Why John Lennon And Yoko Ono Met With The Parents Of A Convicted Murderer

Out of all four members of The Beatles, John Lennon seemed to stir the most controversy both during the band's time together and after the breakup in 1970. Lennon was the one who declared that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" in 1966, which prompted protests and even death threats (per Rolling Stone). His peaceful protests with Yoko Ono garnered attention as well. Upon his move to the United States, his critiques of the U.S. government and the Vietnam War nearly prevented him from receiving a green card to remain in the country legally. Even President Richard Nixon was concerned about Lennon's influence on the general public (per UDiscoverMusic).

Though his American political commentary became well known in the late 1960s and 1970s, Lennon and Ono expressed their opinions of current events in the United Kingdom as well. The 1960s saw political changes on both sides of the pond. Lennon and Ono were in the thick of it in the U.K. too.

James Hanratty was hanged due to murder and rape charges

Bedfordshire, United Kingdom resident James Hanratty was convicted of murdering Michael Gregsten and then raping and shooting Gregsten's girlfriend Valerie Storie. Storie survived and pointed to Hanratty as the culprit. However, Hanratty maintained to his family that he was innocent. The A6 murderer, as he became known, was hanged in 1962. Bedfordshire Live states that the controversy lasted even into the 21st century.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were among those who advocated for Hanratty's innocence. They were photographed with posters declaring "Britain murdered Hanratty." Hanratty's family did not give up on clearing his name after his execution. In 1969, his parents met with John Cunningham, a friend of Lennon and Ono. Cunningham introduced the two couples. Later on, they four of them announced that they would make a film about the trial. Lennon's company Apple Films released "Did Britain Murder Hanratty?" in December of 1969. Lennon himself seemingly had little to do with the production, but he and Ono included lyrics about Hanratty on their album "Live Jam" (per Dangerous Minds).

Many in the U.K. believed James Hanratty was innocent

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were not the only supporters of the Hanratty family's campaign for their son's innocence, hence the case's wide coverage in the media. His trial was lengthy and less than straightforward, according to Dangerous Minds. An early suspect, Peter Alphon, did not present evidence that he was elsewhere when the crime occurred. The evidence box with items from the crime scene had disappeared for a time as well. This added to suspicions surrounding the case (per Blackpool Crime).

The death penalty was abolished in the United Kingdom shortly after James Hanratty's death. Hanratty was one of the last to receive capital punishment. Flaws in the original trial found in 1997 helped bring the case to the Court of Appeal. The court extracted his DNA four years later, and though it did match the DNA from the crime scene, Hanratty's family believed the DNA was contaminated (per Bedfordshire Live).