Court reopens murder mystery

The Guardian - by Duncan Campbell

25th April 1998

A man accused nine years ago of murdering a south London private detective yesterday won an admission from police that he should not have been charged. The settlement of his case reopens controversy over one of the last decade’s most puzzling unsolved killings.

Paul Goodridge, aged 47, a security consultant from Kent, was charged in February 1989 with the murder of Daniel Morgan. The private eye had been killed with an axe blow to the head in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London, in March 1987.

Mr Goodridge was remanded in custody after his arrest but released on bail two weeks later. The Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the prosecution against him in May 1989. In 1992, he began a civil action against Hampshire police, who had reinvestigated the murder after allegations made to the Police Complaints Authority of police involvement in the death. Their inquiry led to Mr Goodridge being charged.

Yesterday at Winchester high court, in an agreed statement, it was said that Hampshire police accepted that the charge had been brought against Mr Goodridge “without reasonable and probable cause”, and that there was no basis for a belief that he was involved in the murder. In turn, Mr Goodridge accepted that Hampshire police had not been motivated by malice. No damages were paid.

After the hearing, Mr Goodridge said in a statement: “For nine years I have been branded a murderer. No one can imagine what this had done to myself and my family. I also think about the Morgan family who are still waiting 11 years later for the case to be solved,” he added. “Justice has not been done. I hope one day the truth will prevail about this whole charade. It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.”

Hampshire police said it was abundantly clear that charges against Mr Goodridge were totally without any malice. “Throughout the lengthy lead up to this civil claim, we had strenuously contested all allegations that we were at fault. The agreed statement totally supports our stance and opposition.”

Outside court yesterday Alastair Morgan, the victim’s older brother, supported Mr Goodridge’s plea for the case to be reopened. “The police have not heard the last of this,” he said.

“I want my brother’s killer apprehended and a public inquiry along the lines of the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry into the way the police have handled the case from the very start.”

Alastair Morgan has had meetings with senior Scotland Yard officers about the case. Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, who is his MP, has also raised the issue with Scotland Yard. But the full story of how and why Daniel Morgan met his death has still to emerge.

Daniel Morgan, then 38, worked in a south London detective agency which employed off-duty police officers. According to his brother, he had been unhappy about events at the firm and there were indications he intended to go public with his concerns.

Then on March 10, 1987, he was found in the pub car park with an axe embedded in his head as far as the blade would go. The handle of the axe had been bound with Elastoplast to hide fingerprints. His £800 Rolex watch was missing but £1,000 was found in his pocket.

A month later Morgan’s business partner, Jonathon Rees, and three police officers were arrested in connection with the murder but released without charge. The officers later won damages for false imprisonment. In April 1988, an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, and two months later Hampshire police were appointed by the PCA to look into the conduct of the original Met police investigation and effectively reinvestigate the murder.

Following this re-inquiry, Mr Goodridge and Mr Rees were charged. The prosecution against both of them was discontinued in May 1989 and Mr Rees has also always denied involvement.

Rumours about the murder have circulated ever since. Alastair Morgan and others have campaigned for many years in an effort to see the case finally solved. Mr Morgan had his hopes raised by recent moves in Scotland Yard to investigate police corruption. Reports have suggested that the murder was one of the subjects to be reinvestigated.

Scotland Yard say they are very sympathetic to the Morgan family and would follow any new lead if they believed it could assist them. Alastair Morgan now hopes that the resolution of the Goodridge case could spark that fresh information.

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