We have written a lot about clusters of murders involving lone females in the 1980s and 90s. One such group of victims that stands out are those in the south western corner of the UK. These are the cases we are thinking about here:
These unsolved murder cases featured women walking alone in rural or semi rural areas. The age range is between 14 years and 66 years. The common method used was stabbing though there were elements of blunt force trauma. Notably there were sexual elements to most of the crimes, but no obvious sign of a serious sexual assault before the killings.
The only one we have not written an article about is Melanie Hall. This omission was brought to our attention by Sammy from London.
The Disappearance Of Melanie Hall
By the early hours of 9th June 1996 this lady was in a night club in Bath called Cadillacs. In one version she had arrived with her boyfriend but they had an argument early on and he had left. This was said to be because he had gone to get money and on his return saw Ms Hall dancing with another man.
The last witness to say they saw her in the club put the time at around 1.45 am. This night out was in order she could celebrate a friend’s birthday. After her boyfriend went she still had company, but as the night wore on the group drifted off home.
As far as her parents were concerned she would not have been in contact with them until Sunday as she was meant to be staying at her boyfriend’s address. This caused a bit of a delay in reporting her missing. I presume the boyfriend also thought she was elsewhere, maybe having gone home.
After a couple of days her parents became concerned enough to go amd report her officially missing to the Bath police.
I watched a Crimewatch UK video that reconstructed the events of the night Ms Hall was last seen. There are some differences with other accounts. I give the video content the higher regard as far as credibility goes. It was done only five months after the murder and as with all these reconstructions it is overseen by the cops doing the enquiry.
In the scenario they painted Ms Hall and her boyfriend, Dr Philip Karlbaum, had gone to see friends at a house where a BBQ was being hosted. Ms Hall, Dr Karlbaum and another couple went in his car to the nightclub. The film shows Dr Karlbaum coming out of the toilet to see Ms Hall dancing closely with another man. The doctor is upset by this but there is no argument. He goes into his car outside, smokes a cigarette and in his words, ‘ I wanted to process what had just happened.’ He hoped his absence would be missed and she may come out looking for him. When she did not he left. It might be worth noting the relationship was not a long term one. He said they had only been dating three weeks.
Meanwhile witnesses inside said they saw a woman they think was Ms Hall talking to a man and then leaving the club with him. The couple that she had gone to the night club with had previously told her they were leaving and they thought Dr Karlbaum was still there. Here we have a classic scenario that can be seen in the tragic death of many unsolved murder victims. One group thinks the other group remains at a venue. The person in question is therefore left alone. This also happened in the case of Alonzo Brooks in the USA.
The man Melanie Hall was talking to is described as 5’10” (179 cm) tall with a dark complexion. He was wearing mostly brown clothing and he had black shoes on. The witness noted he was wearing an expensive looking gold watch. A short time later the same witness saw the couple leave together. He sounds like a good witness. He said he had been talking to the bouncers so presumably he had been in a position to see all he said he had.
At about 2 am a couple of women had collected some takeaway food and were walking towards the club when they saw a man and woman who may have been Ms Hall and her companion. They seemed to be in a dispute. Further along the timeline a witness said he may have seen this man and Ms Hall going into a car park. It seemed the woman was being cajoled or pressured into doing so. As I understand it the last two witnesses each thought they were seeing a couple in the middle of an argument.
Then there was little progress. The police and family did all they could. The issue was there were no sightings or evidence to take them down a solid line of enquiry. The fact they put the case on Crimewatch UK indicates they believed something sinister had happened. The show usually does not feature those that are simply missing.
Crimewatch UK 2009
On 5th October 2009 workers were clearing a drain at the side of a motorway. They were cutting the undergrowth away near the northbound slip road of the M5 on junction 14. As a man trimmed away the grass he found the remains of Ms Hall. She had been wrapped in plastic bin liners. In turn they had been wrapped in blue rope which had been tied in a curious set of knots.
The rope consisted of several pieces knotted together with four extra knots in the length. The bin liners and the remains had displaced over time. The cops used DNA technology to identify Ms Hall. A ring found at the scene was the earliest indication it was her.
In the October 2009 account the crime scene was discussed and visited by a presenter.
The program and senior detective in the case went over the evidence and showed a clip of the previous reconstruction. I notice they did not repeat appeals for the man who was said to have been with her in the club. This time all the details of the night remained the same, but after Ms Hall’s friends left nothing more was said. After that time nothing was known about her movements.
However, in a much later press appeal they again asked for the same man to come forward. This time they issued a grainy photo fit image and said he was about 27 years old at the time.
Dr Philip Karlbaum was arrested in 1998 and his car was searched very carefully. It has to be made clear that he cooperated fully with the enquiry and there is no evidence to suggest he did anything other than what he said that night.
1200 taxi drivers were questioned in an effort to find one that might have given Ms Hall a ride. 100s of other witnesses were interviewed and nothing has come of the enquiries. The rope did yield a partial DNA profile and that still awaits a match.
In 2016 a person called Christopher Hampton was linked by DNA to a very similar sounding crime. It becomes even more similar sounding when you see the date it was committed.
9th June 1984 an 18 year old lady called Melanie Road was stabbed and raped. A trail of blood indicated she had been forced to walk to where the killer took her life. Hampton managed to stay free for 32 years until his DNA caught up with him.
One of our favourite writers created a character who was a very successful detective. One of his sayings was there is no such thing as coincidence. A young woman called Melanie is attacked in Bath after leaving a nightclub exactly 12 years to the day before Melanie Hall was killed.
I have no evidence to say that is anything other than a coincidence yet that is one mountain of a coincidence.
( Another similar coincidence is seen in the case of Janet Brown. This lady was killed in a home invasion style robbery on 1oth April 1995. Her body was found on the morning of the 11th. On 11th April 1997, only a short distance away, another middle aged lady was killed in her home in a similar crime. Their age difference was just one year.)
Hampton was connected to the decades old crime because his daughter was arrested and had to give a sample of her DNA. The process of Familial DNA took care of the rest. The link in the system between the daughter’s profile and her father’s led the police to him. The murder of Melanie Road was a horrific crime, it was committed by a debased creature who amazingly never came to police attention until he was arrested.
It does make me wonder. All over the world are DNA profiles from crimes that are never matched. So are we to assume that many like Hampton can be cruel horrendous humans who only kill once? The cops didn’t think so. They thought he may well have killed and attacked other women yet their best efforts did not get any reward. He has never even talked about the killing of Ms Road.
Shelley Morgan, Helen Fleet, Lyn Bryant, Kate Bushell, Melanie Hall And Melanie Roads
Is there a link? There are geographic links. Primarily all these victims were killed in the south west of England. Ms Hall and Ms Roads both left a night club in Bath. Ms Road was found not far from her home in the city. Ms Hall’s remains were found 30 miles north of where she vanished.
Shelley Morgan (1984) was found 20 miles west of Bath at a place called Backwell Hill. Helen Fleet was killed in 1988 in woods on the edge of the town of Weston-Super-Mare. That is 30 miles west of Bath.
Lyn Bryant (1998) was a long way off to the south. About 150 miles away from Bath while Kate Bushell (1997) was 80 miles away in the same direction.
Age wise there is a range, but we have had killers that attack across a wide spectrum. Just for the sake of being thorough. Helen fleet was 66 and Kate Bushell was just 14. The other ladies were aged between 18 and 41 years old.
Method? Five of the victims received stab wounds. The only exception to this method was Ms Hall who appears to have suffered blunt trauma to the head.
Time of day? For me the striking similarity of the two victims from Bath is hard to then match up with the daylight attacks on the others. Only Kate Bushell was attacked as night was falling and even then it was a winter night with an early sunset.
The Batman Rapist
During this time frame I was told there was a vicious creature operating. He committed 17 offences of sexual assault in the 1990s. There may well be more that were not brought to the notice of the cops. This guy got his Batman nickname because he dropped a baseball cap with the super heroes’ logo on it.
On the night that Melanie Hall had disappeared a man believed to be this low life tried to car jack a woman. He failed but injured her in the process. So he was active in the correct time frame.
The police have been hunting this offender with vigour particularly during the 1990s. I will come back to this aspect. For now I just wanted to right a wrong. Melanie Hall has not been mentioned on here until now. We do our best but I am surprised we missed this awful crime.
A few Thoughts
Do I believe someone was operating in the south west of the UK and did more than a single murder? I actually do think that. My very random thoughts are that Helen Fleet, Lyn Bryant and Kate Bushell may well have been victims of one man. I am not alone in that.
Was Melanie Hall a victim of the Batman rapist? I don’t know enough to make a judgement. Sammy ( the kind person who pointed us to this case) pointed out some real possibilities and also the fetish that may have linked him to Shelley Morgan. He had a thing about pantyhose apparently. He was even known to have brought them with him for victims who were not wearing them. Ms Morgan was found wearing them when nearly all other clothing was absent.
Christopher Halliwell is worthy of a mention. This double killer is now inside for good. He was married and living in Swindon at the time of Melanie Hall’s murder. He was taxi driver when he was caught for murdering a 22 year old lady called Sian O’Callaghan in 2011. That night he had clocked off officially but patrolled the city for an hour and a half. He picked up his victim in his cab as she walked home from a club. Swindon is only a hour drive from Bath and Halliwell was in his mid 20s at the time. I stress this is a random thought that doesn’t even have the substance of a theory.
In the final analysis a 25 year old lady went on a night out. She was dancing, enjoying herself and someone took her somewhere, beat her to death and then dumped her like garbage. The important thing is for us to remember and to never let her killer think we have forgotten about her.
Last I saw there is at least a £50,000 reward for the right information. At one point, maybe still, the sum had been doubled by a big news outlet. If you know something the links are below.
Sometimes when I link to smaller creator accounts on YouTube they remove the content. That obviously shows a broken link on this website. If you want to see the Crimewatch UK reconstruction please search for the November 1996 program or the October 2009 program.