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Police release CCTV of cyclist riding along towpath moments before body found in canal

Paul Morris' death is being treated as 'unexplained' after an inconclusive post mortem...

West Midlands Police has released CCTV footage in an appeal to give a "family the answers they need" after a body was found in a Birmingham canal last month. 

The body of Paul Morris was discovered at around 6.15pm on Tuesday 21 December at the junction of Ledsam Street and Ladywood Middleway, in Ladywood, to the west of the city centre.

In the CCTV footage, the 65-year-old can be seen riding along the towpath shortly before his body was found.

Police do not believe there is anything to suggest foul play was involved but said his death is being treated as unexplained following an inconclusive forensic post mortem examination.

Detective Inspector Ade George has appealed to the public for anyone with information to come forward to give "his family the answers they need".

"Our thoughts are with Mr Morris’ family at this really sad time," DI George told the public in a statement.

Paul Morris Birmingham canal (West Midlands Police)

"There is nothing to suggest there was any foul play involved in his death, however we want to understand exactly what happened and to give his family the answers they need. 

"There is very little CCTV along this stretch of the canal so I’m asking for anyone who was around the area between 5pm and 7pm on the evening, to get in touch.

Anyone with information can contact West Midlands Police via the Live Chat on their website quoting reference number 3308 of 21/12/2021.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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9 comments

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Crumblingman | 2 years ago
0 likes

A tragic loss of life on what I would of thought would be a safe place to cycle but reading other comments this seems to be not so.

From the video he seems to be looking into the canal, often where you look you end up as I have found out to my cost from riding MTB. Has the canal been searched for his bike and is there canal barges with camera's in the area. 

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RichK | 2 years ago
7 likes

I worked in the same department as Paul & we would often talk as we changed before leaving work (however, I was "WFH" on the day in question).  He'll be missed.  

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Captain Badger | 2 years ago
7 likes

My deep condolences to Paul's family and friends

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vthejk | 2 years ago
7 likes

This is so desperately, desperately sad. I can play What If forever, but What If he had been on a public, well-populated area and not hidden away riding a desolated towpath. What If he were on a safer, wider and less inclement road surface, than unsurfaced paths. What If he weren't riding along one of the crime hotspots of the local region.

Whatever the cause of this man's death, there can be no stronger argument against these rubbish excuses for cycling 'infra.' They are literally excuses saying "Look how well we did" while in reality are dangerous and inadequate.

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IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
3 likes

I know too many people who have ridden into canals in daylight, that's not counting the ones who have damaged shoulders from falling off the other way after hitting rocks or other obstructions. I can think of about 10 people I know in the last 15 years who have had a serious incident on tow paths. They've mainly laughed about going in afterwards, but they weren't laughing at the time.

It's another example of why things that sound like safer cycling infrastructure are often better avoided and instead you should be annoying motorists by using their roads which is normally safer.

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chrisonabike replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
6 likes

If only there was some place where they also had canals which we could look to for inspiration on how to do this safely?

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AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
3 likes

There is a bridge over a siding near the location where the body was reported  which can get slippy and when damp (frozen) and also has raised areas for pedestrian foot holds. Those are bad enough in the daytime, at night....... Then a sudden plunge into near freezing water. 

Of course that is assuming no one else was involved. 

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Secret_squirrel replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
3 likes

Doesnt say if his bike was found in the canal too.  I guess what happened to that narrows down the circumstances.

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lonpfrb replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
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The bridges over side junctions seem to be an after-thought on the Birmingham canals. That is built in the minor not major route so that going straight on using the tow path at junctions is not possible. Hard to see that at night so could well cause a dip in the freezing canal.

To be fair the canal wasn't designed for cycling rather the tow path was designed for tow horses to cross. Presumably the set back bridge does relieve tow tension so that the horse can cross safely without tension. These bridges usually have a brick staircase strip so that a shod horse can safely walk without danger of slipping on the incline.

However RichK's post suggests that Mr Morris was a frequent traveler on the tow path so likely fully aware of the bridge hazard.

Another hazard that I found on a Birmingham canal tow path was erosion of the surface so that stonework became prominent, specifically tipped towards the canal so as to cause a rapid diversion of the front wheel and loss of control. Coupled with freezing water run off from an overhead bridge, there was no chance to stop the forward motion becoming sideways motion too.

Luckily for me it wasn't dark, though it was a shock to be in the canal in a low temperature. Being clipped in I was able to swim to the side with bike still attached and self extract.

Lesson learned: pay more attention to the surface and don't expect it to be favourable.

Condolences to the Morris family...

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