true crime

After Clare was cautioned for a minor offence, a DNA swab exposed her dad as a murderer.

If Clare Hampton hadn’t had a fight with her boyfriend, her father may never have been arrested for murdering a teenage girl three decades earlier.

Clare broke her boyfriend’s necklace in a domestic dispute in 2014, and was cautioned for criminal damage. A routine DNA swab was taken from her and added to the police database. That should have been the end of it. But Clare’s father Christopher Hampton was hiding a terrible secret, and it was about to catch up with him.

In the early hours of June 9, 1984, Melanie Road was murdered in the UK town of Bath.

“She was only 17 – beautiful, popular, and bright,” her sister Karen remembers. “She had her whole life ahead of her, the whole world was opening up for her.”

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Melanie had spent the afternoon of June 8 with Karen. She had kissed her sister goodbye, then gone off to play tennis, heading out afterwards with her boyfriend and other friends to the Beau Nash nightclub. At around 1.30am, Melanie had decided to walk home, instead of taking a taxi. Her home was less than 20 minutes away, but she never made it.

“I’ve replayed that last kiss, that last evening, countless times in my mind: ‘If I had stayed with her, if I had only gone with her that night… if only I could have saved her,’” Karen says.

Christopher Hampton was a painter and decorator, a father-of- three who was separated from his first wife. He stalked Melanie as she walked home from the nightclub. He stabbed her, chased her into a cul-de-sac, raped her and then left her to bleed to death. She was just 200 metres from her home.

At 5.30am, milkman Tony Noonan and his 10-year-old son discovered a body with 26 stab wounds. The police found a key ring near the body with the name “Melanie” on it. They walked the streets with a loudhailer, yelling, “Melanie!” Parents Jean and Anthony Road, worried that their daughter hadn’t come home, rushed out of their house. It was just after 9am.

“That’s when all hell let loose as our lives were taken over by the tragedy and horror when hearing of our daughter’s death,” Jean remembers.

Melanie Road Christopher Hampton
A body was discovered with 26 stab wounds. It turned out to be Melanie. Image: Avon and Somerset Police.
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The effect on the family was “devastating”. Jean, Anthony, Karen and Melanie’s brother Adrian would sit for hours on end, grieving for her. They lost weight and suffered constant nightmares.

Karen had been breastfeeding a seven-week-old baby, but her milk supply dried up. Jean felt she couldn’t return to her job as a teacher because she couldn’t take responsibility for other people’s children.

“I wandered aimlessly through the streets of Bath hoping to see a glimpse of Melanie, searching the places we had visited together,” she says. “Where Melanie’s blood was spilled, I prayed that it would not rain to wash it away, and when it did, I cursed the rain for finally taking it away.

“Once asleep I hoped I would never wake up so that I could be with Melanie and comfort her.”

Bath police worked tirelessly on the case. They took a sample of the semen found on Melanie’s body and froze it, hoping one day it would lead them to her killer. They compiled more than 12,000 index cards with the details of people who’d been in Bath the night that Melanie was murdered. They arrested 94 people in relation to the crime, but none of them was ever charged.

For three decades, the Roads grieved for Melanie and waited for the call telling them that her killer had been caught. Anthony developed dementia, which the family believe was “hastened” by the agony of his daughter’s death.

In 2014, on the 30th anniversary of the murder, Jean made an appeal to the public.

“I know it’s a long time ago, to me it’s only yesterday,” she said. “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.”

That same year, cold case detectives working on the case announced they had a full DNA profile of the killer. Three detectives who had worked on the original investigation in 1984 – Dave Hitchings, Paul Hughes and Hamish Galloway – came out of retirement to go through the 12,000 names with the hope of finding a match.

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“This was a young girl and as a father that stays with you,” Hitchings said. “It is just so significant.”

In 2015, detectives ran a new check of the police DNA database, to see if anyone who had been added in the previous five years was a match for the semen found on Melanie. This time, there was a match: Clare Hampton. She pointed detectives to her father. He was living in the nearby town of Bristol with his second wife.

Melanie Road Christopher Hampton
Hampton was undone by a chance DNA test. Image: Avon and Somerset Police.

Finally, 31 years after Melanie’s death, Christopher Hampton was arrested. Detective Chief Inspector Julie Mackay says he was “very calm”.

“His wife had said to him, ‘I’ll see you later,’ and he said, ‘No, you won’t.’”

Hampton was charged with Melanie’s murder. At first, he claimed he was innocent. But just as the murder trial was about to begin, he changed his plea to guilty.

Hampton, by then aged 64, was jailed for life, with a minimum of 22 years.

"You married and had a child and 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," the judge, Mr Justice Popplewell, told Hampton. "You will very likely die in prison."

After the sentencing, Jean spoke about Hampton.

“I feel that he should be shut up in a dungeon like they used to in the olden days and just left to rot because he’s not worth looking after. I know that’s against the law but I can think that.”
She was relieved that he had finally been sentenced.

“Because I’m 81, I thought I might be dead before it all finalised, but thank God. Yes, 81 now, and I want to see this through. I want to see a smile on my other two children’s faces.”

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