Accused painting slasher: I didn’t do it
The British man named by Aspen police last week as the person who slashed a $3 million painting at a local art gallery a year ago denied involvement in the incident Wednesday and said he’s a “family man” trying to lead “a quiet life.”
“Regarding the painting, I did not cause the damage,” Nick Morley said in a statement initially released by his Aspen lawyer only to The Times of London newspaper. “I was the beneficial owner of the painting at the time.
“Any suggestion that I damaged my own property is based on speculation and circumstantial evidence. At no time have I sought to claim any financial benefit from the damage to the painting and simply wanted to privately deal with the matter.”
Further, Morley took issue with media reports that included his conviction 10 years ago in Macedonia for killing an elderly couple he crashed into during a road race for the wealthy called the Gumball 3000 Rally.
“It is regrettable that the press have sought to drag up an unfortunate incident in Macedonia from 10 years ago,” Morley said in the statement. “That accident is irrelevant to the present day and should not be used to sensationalise (sic) any other article in which my name is mentioned.
“I am a family man, with a new baby, who is trying to move forward with a quiet life.”
Aspen police and prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Morley, 40, a week ago and named him as the slightly-built man who entered the Opera Gallery on May 2, 2017, and slashed a $3 million painting by American artist Christopher Wool. The law enforcement agencies charged Morley with felony criminal mischief. Morley faces between 12 and 18 months in prison if convicted of the crime.
The DA’s Office has not yet decided if it will try to extradite Morley, who lives in London, to Aspen, prosecutor Don Nottingham said Thursday.
The man who entered the gallery, which is located at the base of Aspen Mountain, was dressed in all dark clothing and wore a hat, beard and sunglasses. The only person who saw him that afternoon later told police she saw a picture of Morley online and “got the chills” because she was sure he was the painting slasher.
The painting, which since has been repaired, was owned by Morley’s father, Harold Morley of Barbados, according to court documents filed in Pitkin County District Court. Harold Morley is a former dentist from Manchester, England, who became a property developer and IT investor and now lives with his wife in Barbados, according to a Thursday article in The Times of London.
During an 11-month investigation, police discovered that Nick Morley flew from London to Denver under a fake name the day before the painting was slashed, rented a car and flew back to England two days after the slashing. The rental car, however, did not have enough miles on it when it was returned to have traveled from Denver to Aspen and back, according to court documents.
In correspondence with the art gallery after the slashing, Nick Morley asked a gallery manager to consider the damage “an accident” and persuade the police of the same thing, the documents state. His father also asked the gallery to “calm” the investigation and said he would not file an insurance claim over the slashing.
Morley’s wife told The Times of London she didn’t know about the allegations or the arrest warrant for her husband, while his brother told the newspaper he hadn’t spoken to his father or brother in several years.
Nick Morley spent 40 days in a Macedonian prison in 2007 and later was convicted of “endangering traffic leading to death” in connection with the elderly couple’s death during the Gumball 3000 Rally. He received a two-year suspended sentence and was allowed to return to England.