Unsolved Murders

Derrick Johnson

Age: 39

Sex: male

Date: 6 Nov 1990

Place: Leapfield Maritime Limited, Lanrick Road, Canning Town, East London

Derrick Johnson was murdered during a burglary at his office in Canning Town, East London on the evening of Tuesday 6 November 1990.

He was happily married and ran a thriving import/export business, Leapfield Maritime Limited, that he had built up with a partner over the previous 17 years and was the Financial Director.

He had just returned from a week’s holiday in Spain.

He was described as a workaholic and often stayed late at the office but was noted as always ringing home to say goodnight to his young son.

About three weeks before his death, one night in mid-October 1990, there had been an odd incident at his business premises when a man entered the building. Derrick Johnson said that when he went to see who it was, he encountered a man and that when he challenged the man, the man told him that he had come to pick up the cleaners. Derrick Johnson said that he told him that there were none there and told him to get out and said that the man readily left. However, after the incident, Derrick Johnson arranged for all of the locks on the office block to be changed.

On Tuesday 6 November 1990 Derrick Johnson was back in his office after having got back from holiday. It was described as a hectic day and he later called his wife to say that he was going to have to stay late. It was noted that his wife reminded him to call his son later to say goodnight.

Later, at 5.30pm, the cleaners arrived as usual.

Shortly after, a colleague said that he popped his head into Derrick Johnson's office as he was leaving at about 6pm and saw him talking to a man. He said that then, as he was leaving the building, he noticed a couple of boys standing outside over the road by World Class Imports Limited. He said that as he then started walking along the road he noticed that they started to apparently follow him, but that when he got on to a further point he noticed that they had vanished.

A man that worked in World Class Imports Limited on the opposite side of Leapfield Maritime Limited said that at about 6.20pm said that he had been staying behind because he was waiting for his driver to turn up who had gone out to do a delivery in Southend and as such was looking up and down outside the window for him and said that he noticed a dark blue or black car that pulled over outside Leapfield Maritime Limited. He said that the car pulled over and slowed down outside his window and said that he hoped that it wasn't a customer. He said that he carried on looking to see where the car had got to and said that he saw it come back again a couple of minutes later. He said that it came by twice.

The man from World Class Imports Limited said that at about 6.40pm, he got in his car and said that as he drove down to the end of the road, he realised that the same car was there. He said that it was stationery and that as he was ready to overtake it that it pulled off and he then followed it from behind and saw it cross Canning Town flyover and head off towards Essex.

The cleaners who were in the office working said that whilst they were there they saw Derrick Johnson receive two phone calls. They said during the first call, at about 6.35pm they heard him laughing and joking on the phone. They said that after that, about five minutes later, they heard the phone ring again and said that that time the conversation was longer and more serious. The police later stated that Derrick Johnson had received two calls, the first at 6.38pm and the next at 6.40pm and that they were the last calls that he would have received. The police later noted that it was important that they find out who made those calls and appealed for the callers to come forward.

The cleaners said that they then left the offices at about 6.50pm, leaving Derrick Johnson as the only person in the building.

Derrick Johnson's wife said that after Derrick Johnson failed to make his usual call to talk to his son, she tried to call him a number of times, but got no reply. By about 11.50pm, Derrick Johnson's wife said that she was extremely worried and so decided to drive to his office, which was about ten miles away.

She said that when she got there, she found the doors open and that when she went upstairs to his office, she found him dead in his office. He had been tied up with rope at his hands and feet and cellotape had been wrapped very firmly around his nose and mouth and it was said that he couldn't have possibly been able to breath.

It was later said that Derrick Johnson had been murdered shortly after the cleaners had left, sometime between 7pm and 7.30pm.

The police said that it appeared clear that the intention was burglary. However, the police noted that whoever had tied him up and put cellotape around his nose and mouth would have known that he would suffocate.

The police noted that the rope that Derrick Johnson had been tied up with was sash-cord rope and said that it wasn't manufactured in the UK. They said that the length of rope that had been used to tie up Derrick Johnson was 24 feet in length and noted that both ends of the rope had been sealed with a burn. The police said that they were interested in hearing from anyone that had sold a similar length of rope around 6 November 1990.

Later in the police investigation, the police said that they were interested in tracing the occupants of two motorcars:

  1. The first car was a dark car that had parked at the entrance of Leapfield Maritime Limited at 6.48pm. The car had had two male occupants. It was noted that the passenger of the car was seen to get out of the car and then walk towards Leapfield Maritime Limited. It was said that the vehicle then drove off after about ten minutes without the passenger. The passenger was said then to have been seen about 15 minutes later running away from Leapfield Maritime Limited towards Canning Town flyover.
  2. The second car was a Ford and was seen at about 7.20pm to park up at the entrance to Leapfield Maritime Limited. It was said that after about two minutes the driver and passenger got out and changed places and that then after another five minutes they also drove off towards Canning Town flyover.

In both instances, the police said that they needed to know who the men were, and in particular, who the running man was. They also appealed for anyone that had seen any of the men to contact them.

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