As summer began in 1996, it seemed that 25-year-old Melanie Hall had a bright future ahead of her. Fresh out of university, she was working as a clerical officer at a nearby Bath hospital, and recently begun a relationship with a doctor she had met there. That all changed on the 8th June, when Melanie went for a night out, never to be seen again.
She spent that evening in Cadillacs, a now defunct nightclub in the town's Artisan Quarter. There with her new boyfriend, Philip Karlbaum, and another couple they knew, the night hadn't exactly been smooth sailing. After spotting Melanie dancing with another man, an upset Philip had left the club early. Witness accounts last place Melanie sitting on a stool in Cadillacs just after 1AM. She was reported missing by her parents, Steve and Patricia, on Monday the 10th of June when she failed to turn up for work, and an investigation was launched immediately. The case garnered significant public interest, and a reconstruction of the evening's events was broadcast on BBC's Crimewatch along with the promise of a £10000 reward. In total, police took over 1600 statements and received close to 2000 calls from the public, but were still none the wiser as to what had transpired that night.
It would be thirteen years before Melanie's remains were discovered, discarded like rubbish in bin bags by the M5. A once vibrant young woman, now reduced to a bag of bones. On Melanie's left hand was her great-grandmother's wedding ring, which Steve and Patricia identified as belonging to their daughter, and the remains were formally identified by dental records a couple of days later. A post-mortem revealed that Melanie had a fractured skull, cheekbone and jaw, and had been bound with blue rope, a kind commonly found in hardware stores around the country. It could not be determined whether the blunt force trauma had directly caused her death.
In the years since Melanie's murder, ten arrests have been made, the last one as recently as June 2016. All men in their late 30s to mid-40s, each was subsequently released due to insufficient evidence. 2016 also saw a major breakthrough in the case when advances in forensic technology provided police with a DNA sample, though this is yet to provide the answers they were hoping for.
Internet sleuths and news outlets alike have put forward various theories as to the identity of her killer. One such suspect is taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, currently serving life in prison for the murders of 22-year-old Sian O'Callaghan and 20-year-old Becky Godden. Like Melanie, these two young women were last seen alone at nightclubs, and abducted by the father of three just 30 miles away Swindon. The discovery of 60 buried items of women's clothing certainly suggests that Halliwell has claimed other victims, though it is important to note that Melanie's clothes have never been found. A serial sex offender who operates in Bath, the elusive 'Batman Rapist' has also been considered. The unknown male attempted to carjack a woman just hours before Melanie was last seen, but at present there is no solid evidence that links him to the crime.
For an investigation that has now spanned over 20 years, there is an encouraging amount of police activity in regards to Melanie's murder. Yet still the most important questions remain unanswered. Steve and Patricia, now in their 70s, remain cautiously optimistic, quietly hoping their daughter's killer might one day be brought to justice.