“…he had already been interviewed about the Christine Darby murder…”
Former Detective Constable Joseph, Birmingham Mail, May 2011
All three murder victims - Margaret, Diane and Christine - lived near the A34, within 17 miles of each other. Cannock Chase is on the A34. Increasingly this geographical link becomes significant in the investigation.
The inquiry is led by Sir Stanley Bailey, Staffordshire’s Assistant Chief Constable, and involves 150 officers visiting 39,000 homes, interviewing 80,000 people and trawling some 1.4 million car records. Close to 25,000 vehicles, including every Austin A55 and A60 in the Midlands, are checked.
In 1965, Morris’s brother walks into Cannock police station and states that he believes Raymond was capable of murdering Margaret and Diane, because of his unnatural interest in young girls. His claim is investigated but Morris appears to have alibis for both murders and as a married father of two he is not considered to be a likely suspect for such horrible crimes.
On the night of 4 November 1968 the police receive their breakthrough. At 8.28pm an emergency call is answered by Detective Constable Conrad Joseph. He interviews both Mrs Lane and Margaret Aulton, the intended victim. Their accounts match but unfortunately the registration number that Mrs Lane gives for the car she saw doesn’t match the make and model of the vehicle she describes.
DC Conrad Joseph perseveres with this line of enquiry with his colleague DC Atkins. They wake the local Vehicle Tax Officer to access the vehicle records at the Walsall office. The registration given by the witness is 429 LOP but this isn’t registered to a green and white Ford Corsair. Instead of giving up they painstakingly search through documents one by one, for similar registration numbers. Transposing the numbers 29 to 92 they discover 492 LOP is a matching vehicle and owned by Raymond Morris.
They visit Morris at work and invite him to be interviewed. Morris, remaining calm and co-operative, agrees. Chatting on the way to the station, he mentions he used to own an Austin A55. An Austin A55 is the type of vehicle linked to Christine Darby’s unsolved murder and this information will prove vital to the investigation.
At Cannock police station Morris is also interviewed by Detective Sergeant John Farrell and Detective Constable James Speight. The witness doesn’t pick him out during an identity parade, later confessing she is too scared. Without a positive identification, Morris is allowed to walk free.
Remaining convinced of Morris’s guilt, DCs Joseph and Atkins seek permission from DCI George Read to stay on the case. He agrees and they delve into Morris’s past, looking for information on the vehicles he had owned or had access to through his job and his whereabouts at the time of the girls’ abductions.
DCs Joseph and Atkins are repeatedly told by the incident room at Cannock that Morris has been eliminated as a suspect because he has an alibi, given by his wife. But their investigations uncover evidence that connects Morris to the attack on Julia Taylor and the disappearances of Margaret Reynolds and Diane Tift. It seems he was in the right place, at the right time, in the right kind of car.