Can this camera solve the 36-year-old murder of a photographer?

Can this Olympus camera solve a 36-year-old murder?
This Olympus OM-20 could solve the murder of Shelley Morgan (Image credit: Avon and Somerset Police)

A vintage Olympus camera could be the key to solving a 36-year-old murder investigation, according to new information released by British police.

On 14 October 1984 the remains of Shelley Morgan were discovered, four months after she disappeared after dropping her children at school to spend the day taking photographs with her Olympus OM-20.

The 33-year-old American mother of two left her home in Dunkerry Road, Bristol, United Kingdom, at around 8:30am on 11 June 1984. After doing the school run, she made her way towards Leigh Woods near Ashton Court to sketch and shoot images. 

Her body was discovered by children playing in a wooded copse off Long Lane in Backwell Hill. A forensic post-mortem confirmed that Morgan suffered multiple stab wounds, with evidence that the brutal attack was sexually motivated.

In newly released information from the investigators, it was revealed that the camera could unlock the identity of the killer – and given the popularity of OM-20s on the second-hand market, it is likely to still be in somebody's possession.

"Shelley’s camera equipment has never been found, particularly an Olympus OM-20 camera, which cost £130 at the time," said Detective Sergeant Sarah Barnston, of the Major Crime Review Team. "This camera is still popular with collectors and photography students now. The missing 35mm camera will have the serial number 1032853 on it.

Morgan's Olympus OM-20 has the serial number 1032853, and could be key to solving the murder (Image credit: Avon and Somerset Police)

“Shelley was carrying the camera, along with a tripod and sketching materials in a large patchwork-style shoulder bag. This bag has never been found, nor has the clothing she was wearing, including red-framed glasses."

Other pertinent information, pertaining to a pair of tear-off calendar postcards sold by the local Bristol Hospice charity, has also been cited by investigators as key to solving the murder. 

“Our latest re-investigation has identified new material of interest which may have forensic potential, utilizing the latest scientific techniques," added DS Barnston. "We’re keeping Shelley’s family updated on any progress. Her sister recently flew over from the USA to meet some of our team and we’re as committed as ever to solving Shelley’s murder and bringing the person or people responsible to justice.

“I would urge anyone with information, no matter how small, to come forward. Loyalties and relationships change over time and there may be someone who didn’t feel able to speak to us at the time, but who may be in a position to do so now.”

For further details on the case, and to share any information you may have on the investigation, visit the Avon and Somerset Police website

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.