Unsolved Murders

Ian Murray Erskine

Age: 44

Sex: male

Date: 25 Mar 1990

Place: River Cam, Upware, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Source: www.youtube.com

Ian Murray Erskine was found wrapped up in a plastic bag in the River Cam at Upware near Ely in Cambridgeshire on Sunday 25 March 1990.

He had gone missing in London on the evening of 15 December 1989 which was when it was thought that he had been murdered.

His post-mortem was unable to determine his cause of death owing to the decomposition of his body, which was thought to have been in the water for several months. He was identified through his dental records.

He was a research officer with the Bank of England and had lived at 5 Norland Square in Notting Hill where he was regarded as a quiet and pleasant neighbour.

He was described as a highly regarded senior economist at the Bank of England and it was said that he had been looking into ways of preventing fraud in financial institutions.

He was a homosexual and was also interested and involved in masochism.

The police said that they were interested in tracing a man thought to have been Rhodesian who he had spoken of a number of times to his friends before he vanished and indicated that he was going to meet on the evening he vanished. It was thought that he had met the Rhodesian man in a gay contact magazine under the sections for S&M and CP. It was noted that S&M and CP were both expressions that members of the gay community would understand.

It was further noted that following his disappearance, Ian Erskine's Access card had been used a number of times to withdraw money, buy an expensive watch and to hire a Red Fiesta car before it was finally confiscated in Holland.

Ian Erskine was a regular at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and had a large collection of classical records. He was also noted as being a wine buff and to have had about 500 bottles of fine wine at his flat.

He was also a regular in the Norland Arms public house which was just around the corner from his flat and went there up to two or three times a week.

The publican at the Norland Arms said that he remembered seeing Ian Erskine in the pub sometime in November 1989, saying that he saw him meet a young couple who he considered he had met by some kind of prior arrangements or appointment. The landlord said that they looked like a professional couple on their way home from work, both being smartly dressed and said that they would stay and chat with Ian Erskine for about half an hour.

The landlord noted that shortly after the couple left another man would join Ian Erskine. He said that the man would sit down with Ian Erskine at his table and that Ian Erskine would then go and get him a drink, usually half-a-pint of larger. The landlord said that he first saw the friend of Ian Erskine in October 1989 and that the last time that he saw him with Ian Erskine was in November 1989. The landlord said that Ian Erskine and the man would stay for about half-an-hour and that they would then leave together.

It was found that two days before Ian Erskine disappeared, on Wednesday 13 December 1989, that he had invited a friend of his round to his flat for dinner. The friend said that whilst they were eating Ian Erskine told him that his friend the Rhodesian, who he said was still around, was coming to see him on the Friday night, which was the night that he disappeared.

On the morning of Friday 15 December 1989, Ian Erskine went to work as usual. He left for the City at 8.30am and usually returned home promptly at 6.45pm. However, it was said that it wasn't known if he had reached his home on the Friday night or whether the Rhodesian had gone to visit him and the police said that they were interested in hearing from anyone who saw him on the Friday night.

The following day, Saturday 16 December 1989, Ian Erskine's access card and cheque book was used in the West End of London.

Sometime in the afternoon, a man with a beard went into Austin Kaye, the Jewellers, on the Strand and enquired about a watch. It was an expensive watch, a Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer, usually £220, and quite distinctive as there were only 350 of them in the country. The Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer was designed to time yacht races and although based on an earlier version which was just a regular watch with a distinctive face, the 8M35 Yacht Timer had a specific new four jewel quartz movement that allowed for races to be timed with a 30 second count down for the beginning of the race and had only just been brought to the market. The man bought the watch for £200. Before the purchase was completed the shop assistant called Access to verify the card and the transaction. The police later appealed to anyone who knew of the Seiko Yacht Master watch, stating that they were particularly keen on anyone that had seen one with a particular watch cover and a Euro Belt pouch. Although cheaper digital watches could time races at a much lower cost, it was possible that the man that bought the watch had an interest in sailing, or knew of the watch specifically as a new line.

Two days later, on Monday 18 December 1989, at the Charing Cross Hotel, a man booked a hire car using Ian Erskine's Access card, and it was thought that it was the same man that had bought the watch. The car was delivered to the hotel and it was thought that the man would have had to have waited outside the hotel for an hour or so as the driver had first gone to the wrong hotel. When the hire car hire delivery driver met with the man outside the Charing Cross Hotel, he examined the driving licence and Access card that the man gave him in order to complete the paperwork for the car hire, and both of the documents were in Ian Erskine's name. After completing the paperwork, the delivery driver said that he noticed that the man sat in the car for about five minutes before driving off.

It was further determined that in the week before Christmas, Monday 18 December to Thursday 21 December 1989, a number of other cash withdrawals were made at Bureau de Change outlets in the West End of London.

In total, about £2,000 was withdrawn from Ian Erskine's Access account.

The Red Fiesta car that had been hired was itself returned to its agreed location on Thursday morning, 21 December 1989, just behind Kings Cross Station. It was noted that the mileage on the car was over 150 miles, indicating that it had clearly been outside of London.

Later on Monday 8 January 1990, Ian Erskine's Access card was again used to buy £50 worth of Guilders at Liverpool Street Station in London and then shortly after to buy a five day return ticket to Holland.

It was noted that around the time Ian Erskine's card was used on 8 January at Liverpool Street Station, the card authorities had discovered that Ian Erskine's signature had been forged and shortly after blocked his card. It was then seized shortly after when someone tried to use it in the Netherlands.

Whilst Ian Erskine's body was not found until 25 March 1990, it was noted from from two days before Christmas, 23 December 1989, that several people had reported seeing a large black bag floating in the River Cam near Ely, by the pub The Five Miles From Anywhere, and at least three people had even said that they had thought that it had contained a body, but it was not reported to the police until it was later spotted by a man sailing a boat along the river on a day trip on 25 March 1990.

Following the discovery of Ian Erskine's body, the police said that they were interested in tracing the Rhodesian man, noting that they didn't think that Ian Erskine had been the only man that the Rhodesian man had been in contact with.

The police said that they were also interested in meeting the couple that Ian Erskine had met in the pub in October or November 1989 to find out if they knew anything about his disappearance or the Rhodesian man.

The description that the police gave of the man that Ian Erskine had met in the pub was that he was in his mid-30s, about 6ft tall, slightly above average build, with dark hair down to his collar and with an indistinct accent. The police also released a photofit of him.

The description of the man that hired the car was that of a man in his early 30's, about 5ft 11in tall, with an average build, a well trimmed beard and moustache, with nice curly dark brown hair. It was noted that the man that hired the car was thought to have been the same person that had bought the watch and the descriptions of both the men were similar.

The police further noted that they need to identify the man that Ian Erskine had described as the Rhodesian. They said that Ian Erskine had referred to the man as the Rhodesian, and 'my Rhodesian friend'. The police further said that from what Ian Erskine had told his colleagues, that the Rhodian had told him that he had served in the Rhodesian Army, possibly in the Rhodesian version of the SAS and that he had come back to England after independence.

The police said that they thought that Ian Erskine's gay connections and the Rhodesian man were the most significant leads they had. However, it was also suggested that he had been murdered after he had uncovered a money laundering operation of some sort, possibly drugs, but it was also stated that that possibility was soon discounted.


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


see Kensington Post - Thursday 05 April 1990

see Sandwell Evening Mail - Saturday 31 March 1990

see Daily Record

see Herald Scotland

see Fratello Magazine