Daniel Morgan: What happened in the case of the murdered private detective?

Investigator killed with an axe in south London pub car park on 10 March 1987 but inquest and five previous inquiries have failed to bring his attacker to justice

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 15 June 2021 15:04
<p>Daniel Morgan’s family said Home Office delay only served to ‘betray and undermine the very purpose of the panel’</p>

Daniel Morgan’s family said Home Office delay only served to ‘betray and undermine the very purpose of the panel’

A damning independent report into the unsolved 1987 murder of British private detective Daniel Morgan has finally been published - following an intervention by the Home Office to delay it - in which the Metropolitan Police are accused of “institutional corruption” over their failure to bring Morgan’s killer to justice.

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel concluded that the force’s “first objective was to protect itself” against allegations that corrupt officers were involved in the murder.

The report said that severe failings in the initial investigation, where the crime scene was not searched, interviews were not properly carried out and suspects were forewarned of their arrests, meant potential evidence had been “irretrievably lost”.

The panel’s chairwoman, Baroness Nuala O’Loan, said Scotland Yard had not acknowledged or confronted its failings and showed a “lack of candour”.

“They were not honest in their dealings with Mr Morgan’s family or the public,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The family and the public are owed an apology.”

Baroness O’Loan called for a statutory “duty of candour” to be created for all law enforcement agencies.

“We believe that concealing or denying failings for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit, and constitutes a form of institutional corruption,” she added.

Responding, Morgan’s relatives called for action on the “sickness” of police corruption, after decades of being “lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down”.

Home secretary Priti Patel meanwhile condemned the handling of the murder as “one of the most devastating episodes” in the history of the Met.

The report had previously been due to release its findings on 17 May, only for the government to intervene saying it wanted to review the document to ensure it complied with human rights considerations and did not compromise national security.

The panel was established by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2013 to address unanswered questions relating to the murder, including the police handling of the case, the role corruption might have played in protecting Morgan’s killer and the links between private eyes, police and tabloid journalists connected to the case.

The hold up was described last month as “a kick in the teeth” by the dead man’s family.

In a statement, Morgan’s relatives attacked Ms May’s successor, Ms Patel, describing her intervention as “unnecessary and inconsistent with the panel’s independence.”

“It is an outrage which betrays her ignorance - and the ignorance of those advising her - with regard to her powers in law and the panel’s terms of reference,” they said.

“It also reveals a disturbing disregard for the public interest in safeguarding the independence of the panel and its report.”

The family continued to pile the pressure on Ms Patel in the interim, with Daniel Morgan Jr writing in The Guardian recently that the delay was intensifying the grief of his late father’s relatives and urged her to “stand aside”.

His uncle, Alastair Morgan, the deceased’s brother, likewise branded the delay “nonsense”.

An agreement was eventually reached that a small Home Office team would read the report in advance and last week it was confirmed that the full, unredacted version would at last be made available.

Despite an inquest and five police inquiries into the 38-year-old’s murder in the cark park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, South East London, on 10 March 1987, no one has been brought to justice over the father-of-two’s death, with the Met Police admitting that corruption had hampered the original murder investigation.

Daniel John Morgan was born in Singapore on 3 November 1949, the son of an army officer.

He and his siblings were raised in Monmouthshire in South Wales and Morgan attended agricultural college in Usk as a teenager before spending time in Denmark, gaining practical experience in farming.

He subsequently changed career to work as a salesman and travel guide, finally settling in Norwood, London, in his late 20s, married with a wife and two children.

In January 1977, Morgan decided to put his exceptional memory for details to use by going to work as a private detective, three years later setting up his own agency, DJM Investigations.

In 1981, the business was renamed Southern Investigations and opened its first office in Thornton Heath, Greater London.

On the night of his death, Morgan had a drink with his partner, Jonathan Rees, at the Golden Lion before heading to his BMW to return home.

He was found dead shortly after, slumped beside the car with an axe wound in the back of his head.

Notes he had been seen writing earlier had been stolen from the torn trouser pockets of his freshly dry-cleaned suit and a Rolex wrist watch taken from his person but his wallet and the cash it contained was left untouched.

Catford police station assigned detective sergeant Sid Fillery to work on the case, unaware that Fillery had previously moonlighted at Southern Investigations off the books.

Rees, his brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian, Fillery and two Met officers were arrested on suspicion of murder in April 1987 but all were eventually released without charge.

At an inquest into the killing a year later, Rees was alleged to have told Southern’s accountant, Kevin Lennon, that friends of his within the ranks of the local constabulary were going to murder Morgan so that Fillery could replace him as Rees’s business partner.

“My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it,” Lennon claimed Rees had told him. “Those police officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange it.”

Fillery would subsequently retire from the force on medical grounds and did indeed eventually succeed Morgan at Southern. He faced accusations of evidence and witness tampering at the inquest, at which Rees denied murdering Morgan.

That summer, police constable Alan “Taffy” Holmes, an acquaintance of Morgan’s with whom the deceased is alleged to have collaborated on exposing police corruption, was found dead in mysterious circumstances.

Between 1988 and 2006, five inquiries were conducted into Morgan’s murder, with Rees and an associate, Paul Goodridge, accused in February 1989 and the latter’s girlfriend, Jean Wisden, charged with perverting the course of justice, before all of the charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in May for want of evidence.

Goodridge went on to sue Hampshire Constabulary over the charge.

Rees was though found guilty of planting cocaine on an innocent woman to discredit her during a child custody battle in 2000 and sentenced to seven years in prison, after which he would continue to find work on the payroll of The News of the World under the editorship of Andy Coulson.

Investigators bugged the offices of Southern Investigations and the home of Glenn Vian as part of the inquiries into “one of the worst-kept secrets in South East London”, as it would be labelled by detective superintendent David Cook, before Rees, the Vian brothers and builder James Cook were arrested in April 2008 on suspicion of murder. Fillery was also arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Their trial at the Old Bailey finally collapsed in March 2011 following the dismissal of three supergrass witnesses and was abandoned by Sir Keir Starmer, then-director of public prosecutions.

Ms May reopened the matter on 10 May 2013 by announcing a new independent inquiry, the findings of which are at last about to see the light of day after being held up by the intervention of Ms Patel.

Meanwhile, Rees, Fillery, James Cook and the Vian brothers launched a £4 million lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution in October 2014.

Fillery was awarded £25,000 in interim damages by the High Court in April 2017 with Rees and the Vians losing their case before appealing and eventually winning damages of £414,000 in 2019.

Interest in the killing of Daniel Morgan remains intense 24 years on, with Peter Jukes’s 10-part podcast Untold examining it in May 2016 and Channel 4’s documentary series Murder in the Car Park following last June.

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