Family's years of heartache
For the family of Melanie Hall, the ordeal of her disappearance has never gone away.
The 25-year-old left their home for a night out with friends – and never returned.
Five years ago, her parents Steve and Pat, and her sister Dominique, saw a legal line drawn under their very personal trauma with an inquest ruling that she was dead.
But it was not the closure they wanted, and the truth of what happened on that summer's night still eluded them.
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Now they may have come a big step closer to finding that truth - and they will at last have a body to bury.
Her mother has said that Melanie rarely went nightclubbing – preferring to go for a meal, or to the cinema or simply to stay at home.
Mrs Hall recalled a few months later: "When she left home that evening in early June, it was in anticipation of an enjoyable weekend with her boyfriend and other friends and colleagues from work."
She said Melanie departed "in her usual way - 15 minutes late - borrowing tights, losing her shoes but looking lovely nonetheless".
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that when I kissed her goodbye as I dropped her in Bath, that this might be the last time I would ever see her.
"I am truly thankful that my very last memory of her is of her happy, smiling face."
When Mrs Hall reported her missing on a Monday morning in 1996 when her daughter did not turn up at work, it was the start of a traumatic time few people could begin to comprehend.
Mrs Hall put what was to be a poignant note on the car windscreen asking for her to get in touch.
University of Bath sociology and psychology graduate Melanie had been about to move into a house at Oldfield Park, redecorated by her loving father.
Since her disappearance, the Halls' lives have, to varying degrees, been on hold and they have often spoken of the pain of their state of limbo.
They and the police have long been convinced she is dead, but until her body was found, their agony went on.
Retired college deputy principal Mr Hall has said: "Part of us died with Melanie."
Mr Hall was for a few years chairman of Bath City Football Club, and has spoken frankly about their struggle to come to terms with Melanie's disappearance.
"It's never over and it will be with us for the rest of our lives," he said in 2004.
"It doesn't get any easier after eight years. This isn't the end. It goes on.
"We have to live with the fact that she has gone."
The long-term City fan threw himself into the demanding role at Twerton Park, leading a supporters' takeover on the board.
He has also indulged his love of art, leading classes and lending paintings to the RUH.
The passing years have been particularly hard for Melanie's sister, who has moved house several times in an effort to find a way to move on.
But the family did their best to comfort themselves with memories of happier times.
In a letter written to help publicise the police investigation in September 1996, Mrs Hall remembered with pride her daughter's graduation day.
She said: "Last year, after four years of hard work, she fulfilled one of her most cherished dreams when she graduated from the University of Bath.
"We were all so proud of her that wonderful, sunny day, and happy to see such a lovely young lady facing the future with so much hope and enthusiasm."
The letter added: "Both daughters have been such a joy to me and we have been blessed with so many happy times over the years. Melanie was such a kind, thoughtful girl, sharing so much of her life with her family.
"She had chosen to remain at home and continued to fill the house with the usual noise and muddles, laughters and tears, just as she has always done throughout her life.
"Since her disappearance in early June, the house seems so quiet. The music and laughter have gone.
"While I have been writing this letter my thoughts have been with the many other families who are grieving for the loss of a loved one. I do so hope that they will all find the strength to face the future, whatever that may be."
Police in Bath are used to dealing with people going missing. Most turn up within a few hours or a few days.
But it soon became clear to detectives that this was a different sort of case.
And they will not be the only ones to welcome the breakthrough that last night's post-mortem has brought.
For journalists working in Bath, the case tugged at heart-strings as they followed a loving family torn apart by agonising circumstance.
Chronicle deputy editor Paul Wiltshire said: "I can vividly remember the news that Melanie had gone missing - and her disappearance has been a cloud hanging over our city ever since.
"Pat and Steve have always been open and friendly as they hope and pray for the truth to emerge - while continuing to play a real role in their community.
"Their bravery is extraordinary."
Sister paper the Western Daily Press's former Bath reporter Wendy Best has followed the disappearance of Melanie from the first police press conference in June 1996.
She said: "I had been a reporter for just short of 10 years by then but it was the words of anguish spoken by Melanie's mother which have stuck with me to this day. She told how she was frightened to think the best but even more frightened to think the worst.
"A sentence which is heart wrenching in its poignancy and simplicity.
"I was just a little bit older than Melanie and although I never physically knew her, over the months and years I felt as if I got to know her as I covered her and their story and every time I met Pat and Steve, I learnt a little bit more about her.
"Her birth during a thunderstorm, how she kept a teddy bear she was given for her second birthday as well as the mirror her parents gave her for her 25th birthday and the dress she wore at her 21st party.
"Her family were so important to her; they knew she wouldn't just disappear of her own accord."
When their home phone rang at an unusual time or an unexpected car turned up in the drive, the question has always been at the forefront of their mind 'have they found Melanie?"
Reminders were, and are, always around of their daughter and no parent can fail to empathise or comprehend the sheer awfulness of what the Hall family have lived with for more than 13 years. Melanie would have been 40 next summer had she lived – Dominique's elder daughter is now nearly an adult herself yet she was a little girl when her aunt disappeared.
Wendy added: "Pat and Steve's grief won't just be for Melanie but also the life she could have had.
"No parent expects to lose a child but the not knowing what has happened must be sheer hell.
"The family's strength during what must have been dark days, months and years has been inspirational.
"And while they have accepted for many years that Melanie is dead, who can really comprehend that the best outcome would be to find their child's remains?
"The family has always feared they would be deprived of the opportunity to say a final farewell which is why I hope that now they will finally get the chance to say goodbye and allow their daughter to rest in peace. And that they too will feel some sort of closure."