Today In Unsolved Crime: The Discovery Of Mrs Shelley Morgan’s Body, UK, 1984.
I am sorry to say I have no recollection of this murder being in the news. On 14th October 1984 Mrs Morgan was found dead near the Somerset village of Backwell. She had been missing since June of that year after setting off for a day of photography at Avon Gorge.
Police traced her movements from when she dropped her children at school and took a bus to Portishead. After that the next time she was seen was when children at play discovered her in Long Lane. This is almost seven miles away from her home in Dunkerry Road, Bristol.
The 33 year old artist had been stabbed 14 times in the back and was in a state of undress when found. Her camera and tripod were missing and remain so at the time of writing.
Mrs Morgan was originally from Iowa, USA and arrived in the UK in 1972. She spent sometime in Liverpool working at the Liverpool Playhouse. She married and moved to South Wales and then Bristol.
11th June 1984 Ms Morgan Leaves Bristol
Her plans for the day started by catching a bus from Bedminister’s East Street to the city centre. From the main bus depot she got the number 359 towards Portishead. If her intention was to photograph in the Avon Gorge then that would have been on the way. The village near which her body was found is to the South West of there.
In recent appeals two postcards torn from a pull out sheet of scenic pictures have been mentioned. These would have come from a charity calendar published for a hospice. Exactly how they tie in I do not know though the police have flagged them up as significant as recently as 2019. The scenes are of Lower Ashton by the river and St Andrews Church seen from Backwell village.
Mrs Morgan’s movements are vague for that day. For example an appeal went out for anyone on the 359 bus who had seen her. No-one came forward. In the case of most people that would not be surprising, but Mrs Morgan had a very distinctive bag. It is described as a multicoloured patchwork shoulder bag. In this she carried her camera equipment.
The Major Crime Review Team gave a statement to the press about the camera and the postcards:
‘We’re still trying to establish the year the tear-off postcards were in the Bristol Hospice charity calendar and want to speak to anyone who still has the calendar containing these images, or anyone who knows of someone who kept these specific postcards for a period of time. We also still need information about the whereabouts of Shelley’s Olympus OM20 camera, serial number 1032853.We’d ask people with this model of camera to check the serial number to see if it matches and call the Major Crime Review Team on 101 if it does.’
A Blue Van And Other Sightings Of Interest
I am not familiar with the area. Maybe you are. There is mention of a sighting of Mrs Long possibly talking to a man who was in a blue van near a place called Ashton Court. This is an area not far from the Gorge. There are several references to Ashton Court on the map so I am not sure exactly where this refers to. Further possible sightings were reported of a yellow lorry in Backwell Hill Lane and a BMW on the Portishead to Bristol road.
After the crime was featured on Crimewatch UK ( our equivalent to Unsolved Mysteries minus the UFO and ghosts) a false lead came through. Some waste of skin declared Mrs Morgan would be found in a watery grave. This wasted a lot of effort only to find out it was a hoax. A personal thought: I think there should be 15 years minimum for this sort of idiocy.
I look at a lot of victim’s pictures. Sometimes out of the sadness, that hangs over all these poor people, one stands out. This is one of those times. Somersetlive website have done a very good article on this killing. The bulk of my article comes from that. If my account makes you recall anything have a look at it. Click here
Something quite dark was hanging around South West England back then. Maybe several offenders, maybe less but over the next 15 years several women of various ages were attacked. These were all in rural settings. These included:
Anyway for now, take care
2 thoughts on “Today In Unsolved Crime: The Discovery Of Mrs Shelley Morgan’s Body, UK, 1984.”
If someone wants to look for the camera a good place would be online auction sites. They often have photos which show serial numbers. The serial number of the Olympus OM20 is on the camera bottom.
I was able to find many OM20 serial numbers but none matched. My feeling is the camera would probably have been sold not long after the crime and may have changed hands several times since then. However, the camera seems to me the most likely way to trace the killer.
Hey David, thank you for the info re the serial number. I agree with you now you have said it the camera would have been palmed off quite quickly in all likelihood. I’ll take an hour later and do a bit of digging. This was one of that series of murders that stuck out to me. Appreciate the thought and the reminder.
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