Car park axe killing remains a mystery

The Observer - by Tony Thompson

12th September 2004

It is one of Britain’s most enduring murder mysteries. In March 1987 private detective Daniel Morgan was found in the car park of the Golden Lion in Sydenham, south London, with an axe buried in his head. Morgan’s business partner, with whom he had fallen out, was friendly with a number of police officers who have since been accused of being implicated in the killing. Allegations of police involvement were made at the inquest but, in spite of hundreds of statements, hours of covert surveillance and four investigations that identified several key suspects, no one has ever been charged.

Last week Morgan’s family were granted legal aid to attempt to compel the Home Secretary to order a public inquiry into the murder, a request he has refused despite several prominent MPs insisting that it is the only way to resolve the case.

This latest development has emerged as Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, launches a website that he hopes will help to focus attention on his brother’s case. “I believe Daniel was murdered to prevent him going public with information about police corruption,” he says. “He used to tell me that corruption was absolutely everywhere and that I would not believe the scale of it. I believe his murder proves that.”

This year Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, told the House of Commons that a full judicial inquiry was “the only way of obtaining fresh and independent scrutiny of the murder and of the circumstances in which successive investigations into it have come to nothing”.

The inquest, which took place in April 1988 and ended in a verdict of unlawful killing, heard allegations of involvement by Metropolitan Police officers in the murder and in covering up that involvement. It also heard claims that Jonathan Rees, Daniel Morgan’s business partner in their private detective company, Southern Investigations Ltd, had talked about having Daniel killed and arranging for police officers at Catford CID to be involved in the murder and its subsequent cover-up.

Morgan had enjoyed a number of careers before starting up Southern Investigations. Once the agency was established, he took on Jonathan Rees as his business partner, chiefly to take advantage of his contacts with the local police. According to the company bookkeeper, Kevin Lennon, Morgan and Rees got on well at first, but the relationship soon began to fall apart over differences in their approach to work.

The relationship between the two men came to a head when Southern Investigations was asked to provide security for a car auction company in Charlton, south London. Though Morgan did not want the work, Rees agreed and took the job on, using some of his police friends to provide the security work, moonlighting while off duty. On 18 March 1986 Rees was in charge of the night’s takings for the auction, which amounted to more than £18,000. He took the money to a local bank, but discovered the night safe had been glued shut. He decided to take it home, but claimed it was stolen on his doorstep by two men who sprayed noxious liquid in his face.

No one was ever caught in connection with the robbery. Many believed the attack was a sham, including the car auction company, which demanded the return of its money. Rees agreed to repay the cash and wanted to take it from the Southern Investigations company account, but Morgan refused to allow him to do so, arguing that the loss had been down to Rees alone.

Desperate to take control of the company, Rees allegedly tried on several occasions to have Morgan arrested for drink-driving, knowing that if he lost his licence he would have to give up working at the agency, but to no avail.

According to Lennon’s statement, read at the inquest, Rees soon decided his only option was to have Morgan killed. “John Rees explained that, when or after Daniel Morgan had been killed, he would be replaced by a friend of his who was a serving policeman, Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery.”

Lennon also told the inquest that Rees said to him: “I’ve got the perfect solution for Daniel’s murder. My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it.” Lennon added: “He went on to explain to me that if they didn’t do it themselves the police would arrange for some person over whom they had some criminal charge pending to carry out Daniel’s murder.”

In the hours after Daniel’s death a murder inquiry was launched headed by Detective Superintendent Douglas Campbell. One of the detectives assigned to the squad was none other that Detective Sergeant Fillery.

Roger Williams told the House of Commons: “Not only was Sid Fillery among those officers, but he played a key role in the initial murder inquiry during the first four so-called golden days before he was required to withdraw from the murder squad for reasons of personal involvement with the primary suspect, Jonathan Rees. During those four days, Fillery was given the opportunity to manage the first interview under caution with Rees, and to take possession of key incriminating files from the premises of Southern Investigations Ltd, including Daniel’s diary, which has never since been found.”

Rees, Fillery and two other police officers were subsequently arrested in connection with the murder, but no charges were ever brought. Fillery went on to take up joint ownership of Southern Investigations.

Pressure from Morgan’s family and intelligence suggesting that Fillery and Rees were involved in activities with corrupt police officers led to the planting of a bug in the Southern Investigations office in June 1998. Fillery was heard discussing his fears that a police officer who had been jailed for corruption might have given information about the Morgan murder, but little other relevant evidence emerged.

A final investigation ended with a file being submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service which, despite compelling evidence, declined to bring a prosecution. “Only a public inquiry will reveal the truth of what happened to my brother,” Alastair Morgan said.

Follow Justice4Daniel on Twitter
Follow Alastair Morgan on Twitter

Link to the website of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel
Return to the top of this page