Murder of Melanie Hall
20 August 1970|
|Disappeared||9 June 1996 (aged 25)
Bath, Somerset, UK
|Died||Declared legally dead 17 November 2004|
|5 October 2009
Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, UK
|Alma mater||University of Bath|
|Employer||Royal United Hospital|
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Parent(s)||Steve and Patricia Hall|
Melanie Hall (born 20 August 1970; disappeared c. 9 June 1996; declared legally dead 17 November 2004) was a British hospital clerical officer from Bradford on Avon, who disappeared on 9 June 1996, following a night out at the Cadillacs nightclub in Bath. It was not until 5 October 2009 that her partial remains were discovered, after a plastic bin bag containing human bones was located by a workman on the M5 motorway near Thornbury, South Gloucestershire. The bones, which included a pelvis, thigh bone and skull, were analysed and identified as belonging to Melanie Hall on 7 October 2009. It was determined that Hall had suffered severe fractures to her skull and face, and had been tied up with rope, although a definitive cause of death could not be pinpointed.
Hall was described by her parents as a "young, vibrant daughter". She had graduated from the University of Bath in 1995, Hall's mother, Pat Hall, said graduation had been a "cherished" dream of Melanie's for four years. Melanie Hall worked as a clerical officer at Bath's Royal United Hospital. For three weeks before her disappearance Hall had been dating a German doctor, Philip Karlbaum, whom she had met at the hospital. Her father, Stephen Hall, has served Bath City Football Club as a chairman.
Hall had arranged to stay with her boyfriend Karlbaum on 8 June and her mother dropped her off at his home. On the night of 8 June 1996 Hall went to Cadillacs nightclub in Bath with Karlbaum and another couple. Hall was reported as having had an argument with Karlbaum, and he left the club "upset" after he allegedly saw her dancing with another man. Hall was last seen sitting on a stool in the club at around 1.10am on 9 June 1996. She was reported missing on 11 June 1996 by her parents after she failed to turn up for work.
Karlbaum described his devastation at her disappearance on 17 June 1996. Avon and Somerset police launched several searches of the River Avon after her disappearance and interviewed thousands of clubbers and taxi drivers in an operation involving 60 officers. A £10,000 reward was offered for information, the BBC show Crimewatch and Crimestoppers both made appeals to the public for information, as did Hall's sister Dominique, but no trace of Hall was found.
Discovery of remains
On 5 October 2009, a motorway worker found a plastic bin bag containing bones while he was clearing a vegetation patch on a slip road at Junction 14 of the M5 motorway. The bones in the bag included a skull, pelvis and thigh bone and further remains were found buried and spread around the field by the side of the motorway. Police confirmed that the remains were human, and they showed a piece of jewellery found at the site to Mr and Mrs Hall, who confirmed that it had belonged to their daughter. Despite this, police refused to confirm that the body was that of Miss Hall until a post-mortem had been carried out. The remains were formally identified as being Hall's through dental records on 7 October. She had incurred severe blunt trauma to her head during her ordeal, resulting in a fractured skull, cheekbone and jaw. Hall had also been tied up with a thin blue rope.
Hall's parents launched a fresh appeal on 8 October for anyone with information to come forward, while Avon and Somerset CID DS Mike Britton stated that he was staying on after his retirement to continue working on the Hall disappearance, codenamed Operation Denmark, having spent 13 years on the case. On 29 October 2009, police announced that three keys to a Ford car, possibly a Transit, Fiesta or Escort had been found near the body, and that they were working with Ford to try to identify the vehicle. Crimewatch also launched a fresh appeal for information, which resulted in more than 200 phone calls from the public. The reward for information leading to arrest was also increased to £20,000.
In 2003, police arrested two men in connection with Hall's disappearance but they were released without charge after police searched buildings and a field near Bath, Somerset. In 2009, a 37-year-old man confessed his involvement in Hall's murder to police in Greater Manchester, but was eliminated from the inquiry after undergoing psychiatric tests. In July 2010, a 38-year-old man from Bath was arrested on suspicion of Hall's murder and subsequently released on bail. In August 2010 a 39-year-old man from Wiltshire was arrested by police on suspicion of murder after handing himself in at a police station in the Avon and Somerset area. The man was subsequently released on bail.
In October 2013, police said that they had found a white Volkswagen Golf car connected to their inquiries, and had received relevant information about the rope used to tie up Hall's body. On 25 November 2013 it was reported that a 44-year-old man had been arrested at an address in Bath, on suspicion of murder. The man was released on bail until 19 December, and a property at Roundhill Park, Whiteway, was searched. On 28 November 2014 it was reported that there was insufficient evidence to charge the suspect.
Links to other cases
Police have not ruled out links with the murder of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh (who disappeared in July 1986 and whose body has never been found) and the case of a serial sex attacker in Bath, nicknamed the "Batman rapist" after he left a baseball cap bearing a Batman logo at the scene of one attack. The unknown assailant is known to have attempted to carjack a woman at knifepoint, leaving her wounded when she fought back and managed to escape, in the same area of the city a few hours before Hall was abducted. In spring of 2011, police investigating the murders of Sian O'Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards (whose bodies were both found in Wiltshire) also began to look for a possible link between those murders and that of Melanie Hall.
While living in Bath, singer/songwriter Peter Hammill (also with Van der Graaf Generator) had the idea for a song, later released on his album Thin Air (2009), called "Your Face on the Street" inspired by the disappearance of Melanie Hall. Some of the lyrics of the song were written at the time of the disappearance, and when the album came out, the discovery had yet to be made.
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