Who was the Hallbottom Street Hammer Killer? The story of Hyde’s horrific unsolved double murder


By Gabriella Wieland

Back in the 1960s, the Greater Manchester town of Hyde was a picturesque place to live. Found at the foothills of the Pennines, the market town thrived against a mixture of the scenic and the urban – ample with rural spaces to explore as well as the nearby hustle and bustle of Manchester.

What unsuspecting residents didn’t know, was that their town’s name was soon to be plagued by the infamous Moors Murderers. The notorious couple committed crimes that shook Britain – and sadly, it wouldn’t be the last tragic event to take place in this small town.

In 1979, Hallbottom Street – a then-quaint country-lane style road in Hyde – was tainted forever. A horrific double murder took place, ending the lives of a young couple who were bludgeoned to death as they slept in the safety of their own home.

Frieda Hunter, 20, and Joe Gallagher, 30, were described as a devoted, outgoing couple who were involved in the popular biker community.

Hallbottom Street, Hyde / Google

Originally from Wythenshawe, Joe Gallagher was known as the brightest pupil in his class as a child; later thriving academically at St Bede’s in Whalley Range. In adulthood, he showed promise as a laboratory technician at Manchester Grammar School.

Frieda Hunter had moved to the area from her native Scotland to study a creative arts courts at the local Polytechnic college. Despite later dropping out of her course, she soon fell in love with the biker culture and music scene and decided to stay in Hyde to live with Gallagher.

The couple’s home, 3 Hallbottom Street, Hyde, 1979

Tragically, on Saturday 24 February 1979, their love story was cut short. After Freida finished a busy shift at The Queen’s Hotel in Hyde, Joe picked her up from work at closing time as was their typical routine. It would be the last time the couple were seen alive.

When a colleague of Joe’s became concerned of the pair’s whereabouts, he forced his way into the couple’s property to find the rear kitchen window broken. As he searched the house, he discovered the deceased entwined in each other’s arms. 

Each had been hit at least 14 times with a large heavy hammer in a horrific frenzy the senior detective investigating the case would later describe as “one of the most vicious killings [they] ever came across”.

Both upstanding members of the community, a possible motive for the killing was never found. Neither Joe nor Frieda had any disagreements and neither was found to have anybody who bore them a long-standing grudge. Given the couple’s roots in the biker community – with friends scattered all over the country – officers made inquiries in London, Hampshire, Dorset, Birmingham and Edinburgh – all to no avail.

2,000 interviews took place, but the truth was still out of reach. The only discovery that became apparent throughout the course of the investigation was that Joe used cannabis for chronic pain for a condition he had since birth. A theory later emerged that the murder may have been drug-related on the back of this discovery – a theory that does not explain the level of violence used or why Frieda was also killed.

Hallbottom Street, Hyde

Like all other lines of enquiry, this too drew a blank. The theory that the murders were drug-related remains exactly that – a theory.

Throughout the course of the enquiry, several suspects were interviewed and eliminated – yet nobody has ever been charged in connection with the brutal double murder. 

The case remains unsolved to this day.                       

Anyone with information can contact GMP’s Cold Case Unit on 0161 856 0320 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Read more by Gabriella here.


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