The murder of Melanie Road in 1984 in Bath, England was a tragic, brutal and violent crime, taking the life of a 17-year-old girl who was attacked just yards from her own front door. It was a murder which led to widespread concern for who was walking the streets of Bath and just what they were capable of.
When the truth was finally uncovered in 2016, after 32 years of unknowns, the man responsible for her death had no connection to her nor was he an individual whose name came up at any stage in the investigation into her death. Furthermore, he was a man who appears to have carried out this horrific crime as a 32-year-old and then simply returned to living a normal and settled life, marrying five years later and by all accounts being a kind, loving and dependable father and husband. A man who presented himself to the world as an average joe, but he was a man with a very dark secret.
If it was not for the advancement in familial DNA technologies and the chance swabbing of his daughter for a completely unrelated incident, he would never have been identified and brought to justice and never would have paid the price for his crime all those years ago.
Melanie Road was an average teenager in 1984. She was in college with dreams for her future and had an active social life. On 8 June 1984, she had been out at a local nightclub with friends and decided to walk the short distance back to her parents’ home once the night was over. She made it to 200 yards from her home when she was set upon by a man she didn’t know. He beat her, chased her around the corner as she desperately tried to reach safety, and proceeded to sexually assault her while he stabbed her 26 times before leaving her for dead.
Her body was found at 5 am the next morning by the milkman doing his rounds. When police arrived they found no identification on her body, only a keyring with the name ‘Melanie’. In an attempt to find out who she was, a patrol car with a loudspeaker drove around the area calling out her name. This was heard by Melanie’s parents who had just discovered their daughter’s bed had not been slept in. As they ran out to the patrol car as it passed their home they realised the area was swarming with police and they knew, the news the police were about to tell them about their beloved daughter was going to destroy their lives.
Crime scene forensics in 1984 were considerably less advanced than they are today, although police knew any evidence they could collect from a crime scene, samples of blood and bodily fluids, any hair or fibres present, could be vital for their investigation in the future. Forensic officers painstakingly collected all forensic material available from the body of Melanie Road, the area she was found in and the blood trail which they found leading away from her body.
It was these samples that in years to come would solve this case and give Melanie Road’s aging mother and family the answers they had been so desperately hoping for.
In 2014, a 41-year-old woman was arrested in Bristol after a domestic violence incident at her home. As part of the arrest procedure, a DNA swab was taken and put on file meaning her DNA was on the national DNA database. One year later, after an injection of funding from the Government and a review of cold cases, the DNA profile that had been developed from the semen stains and blood found on Melanie Road was run through the DNA database again and for the first time, a match was found.
The match was a familial one, meaning their suspect was related to the women who was arrested for assault. Officers quickly gathered voluntary DNA samples from her male family members including her father, Christopher Hampton, who gave no indication at the time of collection that he feared this testing could reveal his dark past. Whether he didn’t know this testing would unmask him, whether he thought too many years had passed and he was safe is not known, but if Hampton thought he was about to be uncovered, he hid his fears very well.
The DNA sample taken from the arrested woman matched the DNA profile police had from the Melanie Road crime scene. Christopher Hampton was the man who had assaulted and murdered Melanie Road in 1984. In July 2015 he was arrested and charged with murder, claiming he knew nothing of the crime and had no part in this young girl’s death. His wife of 26 years stood by him, horrified the police could think her husband had carried out his murder just years before they married. One week before Hampton was due to stand trial for murder on 9 May 2016 he abruptly changed his plea to guilty and admitted he did kill Melanie Road.
This news, no doubt, came as a shock to his family, leaving them devastated that Christopher Hampton was not the upstanding husband and father they had always believed him to be. At Hampton’s subsequent sentencing hearing his wife was noticeably absent. He was sentenced to life in prison to serve a minimum of 22 years with the judge telling him:
“Only you know precisely how you approached her and carried out your attack, but certain things are plain from the evidence. It was a lengthy and brutal attack for your own sexual gratification. She was repeatedly stabbed, 26 times in all.”
One person who was present to see him sentenced was Melanie Road’s mother, Jean Road, who was now 81-years-old. Finally, her daughter’s killer had been brought to justice, although questions over the man who killed her daughter still remain. “It hurts beyond repair – how can he do that to somebody and then live with people and with them not knowing?” she asks.
It is not believed that Hampton knew Melanie or had even seen her before. At the time of her murder, he had recently split from his first wife who he had three children with and was living in a flat in Bath just half a mile away from Melanie’s home. How they met on that night, whether he followed her from the nightclub or it was a chance sighting, and how he approached her remains unknown with Hampton refusing to speak with police about his actions and answering no comment to every question ever put to him.
“You lived your family life for all those years knowing the extreme misery you must have inflicted on your victim’s family but you were too callous and cowardly to put an end to their heartache.”
He was a killer who hid in plain sight feeling confident by the knowledge that no one knew what he had done one night back in 1984. Described by one newspaper as ‘a very ordinary monster’, Hampton had been living with his second wife Julie in Bristol and his children. He was a hard-worker as a painter and decorator, working long hours to provide for his family. Christopher Hampton is a man who displayed extreme violence in murdering Melanie Road to the extent that many have questioned whether this was his only offence.
His ability to carry on with his life as if this event had not happened, and continue to portray himself as a normal man strikes of an individual with no conscience. Criminologist Jane Monckton-Smith told the Daily Mail, “The fact he [Hampton] managed to go back to normal is a sign that the name is a psychopath. Serial killers typically display such behaviour – an ability to return to normality after doing something dreadful.”
At the time he was sentenced Christopher Hampton was 67-years-old and it is highly likely he will die behind bars.“Now in my 81st year I pray that the family will find some peace.” Melanie’s mother said after the sentencing. “Over the past 30 years we have gradually been torn apart by this evil deed.”