Why was Keith Hall set free even though he confessed to 'killing' his wife?

Everyone in the small market town of Pudsey, near Leeds, knew who Patricia Hall was.

Fun, outgoing and vivacious, the 39-year-old was a familiar, friendly face to locals. As an Avon lady, Pat would regularly go from door to door, enticing her friends to buy make up and perfumes from her. She possessed that rare gift of instant likability, bolstered by her genuine warmth as she asked how someone was feeling, and whether the family was okay.

It was a job that suited her personality, her younger sister, Christine Weatherhead, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Pat was the extrovert of the family,’ she explains. ‘She was always very bright and happy. We saw each other on a regular basis. We were very close.’

Seemingly happily married to husband, Keith, and with two young boys, Pat didn’t always have time for parties – but she and her friends ensured that once a month, they’d all go out dancing. She’d always be the one in the middle of the dancefloor, laughing like she didn’t have a care in the world.

So it was alarming when, on 27 January 1992, Pat vanished into the night, leaving no trace behind her. 

‘It was really out of character for her to just disappear,’ Christine says. ‘If she felt like she needed to get away, she would have come over to mine. I was always her first port of call.’

The circumstances, and subsequent fallout, of Pat’s disappearance is being explored 30 years later in a new Amazon Prime Video series, The Confession. The two-part true crime documentary reveals the astonishing events which have left her family torn apart and still searching for answers.

As West Yorkshire Police started to investigate Pat’s disappearance, which had been reported by her husband, cracks began to show in the happy façade of her life.

Initial inquiries saw officers discover that her relationship with husband Keith had become increasingly strained in more recent years. The pair had been embroiled in some fierce arguments as their marriage declined, with Keith said to have found Pat’s postnatal depression particularly frustrating.

Some friends had heard that arguments had become physical in the few months leading up to Pat’s disappearance. She reportedly rang a number of confidants, including Christine, to say during one fight, Keith had strangled her.

Her husband, however, denies this ever happened. Speaking in the documentary, he is frank about their marital difficulties, but adamant that he never lay a finger on his wife.

He also acknowledges that there had been a disagreement between them on the night Pat went missing. After the pair rowed, Keith decided to sleep downstairs on the sofa. He woke up feeling cold, and went to join her in bed.

According to Keith, Pat woke up at this and got out of bed, getting in the family car and driving off. It was the last time she was ever seen alive.

At first, Keith wasn’t too worried about his wife’s late night departure.

‘She’d done this sort of thing before,’ he explains in the documentary, adding that when none of her friends or family knew her whereabouts, he then informed the police that she was missing.

It was when the family car had been found abandoned by Woodhall Lake, a rather picturesque landscape in Pudsey, that suspicions were heightened. Meanwhile, a witness also claimed to see a figure leave the car in the early hours the night Pat disappeared, taking something out of the boot.

The West Yorkshire Police knew the pressure was on, as it became clear that this could be more than a missing person inquiry, and more resources were put on the case to try and recover Pat’s body.

With two weeks having passed and no one having heard from her, Christine and the rest of Pat’s family started to feel increasingly desperate. Taking turns with her two brothers, Christine would spend her evenings driving to places they thought Pat might have gone to. They even sought the help of a clairvoyant to try and start some sort of dialogue with their missing sister, whom an increasing number of people were treating as if she were dead.

‘I was hoping no harm had come to her,’ Christine explains. ‘My brother said a fortnight into the investigation whether it was possible Keith had done something silly. I said I hope not.

‘But it was getting to the stage that it was so unlike Pat to have gone off that my concerns grew into suspicions Keith was responsible.’

From the outset of the investigation, Christine and Keith’s relationship soured – she felt that brother-in-law’s appeals for his wife to come home never felt ‘genuine’.

‘There was one evening where me and one of my brothers went to see him and I put it to him that he may have strangled her,’ she says. ‘And he totally stared me out and said: “Well, that’s your opinion.”

‘If someone had put that to me, I’d be mortified and would have protested my innocence. To me, he never acted in a way a normal person would, if someone went missing never to be found again.’

With the mounting evidence that the couple’s marriage was increasingly miserable, the police moved to take Keith into custody.

When he was arrested, he was reluctant to cooperate. In The Confession, the detectives who work on the case insist they treated Keith with ‘respect’ – but he argues they were employing intimidation tactics. When he sought the help of fierce defence lawyer, Rodney Lester, Keith decided not to answer any of the police’s questions as a retort for what he considered bad treatment.

Christine, however, argues she still feels ‘frustrated and angry’ about his attitude towards the investigation: ‘If he had nothing to hide, why be so obstructive?’ she asks, angrily.

With no body and only circumstantial evidence against Keith, investigations began to wind down. Police were forced to focus on other matters occurring locally.

Six months on from Pat’s disappearance, Keith had become a lonely, stay-at-home dad, forced to quit his bread delivery service job to look after his two sons. For him, it was time to get back to some sort of normality, and he started writing into the local paper’s Lonely Hearts column.

‘I wanted the company of a female,’ he explains in the documentary. ‘I fall in love quite easy. You take my relationship with Patricia. It took us less than a year to get married.’

It was the advert for a woman called Liz that really caught Keith’s eye. Like him, she had two children of her own, and was frank about having faced her own difficulties. Keith instantly warmed to her – imagining another long-term relationship, perhaps even a second marriage.

When Liz received a letter from Keith, she contacted the police, recognising his name from appeals around Pat’s disappearance. Officers on the case thought this could be the opportunity to extract the evidence they desperately needed from their suspect. They swapped out the real Liz for an undercover police officer, planting a wire in her handbag as well as adding discreet recording equipment to her car in the hope that their suspect may reveal more about Pat’s disappearance.

At first, the sting operation went well. Keith and ‘Liz’ cultivated a strong relationship, regularly meeting in nearby The George pub for drinks and a chat. Keith spoke openly about the inquiry – unaware that officers were listening in.

‘They were that certain they would get me, and break me,’ he said on tape. ‘They never got a dickie bird out of me.’

While these ‘dates’ were ongoing, the police sowed stories into the news as a constant reminder to Keith that they were still searching for his wife’s body. It was to serve as a prompt, in the hope that he would then keep speaking to Liz about Pat’s disappearance.

However, to some extent, Keith was aware he was being watched by the police. He sent Detective Inspector Jim Bancroft, who was in charge of the investigation, a Christmas card – who considered it a two-fingered salute to the police during their ongoing psychological warfare.

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Meanwhile, the undercover sting was failing to yield the results the police were hoping for. Conversations about Pat soon became few and far between, and Keith started to talk to Liz about marriage. The authorities knew they had to end the operation, and had one final chance to see if they could elicit a response from Keith.

Calling him from a phone box, Liz explains she didn’t feel she could continue the relationship anymore, as she didn’t want Pat to come back and see Keith had another woman in his life.

They were that certain they would get me, and break me

He responded that he needed to meet her in person, and a day later, Keith got in her car and they started talking – Liz’s hidden microphone captured the conversation.

When the police listened back, they were shocked. DI Bancroft described the tape as ‘the best confession’ he had ever heard from a suspect.

‘She’s dead,’ Keith was recorded saying. ‘I strangled her. But it wasn’t that easy.

‘They won’t find the body… it was dropped in an incinerator.’

Keith, however, argues that he was lying in his ‘confession’ to Liz.

‘I had fallen in love with her,’ he tells the documentary. ‘I wanted to say what I’d told her was a load of rubbish that I’d made up to please her. I should have done.’

The police thought that Keith would likely be found guilty, and as the trial began, Pat’s family had a glimmer of hope that this could finally provide them with some closure.

However, Keith’s defence team fought to get the secretly taped confession thrown out of court.

Their main line of argument was related to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which says that if a suspect is going to be interviewed by a police officer, they should be informed of their right to remain silent.

The defence added that Keith had been actively deceived by police, and was coerced into giving his confession by emotionally manipulative means. The judge ruled the ‘confession’ should be dismissed and was not to be heard by the jury.

It was a major blow for the prosecution – the confession effectively was their case against Keith Hall. Without the recording, and with no body, the police only had circumstantial evidence against their suspect.

The jury agreed, with a vote of 10-2 finding Keith not guilty of murder.

While the tapes were not played in court, they were released to the public after the trial. Christine remembers the first time she heard them, sat in the living room with Detective Bancroft.

‘To hear him say those words… it was shocking and heart-breaking,’ she says. ‘And to see Keith come out of court smirking and smiling, we were truly devastated.

‘I couldn’t fetch myself to speak to him after the trial. I still can’t.’

We just want Pat recognised and to get some justice for her

Keith, however, had no intentions of keeping quiet after receiving his not guilty verdict. With the release of the tapes leading many to form their own opinions of him, he decided to do a number of interviews – including one that was televised. To this day, he maintains his innocence.

For Christine, her former brother-in-law’s appearance on TV, and his appearance in the new documentary, only reinforces her beliefs about his character.

‘That was just the way he always was,’ she says. ‘He loved being the centre of attention. He wants people to be on his side, but if he thinks you’re against him, he takes a dislike to you.’

With the police investigation into Pat’s disappearance still open, Christine and her family are hoping they will eventually find some sort of closure. Their current battle for an inquest has been long and arduous.

‘The Home Office and Chief Coroners have said no to an inquest on the grounds that they didn’t want an inconsistent outcome with the court case,’ Christine explains.

‘We just want Pat recognised and to get some justice for her.’

While she was initially reluctant to speak on record again for the Amazon series, Christine is pleased the case is finally getting some recognition.

‘I’m hoping this could trigger something in someone’s mind and trigger some fresh evidence,’ she says. ‘Now, the documentary will keep Pat’s story in the public domain.

‘I just feel, throughout everything that happened, Pat has been forgotten. I will always keep speaking out for her.’

The Confession is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

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