A family haunted by the disappearance of a mum of two has spent three decades fighting for answers – despite a “confession” of murder by her husband.
Patricia Hall vanished on January 27, 1992 – 30 years ago this week.
Her clothes lay in the wardrobe, her car was abandoned a mile away and her passport and bank account remain unused to this day.
Relatives are certain Pat, who sold perfume as an Avon lady, is dead.
Husband Keith was charged with Patricia’s killing after telling an undercover policewoman in a honeypot sting that he strangled his wife and had burned her body in an incinerator. But he was found not guilty after his defence argued Keith had been tricked into incriminating himself – and the evidence was never heard in court.
The trial judge later took the extraordinary decision to allow the “confession” tapes to be made public.
Hall was heard telling the undercover officer: “I strangled her – but it wasn’t easy.”
Andy Commins / Daily Mirror)
Despite that, the family cannot have an inquest because the Home Office and Chief Coroner have said there is a risk it could contradict the court outcome – and blame Keith for her death.
To complicate matters, Patricia is also still classed as a missing person by West Yorkshire Police.
As this Thursday’s heartbreaking anniversary nears, Patricia’s sister Christine Weatherhead is campaigning for a cold case review. If no new evidence emerges she wants the case shut – so an inquest can be held.
Christine said: “I’ve not heard from my sister for 30 long years. She is dead and I feel the law supports Keith’s rights, but what about Pat’s or mine?
“I’ve fought for years to have an inquest and for it to be registered that she was unlawfully killed.
“I do not want an open verdict. I want Pat to be accorded that respect and dignity. She is not a missing person. She would never have left her sons, ever.”
Keith has denied killing his wife and this week told our reporter: “I don’t know if Pat is still alive. All I know is that I didn’t kill her and the police made a case out of it – lies and deception. I didn’t kill her. I’ve no idea where she is.”
Patricia was 39 when she disappeared from her three-bed semi in Pudsey, West Yorks, in January 1992 after a heated row with Keith. The argument was overhead by neighbours, the jury heard.
Keith, now 66, has always maintained Patricia left under her own steam.
Rivers, woods and forests were searched. Pat never made contact with her sons – Andrew, then nine, and Graeme, then five – nor any of her three siblings.
As months went by, West Yorks Police set a honeytrap for Keith.
In a case that mirrors that of Colin Stagg – wrongly accused of killing Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992 – a female officer befriended Keith through a lonely hearts advert and became his “girlfriend”.
Keith was so smitten he proposed. But clandestine tapes revealed the officer – codenamed Liz – had said she was worried Patricia would return.
Keith then claimed he had strangled her and burned her body in an incinerator.
In court the prosecution alleged Keith murdered Patricia in cold blood to avoid losing his house, business and two sons. But the taped confession was not heard by the jury after his defence said he had been tricked into it.
Keith has maintained his innocence throughout and later accused police of manipulating him. But the judge allowed the tape to be made public after the trial following an application from the media.
In 2011, bread deliveryman Keith was jailed for four years after attacking a former neighbour with a brick.
As Patricia is still classed as missing, Christine could have her declared dead after seven years – but she wants an inquest with an official ruling of unlawful killing.
She said: “Pat told me she was planning to leave Keith and had phoned a Scottish caravan park about booking one for her and the boys.
“She obviously wanted to get far away. She did have a history of depression for a while but she was coping and looking to the future. She was excited about her life ahead.”
Christine claims Keith is sitting on his wife’s life policy – worth £100,000 in the 1990s – but cannot claim a penny until there is an inquest.
She added: “I want an inquest to record my sister was unlawfully killed. Interestingly, Keith could apply for an inquest to access the money but he never has.”
Christine has tried several times to have an inquest heard in the hope a verdict of unlawful killing is returned.
In 1994, after Keith’s trial, the then coroner of West Yorkshire wrote to the Home Office supporting Christine’s request for an inquest. In the letter – never published until now – David Hinchliff stated: “I am definitely of the opinion that Patricia Anne Hall was murdered by her husband at a location within my jurisdiction, and that her body has been deliberately destroyed by burning and cannot be recovered.”
But the request was declined by the Home Office on the grounds it would be “intolerable” if the inquest findings were inconsistent with the jury’s verdict.
Christine applied to the High Court in 1995 for a judicial review, but the judge upheld the decision.
In 2017 Mr Hinchliff, by then near retirement, asked Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft if he would consider an inquest.
Mr Lucraft refused, stating its conclusion would be that she was killed. Mr Lucraft also explained the trial judge ruled out the tapes because they “amounted to an interview”.
He added: “The heightened emotional state of the defendant may have rendered his confession unreliable.”
It has left Pat’s family with unanswered questions and unable to properly grieve for her.
Christine, 60, cannot afford a lawyer to take the case further. She said: “Patricia was a much-loved mum, sister and friend. She has missed out on seeing her sons grow up and meeting her grandchildren.”
“We were close and I miss and think about her every day. The Saturday before she disappeared, me, her and our brothers, Ian and Brian Fox, had a get-together at my house.
“It was a day full of laughter – just lovely. I so regret not taking a photo.
“I want what happened to my sister to be officially recognised. The law is favouring a convicted man, protecting his rights, but where do my sister’s come in to it? I want her to be given the respect she deserves and not just be another missing person statistic.”
Keith has consistently denied killing Patricia. He previously said he talked about strangling her “because the police had talked about it to me during an interview”.
He said he mentioned burning the body “because I knew the police had been checking incinerators”.
The Home Office said any further application for an inquest would be “considered in the normal way”.
West Yorks Police said: “The inquiry into Patricia Hall’s disappearance remains open. If any new information comes to light we will act accordingly.”