with Noye’s Land Rover. Noye knifed Stephen twice before fleeing.

Two years later he was tracked down to Spain. Identified by Danielle, he was found guilty of the murder in April 2000.

Despite being given a life sentence, he was released from prison in 2019 aged 72.

THE M50 MYSTERY

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Heading back to Worcester along the M50 on June 18, 1988, after an afternoon spent with her husband at an army cadet camp, pregnant 22-year-old Marie Wilks’ car broke down.

She walked 700 yards along the hard shoulder to use an emergency phone, leaving her baby son Mark with her 11-year-old sister Georgina in the Morris Marina.

But during the call, she was abducted. Police were alerted and found the phone dangling off the hook.

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After a two-day search, Marie’s battered body was found down an embankment three miles away. She’d been stabbed in the neck and had bled to death.

Detectives released an artist’s impression of a blonde man in his 20s at the scene which led to the arrest of ex-soldier Eddie Browning.

Convicted of the murder the following year, despite a lack of forensic evidence, he would be released six years later after it emerged that evidence casting doubt on his guilt had been withheld by police. The case remains unsolved.

THE HELL'S ANGEL MURDER

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Hell’s Angel Gerry Tobin was one of 50,000 bikers who attended the Bulldog Bash festival in Warwickshire in the summer of 2007.

The 35-year-old mechanic from London had left the event on August 12 riding his Harley Davidson and was travelling along the M40 when two shots rang out from a car that had pulled up alongside.

One hit Gerry in the back of the head skull killing him instantly. The culprits sped away.

But police identified he’d been targeted by a rival gang The Outlaws because he was a "fully-patched" Hell’s Angel.

After a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, seven men were jailed for a total of 191 years over the cold-blooded murder.

HORROR BY THE M5

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A motorway worker was clearing undergrowth by a slip road at junction 14 of the M5, near Thornbury, Glos, in October 2009 when he made a horrific discovery.

Inside a plastic bag was a human skull, pelvis, and thigh bone with other remains nearby, along with a piece of jewellery.

These were identified as belonging to Melanie Hall, a 25-year-old clerical worker who had disappeared on June 9, 1996, after visiting a nightclub in Bath.

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DNA was found on a blue rope used to tie up the bags containing Melanie’s remains.

Despite a series of arrests over the last decade no one has been charged.

But last year police released an e-fit of a wanted man along with an appeal for information about her missing clothing.

Melanie’s unsolved murder has been linked to other crimes as well as convicted serial killer Levi Bellfield.

CROCODILE TEARS OF A KILLER

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Barmaid Tracie Andrews shed crocodile tears as she told a press conference how a man in a Ford Sierra had attacked her and fiancé Lee Harvey in their vehicle on a country road in Worcestershire on December 1, 1996.

The 27-year-old said the mystery assailant had killed the 25-year-old bus driver in a fit of road rage, then fled the scene.

But the story was a fantasy. In fact, she had stabbed him 42 times herself in a frenzied attack on the way home from a pub in their Ford Escort after an argument.

Suspicious police discovered a penknife-shaped bloodstain in the high-heeled boot she had been wearing on the night.

Andrews was found guilty of murder in 1997 and sentenced to serve at least 14 years behind bars. She was released in 2011, changed her name to Jenna, and married a bouncer.

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