Was Christopher Halliwell the killer of Melanie Hall?
Detectives across the West are to work together to see if there are links between taxi driver murderer Christopher Halliwell and a string of historic missing persons inquiries dating back as far as 20 years.
Now that police have secured the conviction of Halliwell for the murder in Swindon of Sian O’Callaghan in March last year, they will prioritise assessing whether Halliwell should be considered a suspect for any of the other outstanding missing persons inquiries.
They fear Halliwell’s job as a taxi driver gave him the ability to cruise the streets late at night without suspicion, and after making an inadmissible confession to killing the addicted prostitute Becky Godden-Edwards, probably back in the first half of the 2000s, police are resurrecting cold case missing persons with the suspicion he may have killed again.
Leading the inquiry will be Detective Chief Superintendent Kier Pritchard, who said that they were open to any possibilities.
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“Until now, securing a conviction for Halliwell for the murder of Sian O’Callaghan has been our number one priority, given the judge’s ruling over the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards,” he said.
“It is something we have looked at, albeit with these two cases our immediate priority. It is certainly something we will be looking into further.”
Halliwell began his life sentence over the weekend, with the judge ruling that the murder of Sian O’Callaghan meant he should not be considered for parole for 30 years. But his guilty plea took five years off that sentence, as did the 570 days he had been behind bars on remand awaiting trial, which means his sentence could be less than 24 years. The highest profile case police are understood to be investigating is the disappearance of Melanie Hall, which bears striking similarities to the tragic fate of Sian O’Callaghan. Melanie disappeared after becoming separated from friends at a nightclub in Bath in the summer of 1996, and it wasn’t until her body was found on the sliproad at a junction of the M5 near Thornbury in South Gloucestershire in 2009 that her fate was known.
It is understood that Halliwell was working as a taxi driver at that time, and there are also macabre similarities to the way Sian’s and Melanie’s bodies were tied up.
Closer to home, detectives are understood to be investigating the disappearance of Vietnamese immigrant Thi Hai Nguyen, who went missing in Swindon in 2005. The 20-year-old had only been in the town for a matter of weeks and her disappearance wasn’t widely publicised or appealed for as it was thought at the time that she may have simply moved on to a different city or travelled back home.
Even before Melanie Hall’s disappearance in 1996, a prostitute called Sally Ann John went missing in Swindon in 1995. Like the case of Becky Godden-Edwards, she lived in the murky underworld of Swindon’s drugs and street life scene, and there was nowhere near the public appeals or attention her disappearance sparked as when Melanie Hall or Sian O’Callaghan went missing but there was little outcry when she disappeared.