Archive for Nottingham University

Blue Murder in Glasgow

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2019 by telescoper

We have our final meeting of the Examination Board in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University tomorrow in the presence of External Examiner who is visiting for the purpose.

For some reason thinking about this impending event reminded me of a strange encounter I had many years ago when I worked at Nottingham University and had almost forgotten about. Perhaps it’s just because it was the same time of year. Anyway, while I remember it I thought I might as well write about it here.

One day in June 2003, when I got home to my house in Beeston after work, I found that a card had been put through my letterbox. It was from Nottingham CID and bore the name of a Detective Sergeant followed by `Vice Squad’. I forget his actual name. Apparently the Officer concerned had called when I wasn’t in and left the note asking me to call back. I was a bit perturbed that it was apparently to do with something under the remit of the Vice Squad but it didn’t give any details except for a telephone number. Anyway, being a cooperative person, I phoned the number and a few days later the policeman came to my house to interview me.

It turned out to have nothing to do with the Vice Squad nor even anything to do with Nottingham. It was to do with an incident in Glasgow that had happened almost a year previously (in 2002): the policeman who interviewed me just happened to be available to run this particular errand on behalf of the Glasgow CID.

The police had traced me because I had paid a bill in a curry house in the Byres Road area of Glasgow’s West End with my credit card. I should explain that the reason I was having a meal in Glasgow that night was that at that time I was External Examiner for the undergraduate courses in Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, a task that involved staying two nights in a B&B near the University. In fact when I spoke to the Police Officer I was about to go to Glasgow again for the same purpose.

I was asked to recall my movements for the evening concerned (24th June 2002). It was almost a year previously and I couldn’t help much, but I did remember that I (along with some companions from the Department) tried to get into the curry house earlier in the evening, but it was very busy so we adjourned to a pub for a pint or two before returning and getting a table. A helpful comment below reminded me that the establishment concerned was  Ashoka in Ashton Lane, in the West End of Glasgow.


I could remember only two things really. One was that it was a warm sunny evening and there were lots of people outside drinking in the sunshine. The other that it was getting dark when we left Ashoka after the meal, which at that time of year would make it rather late. The Officer pointed out that my credit card had been charged after 11pm, which fits with that recollection. I had paid for my meal with the intention of claiming the cost on expenses. The food was excellent, by the way.

`Can you describe the other people in the restaurant when you were there?’ he asked me. I could barely remember who was at my table, never mind any strangers, and couldn’t think of anything useful to say at all except that it was very busy.

`What’s this all about?’, I asked the Officer.

It was then revealed to me that somebody had been murdered that night, just around the corner from where I was staying. Actually he had been left for dead in the driveway of his house with serious head injuries received in the early hours of the following morning, and died a few days later. The police strongly suspected he had eaten in the same restaurant we were in, possibly with the person or persons who killed him. The Officer showed me a picture of the victim but it didn’t ring any bells.

Because of the time that had elapsed I wasn’t able to help very much at all, though to be honest I doubt I would have been able to help if I’d been asked the day after the event. I just wasn’t paying much attention, and there wasn’t a row or anything that I might have noticed.

And that was that. Interview over. I signed a witness statement and the Officer left.  I never heard any more about it.  It was obviously a cold case then – otherwise the Police  wouldn’t have been following such tenuous leads – and it’s an even colder case now. I believe the case was featured on Crimewatch or some such, but without success.

The murder (still unsolved) was of a man called Alex Blue. According to Wikipedia:

A businessman from the city’s west end, Blue was found outside his home with head injuries. He died two days later. Blue ran a taxi business with an annual turnover of £7m. One theory is that he was the victim of a house buying scam. He told friends he was in the process of buying a new house and planned to view it the day after he was attacked. It was later discovered the home had never been on the market. Although nobody has been charged with the murder, Blue’s mother and brother are convinced they know who murdered him. His brother said: “I know who was behind this but they got someone else to carry out their dirty work for them.”

It’s very unlikely now that whoever killed him will ever be brought to justice.

Moving Memories

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 13, 2018 by telescoper

Yesterday evening I suddenly realized that today would be the anniversary of a significant milestone in my life. It was 20 years ago today (on 13th November 1998) that I moved from London to Beeston in Nottingham prior to starting as Professor of Astrophysics at Nottingham University on 1st January 1999. That means I’ve been a Professor for almost twenty years!

I remember it was Friday 13th November 1998 when I took possession of the house I’d bought in Marlborough Road. I picked that particular day to complete the purchase (and sale of my flat in Bethnal Green) because a removals firm offered me a very cheap deal: normally nobody wants to move house on Friday 13th, so they were happy when I turned out not to be superstitious. The move worked out very smoothly, in fact.

This picture taken in the Beeston residence that very day. You can see one of the removal men in the background:

I was still working at Queen Mary until the end of December 1998 so I had to commute to London and back for over a month after relocating, which wasn’t ideal, but bearable knowing that it wasn’t going to last forever, and that from the New Year I would be able to walk into work on the Nottingham University campus rather than trekking by train to London.

I did think leaving London would be a wrench, and that I would probably end up going back frequently to spend time with my old friends and visit regular haunts, but that didn’t really happen, and after living outside the Capital for a while I lost all inclination to ever return. Living in London is great fun when you’re young, but loses its attraction when you’re getting on a bit. That’s what I found, anyway.

It was exciting starting the new job in Nottingham. There wasn’t an Astronomy group as such prior to January 1999, but with the formation of a new group the School of Physics became the School of Physics & Astronomy, and the influx of astronomers helped the School both to expand its research portfolio and become more attractive to students. It was hard work helping to build that from scratch, but I’m glad that it worked out well. It is good to see the Astronomy group and indeed the whole School continuing to prosper, although some of my former colleagues there have now retired.

I moved to Cardiff in 2007 and eventually sold the Beeston house in 2008, after a long delay due to the Credit Crunch, and bought a house in Pontcanna which I still own.

It’s strange to think all that happened 20 years ago. I’ve just finished giving a lecture to our second-year students, most of whom weren’t even born in 1998! And I certainly never imagined back then than in twenty years I’d be living in Ireland!