Unsolved Murders

George Barron Black

Age: 52

Sex: male

Date: 7 Jan 1949

Place: Lloyds bank, Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol

George Barron Black was killed in a bank robbery at a sub-branch of the Lloyds Bank on Wells Road in Knowle, Bristol.

He had struggled with the murderer and was shot twice.

The murderer got away with £1,444 and fled in an Austin Saloon that had been stolen earlier that morning. The car had been seen about an hour before the murder between 1pm and 2pm being driven by a woman with the murderer. However, when the man carried out the robbery the woman had not been in the car whilst it was left outside the bank.

The car, a 16 hp saloon, was found abandoned shortly after and the police said that they were working on the theory that the murderer had switched cars.

The murderer had gone into the bank and said that he was waiting for a bookmaker called Murray to show up and he was seen loitering there for about an hour before the robbery on that pretext. However, it was thought that as the bank approached closing time that George Black had told the murderer that it was useless for him to wait for the bookmaker any longer, telling him that he had an appointment, and the bank was closing to which the murderer then said, 'It doesn't look as if my friend is going to turn up' and then sat down to write a note quickly on the back of bank paying slip using a bank pen which was thought to have been in order to gain a few vital minutes as the bank was cleared and closed, and that almost immediately after that, after the last person left, that he shot George Black and took the money.

The note that he wrote was left behind, and although it was considered bogus, the police published it in the press in the hope that people might recognise the handwriting.

The murder was witnessed by an 18-year-old assistant at the branch who threw heavy rulers at the murderer during the struggle before the murderer locked him in a cupboard. The assistant was the son of the Bristol Police Inspector.

Three people saw the murderer make his getaway after the shooting.

A trainer at a local greyhound track who was the last customer in the bank before the hold-up said that he was confident that he could identify the murderer again. He said that just after he left the bank, he heard what sounded like three shots fired from inside and went to a nearby telephone kiosk where he called the police. He said that he then saw the gunman run from the bank and said that he challenged him, but that the man struck him in the face and also hit him with the car door as he drove away.

Just after that a cripple who had just arrived at the bank jumped on the running board and hung onto the car until he was thrown into the road as the car went round a corner.

The man was described as young, about 26, about 5ft 8in tall, slim, pale, bespectacled, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, with brown wavy hair and wearing a dark overcoat and a green or grey trilby hat turned down at the front. He was also said to have had a dark-coloured brief case with him.

He was also said to have had a fake US accent. The police said that they were not attaching too much importance to his American accent, describing it as 'phoney'. The police said, 'Most of our spivs think it sounds tough to talk that way'.

Members of the public were warned against approaching the murderer, stating that he 'might try to shoot his way out of a tight situation with a revolver'.

Police reported that they were looking for a 21-year-old Irish man in connection with the murder.

The murderer was also described as being believed to have been a 'travelling thief'.

The description of the murderer was said to have matched that of a number of criminals already known to the police and investigations in that direction were made.

The police examined the bank for fingerprints and then collected the fingerprints of the bank's 200 regular customers to rule them out. It was noted that the murderer had not worn gloves.

The police also followed reports from a taxi driver who said that on the night before the murder he had driven a couple to a Bristol boarding house, noting that the man answered the description of the murderer. He said that the woman had been dressed like a Land Army girl.

The murderer had left a scrawled note behind that was published in the hope that someone would recognise the handwriting. The note had read, 'See you Monday at 2. Missed you to-day' which was signed 'Joe' with the addition, 'Waited until 3pm'. However, the note was not addressed, and the police said that they believed that the murderer scribbled it merely as a pretext for remaining in the bank a little longer. The police said that the note was written immediately prior to the shooting with a bank pen on the back of a paying in slip.

No bookmaker named Murray was identified in the district.

A £1,000 reward was offered, and it was said that hue-and-cry posters bearing the description of the wanted man were prepared for distribution throughout the country.

An identification parade was held in Brixton Prison after a man was remanded in custody there on a recent case of attempted housebreaking in London.

George Black left £1,339 in his will which was published on Thursday 10 March 1949. He left his property to his wife for life and then to his daughter.

In September 1949, investigations were made in Penrith following a bank robbery there which resulted in the bank robber shooting himself in the head after he was cornered by the police in a car. However, no further developments in the murder of George Black were made. The Penrith bank robber had murdered a bank manager and a taxi driver in the progress of his crime.

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

see www.flickr.com

see Avon and Somerset Police

see Bristol Live

see National Archives - MEPO 3/3122

see "Bank Murder Inquiry Reopened." Times [London, England] 6 Nov. 1957: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 28 May 2016.

see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 15 September 1949

see Daily Herald - Thursday 13 January 1949

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 10 January 1949

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 10 March 1949

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 08 January 1949

see Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 28 January 1949

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Thursday 13 January 1949

see Gloucester Citizen - Tuesday 11 January 1949

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 12 January 1949

see Gloucester Citizen - Thursday 10 March 1949

see Belfast Telegraph - Friday 28 January 1949

see Belfast Telegraph - Monday 10 January 1949

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 28 June 1949

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 13 January 1949