Date: 13 Dec 1991
Place: Aldwych, West End, London
James Morrison was stabbed to death whilst chasing a man that had stolen a handbag.
He was a policeman but had been off duty at the time. He had lived and worked in the borough of Westminster, London.
James Morrison had recently finished work and had gone for a drink in The Nell Gwynne Tavern in Covent Garden. He left the pub at 9.35pm saying that he was going home. However, he didn't, although it was not known what he had done in the 45 minutes after leaving the pub although it was thought that he had been waiting around in Covent Garden for his wife.
He was next seen struggling with a handbag thief outside the doors of the London Transport Museum, not far from The Nell Gwynne Tavern at 10.20pm. It was later thought that he had recognised the man from a description that had been given earlier regarding a man involved in a handbag theft from the Maple Leaf public house.
However, the man got away and James Morrison chased him, throwing off his jacket as he left the museum entrance in chase.
They were next seen by two men that were leaving a gym shortly after, with James Morrison chasing the man. They said that James Morrison shouted out 'Stop' at which point the man pulled out a knife and they faced each other off before the man fled again down Catherine Street and towards Tavistock Street.
The chase went on through Covent Garden and into Aldwych just outside the Indian High Commission at which point it was said that James Morrison became out of breath and paused at which point it was thought that the man then came back towards him during which there was a struggle and the man stabbed James Morrison three times with a six-inch knife.
It was said that the murderer then ran off towards the Strand and that at a nearby tube station he was grappled by a man, but another member of the public was said to have interpreted it as a racist attack and pulled the man off the murderer and that the murderer then ran away.
After James Morrison was taken to St Bartholomew’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The man was described as being about 5ft 7in tall and aged between 27 and 30 and to have been of North African or Algerian origin. He was said to have been of medium build, clean shaven, and with dark collar length hair, with distinctive tight curls at the front. He was described as well dressed, wearing a waist length tan/dark brown leather bomber jacket.
After the incident, the police found the handbag that the thief had stolen, which was later determined to have been taken from a woman in the Blue Post public house in Tottenham Court Road earlier in the evening. When the police traced the owner, they determined that there were three things inside the bag that had not belonged to her. They were:
The murder weapon was not recovered.
It was heard that during their investigation, the police uncovered a huge illegal operation involving bogus Algerian asylum seekers and that after having interviewed around 300 Algerians, they found that half of them were involved in petty crime. It was also thought that it was likely that the man had been in the UK illegally under false documents and that he had since left the UK.
Over the years numerous enquiries have been made to trace the murderer in Germany, Belgium, Canada, France and Ireland and a number of arrests were made, but no one was ever charged.
The police said that they thought that the key to solving the case lay in London’s Algerian and North African communities.
At the time James Morrison had been preparing to meet his wife in order to make their journey back to Dumbarton for Christmas.
James Morrison was one of four policemen murdered in England in 1991.