Detectives who investigated the horrific murder of a pretty teenager have come out of retirement after a new clue shed light on the 30 year old case.
Schoolgirl Melanie Road, 17, was brutally stabbed in her chest and back and sexually assaulted while she walked home from a night out on a warm summer evening in Bath.
Police yesterday revealed they have a new clue – a witness who recently recalled seeing Melanie arguing with a man close to where her body was found in 1984.
It comes after three retired detectives came out of retirement to help officers work through a list of 12,000 names from the original case to find a match to a full DNA profile revealed by new technology.
To mark the 30th anniversary of Melanie’s death on June 9, her distraught family issued a desperate plea for information about the A-level student’s murder.
In a letter issued yesterday, her mother Jean, 79, said: “I know it’s a long time ago, to me it’s only yesterday.
“Some people say why churn the memories all over again – let it rest – but I can’t.
“This whole episode in our family has torn us apart – not sure if it will ever heal.
“While the perpetrator walks the streets – that’s if he is still alive – free getting on with his life, he has left the Road family in limbo.”
In a second touching letter, Melanie’s older sister Karen said her pain was still as raw today as it was in 1984.
She wrote: “The pain remains as strong today as it did when Melanie died.
“When this nightmare started three decades ago, I never believed I would still be appealing for information to find her murderer.
“Melanie’s last night was an unbelievable, horrific experience and this monster should not be able to get away with it. This man has to be found and tried and should not be walking around free.
“I ask you to imagine it was your little sister and feel the way I feel, knowing there is someone who knows, but for whatever reason has decided not to help.”
Student Melanie had been out with friends at the old Beau Nash nightclub, where she left at around 1.30am for a journey home which should have taken 20 minutes.
Her body was found at 5.30am by a milkman and his young son near a block of garages, but despite 90 arrests, nobody has ever been charged and a weapon never found.
Police yesterday (Thurs) released a description of a man seen arguing with the teenager on the night she died, revealed by a witness who approached police 18 months ago.
The mystery man is described as white, about 5ft 11ins tall, of a slim, athletic build and with dark hair which came down past his collar, and wearing dark, casual clothing.
Det Insp Julie Mackay, who is leading the investigation, said it is thought the man was local and knew Melanie.
She said a recent visit from Melanie’s mother Jean had given the team a renewed determination to solve the case for her family.
She said: “What motivates us in murder cases is the victims, who can’t speak for themselves, and the families of those victims, who desperately want an answer.
“When we meet them, the impact that has on us, that drive to keep going forward is tremendous.
“Just her presence there in the room is enough to encourage us to keep on, especially after 30 years. This is Melanie’s killer and we deserve to find him, dead or alive.”
Three retired detectives – Dave Hitchings, Paul Hughes and Hamish Galloway – have come out of retirement to help solve the case they say has haunted them ever since.
Mr Hitchings was a young detective at the time and said he has always felt a connection to the case – his first murder inquiry.
He said: “I spent 30 years as a police officer so have worked on so many cases, including many murders, but this is the one that has always niggled at me.
“As the first one that I worked on, of course I would remember it, but also the circumstances. This was a young girl and as a father that stays with you. It is just so significant.”
Colleague Paul Hughes, who retired in 2000, added: “I have worked on many, many murders and thankfully most of them had been detected – you take that person off the streets for a long time.
“But this guy is still out there. It is very personal to me and I believe it was someone local.”