Unsolved Murders

Steven Johnson

Age: 25

Sex: male

Date: 22 Dec 1990

Place: Castle Road, Mow Cup, Staffordshire

Steven Johnson had his throat cut in the early hours of 22 December 1990. He was a taxi-driver and was found dead near his taxi in a country lane in Mow Cop.

He was last heard of at 3.30am on 22 December 1990 when he picked up a fare in Hanley Road, Hanley to go to Packmoor.

His body was found at about 7.30am later that morning covered in snow by a dog walker.

He had managed to walk about 20 yards from where he was attacked in his taxi-cab before collapsing. He had bled to death. The knife had cut his jugular and carotid arteries.

The murder weapon was never found.

No motive for his murder was determined as his night’s takings were found still in his taxi. He was also known for taking out a mini TV set out with him and that was also still in his taxi-cab when it was found.

The known timeline of his movements is detailed below:

  • 7.45pm: Steven Johnson left home for work.
  • 8.00pm: Steven Johnson arrives at Scraggs taxis for work and reports in for duty and is given cab Bravo Five, a blue and white Vauxhall Cavalier, with distinctive Scraggs taxi branding on doors.
  • 8.25pm: Trent Tavern, Bucknall to Newcastle (£4.00 fare).
  • 9.00pm: The Abbey Inn, Abbey Hulton to Hanley (£2.70 fare) (unknown passenger);
  • 9.20pm: Stafford Street rank, Hanley to Knutton (£3.90 fare)  (unknown passenger).
  • 9.45pm: Stafford Street, Hanley to Bucknall (£2.40) (unknown passenger).
  • 10.00pm: The Priory Pub, Abbey Hulton to Biddulph (passenger named but not traced).
  • 11.00pm: Stafford Street rank to Burslem (£2.50 fare).
  • 11.20pm: Stafford Arms, Bagnall to Birches Head (£3.20 fare).
  • 11.30pm: The Albert Inn, Northwood to Burslem (£2.30 fare).
  • 12.15am: Newhouse Road, Bucknall to Hulton (£2.00) (unknown passenger).
  • 12.20am: Trent Squash Club, Birches Head Road, Birches Head to Fenton (£4.00 fare).
  • 12.35am: Grocett Centre, Fenton to Hanley (£3.50 fare).
  • 12.45am: Hanley to Burslem (unknown passenger).
  • 3.00am: Longton area, drove known woman home, going past Shelly’s nightclub.
  • 3.15am: Known to be heading in towards Hanley in the city centre.
  • 3.20am: Hanley to Packmoor, last known pick-up, called in by Steven Johnson to Scraggs Taxis by radio.
  • 3.25am: Last sighting of Steven Johnson's cab in Waterloo Road on the Burslem side of the Corbridge traffic lights.
  • 4.00am: Around this time a woman in Packmoor said she saw a man having an argument with someone at a taxi in Packmoor.
  • 4.00am: After Steven Johnson fails to respond on radio a search is made for him.
  • 4.00am: At some time after 4.00am, a person said that they heard a person in a car labouring up Castle Road in Mow Cop, near the location where Steven Johnson was later found dead.
  • 7.20am: Steven Johnson's taxi-cab and body are found in Castle Road, Mow Cop.

The police said that they had tried to account for all of Steven Johnson's fares on the night that he was murdered, but still had six fares unaccounted for and appealed for people that might have taken his taxi-cab to come forwards so that they could eliminate fingerprints, noting that not surprisingly, a number of fingerprints in the taxicab had been found.

The police released a photofit of the murder suspect based on the sighting of a bloodstained man who was later seen near the Rookery in Kidsgrove, about a mile from Mow Cop that same morning by a woman walking her dog. She said that she had been walking her dog and had seen a man wearing a cream or off-white shirt and good quality blue trousers just standing there. She said that when she asked him if it was the morning after the night before, he replied, 'no, it’s was worse than that', and walked off. She described him as being white, about 30 years old, and with mousy hair that was dishevelled as though he had been out all night. She added that she noticed that he had scratches on his cheeks and what appeared to be blood stains on the upper left part of his shirt. The police noted that it was unusual for the man to have been there under the circumstances and also unusual that given the time of year that he was out without a topcoat.

The police also appealed for information that would help them trace a man that was seen in a light-coloured coat near a stationery cab in Lordship Place in Packmoor on the morning of the murder.

It was thought that the murderer had probably lived in or near the Stoke-on-Trent area.

A man was questioned over Steven Johnson's murder in July 1995 after a taxi-driver was robbed at knifepoint in Packmoor, but no charges were made.

Then, in July 1997, a man was arrested in London, but later released without charge.

In 2014 a man was arrested in relation to the murder and held on bail for five months but then released without charge.

Steven Johnson was training to be an insurance salesman in the day and worked part-time at night as a cab driver to earn some extra money for his family at Christmas.

He had been working for Scraggs Taxis and on the night he went out he was driving Bravo Five car, a blue and white Vauxhall Cavalier. It was noted as being only one of five cabs in the company that had a distinctive red and black sign on the doors that read 'Scragg's Coaches and Wedding Cars'. He usually went out to work at about 9pm after putting his children to bed but on the night of 21 December 1990 had arrived for work at 8pm.

It was noted that Friday 21 December 1990, the night he went out, was a busy day with only four days left before Christmas and that it was a busy night for the taxi trade and Steven Johnson had worked solidly all evening, and had picked up more than twenty fares by 2am on 22 December 1990.

His last identified fare was at about 3am when he picked up a woman and took her to her home in the Longton area of Stoke. They had driven past Shelly’s nightclub which was noted for being packed and it was thought possible that he might have picked up another fare there on the way back, but by about 3.15am he was known to have been heading back in towards Hanley city centre and at 3.20am he called in to the taxi radio control centre and said that he had picked up another fare.

Later, sometime before 4am, two villagers in Packmoor where woken up by the sound of an argument on the corner of Lordshire Place and when they looked out, they saw a man shouting and then walk off. It was noted that it wasn't know whether the man went back to the taxi or if there was someone else in it, but it was then said to have driven back off towards Mow Cop.

Shortly after, a person that lived near the Mow Cop Inn at the foot of Castle Road in Mow Cop said that they remembered being woken up by the sound of a car labouring up Castle Road in the early hours.

The taxi rank said that they expected Steven Johnson to have returned within half an hour. After they couldn't get hold of him on the radio, the company sent another driver out to look for him at Mow Cop, but didn't find him.

During the police search of the area around Castle Road at Mow Cop, the police found a video club membership card that they thought might have been dropped by the murderer. It was said to have been found during an inch by inch search of the farmland near to where Steven Johnson's body was found. The video club membership card was red, black and white and had the membership number 328, but the signature was indistinguishable. The police appealed for the owner of the card to come forward, as well as to video club bosses who might recognise it.

On 24 December 1990 at about teatime, a mystery call was made to the Biddulph police station to say that they knew who the murderer was, but they didn't give their name or details and the police appealed for the called to come forward. He rang once more, but then hung up.

The police said that they were also looking to trace a man that had bedded down for the night in a red Ford Escort car in the car park of the Mow Inn, noting that if he had a legitimate reason to be there then he would have nothing to fear.

During their investigation, the police appealed for the people of Mow Cop, between the ages of 16 and 40, about 400 of them, to come forward and provide their fingerprints so that they could also be eliminated from the enquiry.

The police said that it was their belief that the murderer was being shielded and that someone knew who did it.

Steven Johnson was 6ft 4in tall and was described as a gentle giant who wouldn't have picked an argument with a passenger or provoked one in any way.

He had lived in Melville Street, Hanley and had a wife and two daughters.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk

see You Tube

see Stoke Sentinel

see BBC

see The Sun

see BBC

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Wednesday 23 January 1991

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Monday 04 March 1991

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Thursday 03 January 1991

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Tuesday 01 January 1991

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Wednesday 16 January 1991

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Friday 28 December 1990

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Friday 04 January 1991