June 11, 1984 (Monday)
Avon Gorge, Bristol, United Kingdom
Shelley Cameron Morgan
Alternative Name: Shelley Brian
Missing from: Bristol, United Kingdom
Date Missing: June 11, 1984 (Monday)
Date Found: October 14, 1984 (Sunday)
Shelley Brian was originally from the United States, and grew up with a passion for fashion, art, and design. She had the opportunity to turn her love for design into a career in 1972, when she immigrated to Liverpool, England after accepting a job as the wardrobe manager for Liverpool’s Playhouse.
There she fell in love with and married Nigel Morgan, with whom she would have two children – Liam and Charlotte. They relocated from South Wales to a new home in Bristol, hoping to find better educational opportunities for Liam, who was autistic. As the children were getting older and were attending school during the day, Shelley was becoming interested in returning to her career and was looking at going back to school to complete her Fine Arts program.
At the time of her disappearance, she had recently begun participating in art classes at Bristol’s Polytechnic Art College.
Monday, June 11, Nigel was up at the family’s second home in Brecon Beacons approximately 2 hours away. That morning around 8:30am, Shelley walked Liam and Charlotte from their home on Dunkerry Road to their bus stop as usual. She promised to pick them up after school and told them she planned to spend the day taking pictures and sketching in the Avon Gorge area. There, the River Avon runs through limestone cliffs near Bristol and one can find many pictureque sights. In addition to Clifton Suspension Bridge, a famous landmark, the area also has several parks and natural areas to wander.
Shelley in particular was planning to visit Leigh Woods, a nature reserve along the river. She hoped to capture a photo of the Suspension Bridge in order to practice painting it later.
When Shelley failed to return and pick up the kids from school, people became concerned. She was not heard from again.
Police mobilized a force of 80+ to search for Shelley, but they found it difficult to identify where Shelley went after leaving the children.
Their initial theory was that Shelley walked to a bus stop on East Street in the Bedminister area and from there headed to the main bus stop. They believed she then would have ridden Bus 359 – this bus crossed Avon Gorge along its route towards Portishead
The exact bus route in 1984 was likely different from the one above, but it would be a logical path to reach Avon Gorge as she planned.
Unfortunately, no one was able to confirm Shelley ever got on any of those buses. One witness did say they thought Shelley was seen speaking with someone in a blue van near the entrance to Ashton Court Estates. This has not been substantiated but would mean she was in the exact opposite direction of the Bristol Bus Station. She may have caught a ride and taken a different route towards the gorge. From the estates, she would have been able to take the Ashton Court Estate road to Bridge Road to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Other possible sightings of Shelley included:
- A woman riding in a yellow truck (lorry) on Backwell Hill Road (seems unlikely as it would have been far past Ashton Court in the opposite direct of Avon Gorge)
- A BMW parked on the Bristol-Portishead road (it’s not clear if they just thought the vehicle was unusual or there was a reason to believe Shelley was in the car).
- A woman resembling Shelley boarded a Weymouth Ferry
Of these, the BMW and Weymouth Ferry sightings appear least likely unless someone or something was moving Shelley far off her intended route.
In a heartbreaking conclusion, Shelley’s body was found by a young boy in a wooded area along Long Lane near Backwell Hills, approximately 9 miles from Leigh Woods
One might recall the name Backwell Hills – this is where at least one witness reported seeing a woman matching Shelley’s description in a yellow lorry. Police have not revealed where along Backwell Hills Road the lorry was potentially spotted, so it is not clear how close this sighting was to the location where Shelley was found.
It appears Shelley was sexually assaulted before being stabbed fourteen times in the back.
Her tights and sandals were found, but her shirt / dress, carpet bag, camera, tripod, and red-frame glasses were never located.
Police are still looking in particular for her camera (Serial #1032853) as it was a popular camera and might have been found or purchased by an unknowing third party.
At this point, police believe the suspect may have had a vehicle and have had ties to Backwell and the area near Leigh Woods or Clifton.
In 2014, a retired police officer, Chris Clark, stated he believed evidence pointed to a suspected serial killer Chris Halliwell (Link). Halliwell was a taxi driver who was convicted in the murders of Sian O’Callaghan (22) and Becky Godden-Edwards (25). Clark theorized Halliwell might also be connected to the deaths of Shelley, Eila Karjalainen (23). and Lindsey Jo Rimer (13).
Both Godden-Edwards and Shelley shared long blonde hair and blue eyes, but otherwise there are few to no physical similarities, they were killed in different ways, and their bodies abandoned in different circumstances. The only things seemingly linking them were that 1) there were sexual aspects to the murder, 2) they may have been susceptible to persons offering them a ride and 3) they were all abandoned in isolated locations (“beauty spots of west county” (Link)).
The police have not substantiated this theory in any way.
In 2019, police identified two postcards of interest to the case. Both images are of locations that were on Shelley’s list to visit that afternoon: Bower Ashton (a photo of the River Avon) and St. Andrew’s Church (from the direct of Backwell’s Hill).
The locations are clearly key – Bower Ashton is very near to Ashton Court Estates where a woman resembling Shelley was seen talking to someone in a blue van. St. Andrew’s Church image was taken from the direct of Backwell’s Hill where the yellow lorry was spotted and where her body was recovered.
It is not known whether the images are considered relevant simply because they are older and of key locations or whether the postcard in particular that police uncovered are significant somehow.
These images were part of a “tear-off” calendar from the 1980s or 90s, sold by a Bristol Hospital for charity. Police are asking anyone who might have had the calendar or have information about the photographs to contact them. They are particularly trying to figure out which year the calendar was sold.
The postcard of the Avon River is presently being sold on Ebay (Link) but the year is not visible.
Regardless, if anyone has any information that can help, they are asked to contact the police as soon as possible.
- Date of Birth: 1951
- Age at Disappearance: 33
- Ethnicity: Caucasian
- Nationality: United States, United Kingdom
- Gender at Birth: Female
- Hair: Blonde
- Eye Color: Blue
Distinguishing Marks or Factors
- Glasses (red frames)
- Multi-Colored, Patchwork Shoulder Bag with a 35mm OM20 Camera, a tripod, and sketching materials
- Camera had the Serial #: 1032853 – it has not been found, but may have been picked up as a collector’s item or sold to an unknowing recipient.
- Long-Sleeved Shirt or Dress with bell sleeves
If You or Anyone You Know Has Information About The Disappearances, Please Contact:
- Taylor, M. (2019) ‘The murder of Shelley Morgan: Full story of a shocking death which remains unsolved 35 years on’, Somerset Live, 11 August. Link
- dotr (2019) ‘UK – Shelley Morgan, 34, (Former Iowan), Bristol, stabbed,11 June 1984’, WebSleuth, 17 March. Link
- Gardner, A. (2014) ‘Killer taxi driver linked to murder of three more young women’, The Sun, 10 August. Link
- Avon and Somerset Police (2019) ‘New details released following murder of Shelley Morgan in 1984’, 11 June. Link
- ITV (2019) ‘Shelley Morgan: Why postcards could help solve 1984 Bristol murder’, 11 June. Link
- May, L. (2020) ‘Police release details of missing Olympus camera which may hold key to solving sex murder of mother-of-two, 33, whose blood-soaked body was found in woods 35 years ago’, Daily Mail, 19 October. Link
- Reddit (2019) ‘Who killed American Shelley Morgan in Somerset, UK 35 years ago?’, Link
- Mysterious Murders (2015) ‘The Murder Of Shelley Morgan’, 7 December. Link
- Unsolved Murders. ‘Shelley Morgan’. Link