Arrests expected in 15 year old axe murder

The Observer - by Ian Thomson and Tony Thompson

29th September 2002

Detectives investigating one of Britain’s most notorious unsolved murders are close to a major breakthrough and expect to make arrests within days, The Observer can reveal.

The death of private eye Daniel Morgan, found 15 years ago in the car park of a pub in Sydenham, south London, with an axe in his head, has been the subject of two massive police investigations costing more than 1 million pounds, but no one has been convicted. The case became controversial when it was suggested that Morgan, a father of two, had been murdered because he was about to expose a web of corruption linking road rage killer Kenneth Noye and several senior police officers.

After a fresh appeal on Crimewatch earlier this year, the officer leading the inquiry, Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, believes he now has the final piece of the puzzle. “Any investigation into Morgan’s death has to begin with the near-certainty that it was a conspiracy and not the work of a lone individual. Not all those involved may have known that Morgan was going to be killed, but they certainly knew something was going to happen to him,” he told The Observer

Morgan ran his own company, Southern Investigations, with business partner Jonathon Rees. Rees hired off-duty police officers to work for the agency, though it was illegal for officers to moonlight in this way. The different working methods of the two men was a source of tension. On the evening before he died, Morgan went to the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham to meet two police friends from the local crime squad. Rees and Detective Constable Sidney Fillery - one of the officers Rees employed - also turned up.

A row erupted between Morgan and Fillery. Morgan shouted that he was opposed to hiring officers of Fillery’s sort as they reflected badly on Southern Investigations. Fillery, a drinking partner of Rees and a serving officer for 23 years, retaliated that he did not care for Morgan.

The following evening, Morgan and Rees met again in the pub. Rees left at 9pm, leaving Morgan to finish some paperwork. Morgan left the pub 15 minutes later. His body was found in a pool of blood in the rear car park at 9.40pm. Although Morgan’s £830 Rolex watch was missing, £1,100 in notes in his trouser pocket - part of a payment to his agency - had been left untouched, ruling out robbery as a motive.

At the coroner’s inquest in 1988, it was alleged by the agency’s former bookkeeper, Kevin Lennon, that Rees had arranged a £1,000 contract for Morgan’s murder. Rees and three police friends were said to have planned to stage it within the jurisdiction of Catford so that they could suppress any evidence. Several Catford officers were arrested. In 1988 the coroner exonerated all the officers and they received damages from the Metropolitan Police for false imprisonment.

A year after the inquest, Rees was arrested and charged in connection with the killing, but the police dropped all proceedings after a few months. Rees continued to run Southern Investigation along with his new business partner - Fillery - until 1999, when he was jailed in a drugs conspiracy case.

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