Melanie Road’s murderer busted after 31 years by his daughter’s DNA
When Mr and Mrs Road awoke on the morning of 9 June 1984, they discovered that their 17-year-old daughter had not returned home from a night out with her boyfriend and friends. Mrs Road had dropped Melanie off outside a hotel in Bath, England, in the afternoon the day before. As her daughter had prepared to get out of the car, she stopped and said to her mother: “Look, there’s a red carpet laid out for me,” as she pointed to the floor in front of her. “What a way to go.” She had then hopped out of the car, jolly and full of life. Unknown to Mrs Road, these would be the last words her daughter said to her. That morning, she was certain that any minute the phone would ring and her daughter would be on the other end, telling her parents that she had stayed at a friend’s house for the night.
But she hadn’t. The group had visited the Beau Nash nightclub in Kingston Parade and left at about 1.30am the next morning. Her friends had spotted her in Broad Road a short while later as she made her way home. It should have taken her 15 minutes to reach her front door. But her journey and her life were cut short when an unknown male assailant approached her and stabbed her. Despite her attempts to flee the grasp of her attacker, he did not cease his attack. He removed her trousers and underwear and subjected her to a vicious sexual assault. He stabbed her 26 times in total in the back and the chest before leaving her in a bloody heap to die. Her underwear was left on the pavement 50 metres away from her lifeless body.
A milkman and his ten-year-old son on their rounds in the early hours of the morning discovered the young woman’s half naked and mutilated body near a block of garages on St Stephen’s Court, Lansdown. A key ring with the word ‘Melanie’ helped to identify her, as police officers from the Avon and Somerset force used a loud hailer from a police car to shout out for families with a girl of that name.
Mr and Mrs Road, now concerned about their daughter’s failure to return home or get in contact, enquired about the body the police had found. They were delivered the awful news that their daughter had been stabbed to death just 200 metres from her front door. They were also informed she had possibly tried to flee her attacker or had been dragged around the corner to where she was found.
Police began their manhunt to find Melanie’s killer by launching Operation Rhodium, one of the largest murder inquiries the West Country had ever seen. A single trail of blood left at the scene provided police with the blood type of the potential killer, the proteins of which matched just three per cent of the population. However, 8,000 men alone fitted the age criteria of the profile provided. Still, the investigation pressed forward – a five-year media campaign raised awareness of the tragedy and investigators appealed for information about what had happened that night.
By 1995, collecting DNA evidence became a regular part of police work and each sample retrieved was put into the national database. But there was still no progress in the hunt for Melanie’s killer. In 2000, police unsuccessfully worked to find a familial match for the DNA from the crime scene. This method is used to detect if any known offender is related to another person police are looking for, whether they are in the database themselves or not.
Still without a positive match, by 2003 Melanie’s file was one of thousands of cold cases just waiting to be solved by Avon and Somerset Police’s cold case team.
30 years had passed since Melanie’s brutal murder, but the determined police force was still no closer to finding a viable potential suspect. However, a somewhat trivial matter would soon bring them one step closer to solving the case. In November 2014, 44-year-old Clare Hampton was issued a caution for criminal damage after a row with her boyfriend. As per police procedure, Clare was asked to provide a DNA sample, which was entered into the national DNA database.
Just a few months later, while investigating Melanie’s murder, the police conducted a re-run of the familial check. Since the previous scan conducted in 2010, the DNA of more than 1 million people had been added to the database, including that of Clare Hampton. It showed that she was related to Melanie’s suspected killer.
Police began looking into the members of Clare’s family that had been living in the area at the time of the 1984 offence. According to the forensic profile, her brothers were too young to have committed the crime, so police focused their attention on her father, Christopher Hampton, a 63-year-old painter and decorator.
Detective Chief Inspector Julie Mackay, who led the cold case team, asked Clare to provide her father’s contact details. When police contacted him, they told him they needed to take a DNA swab from him due to his daughter being on the database. Despite being told that the routine procedure would take only 15 minutes of his time, he told the detective that he was unable to make it to the station until a few days later. Instead, the police offered to meet him somewhere in order to obtain the sample.
Hampton stood emotionless in the commercial car park near to where he worked when he provided police with the DNA sample that would match a semen sample found on Melanie’s trousers. After Melanie’s death, Christopher had carried on life as normal. He had married and gone on to father four children – three daughters and a son. His family were completely unaware of his murderous past. He kept his police record as clean as a whistle, avoiding detection for more than 32 years. All the while, the lives of Melanie’s family remained shackled to the pain and fear that they may never see justice done for the young woman.
When arrested in July 2015 and questioned, Hampton provided a no-comment interview. Later, through a pre-prepared statement read by his solicitor, he categorically denied the rape and murder. He continued to deny the charges when he appeared at Bristol Crown Court.
However, as his trial began on 9 May 2016, he finally admitted to having slain the teenager more than 30 years ago when he was 32 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years behind bars. He may never see the outside of prison grounds ever again. With the man responsible for a case that 700 officers had worked on and resulted in nearly 8,000 investigative enquiries behind bars, a dark cloud was lifted from over the Avon and Somerset police.
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[Pictures courtesy of Avon and Somerset Police]