Car may solve murder riddle

The Sun - by Mike Sullivan

27th October 2006

The 1957 Austin Healey car had gathered dust for years in a lock-up garage - waiting to reveal secrets of an unsolved murder and a web of police corruption.

It belonged to private eye Daniel Morgan, who had an axe embedded in his head in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, South London, almost 20 years ago.

Cops now believe the dad-of-two was the man who knew too much.

Daniel, 37, is thought to have been silenced to stop him exposing a crime network involving corrupt police officers. The investigation into his murder was allegedly nobbled by bent cops and crucial evidence destroyed. And it seemed his killers had got off.

But 20 detectives reinvestigating the case at a secret HQ away from New Scotland Yard are now confident of making arrests.

The Sun can today reveal how several new key witnesses have been traced and are being briefed at safe houses under the Witness Protection Programme.

Cops also hope the recovery of Daniel’s classic sports car from a South London lock-up last month is a vital breakthrough.

They believe Daniel’s killers were unable to resist taking the valuable motor and may have left vital clues.

Two weeks after his murder, the blue Austin Healey 3000 was moved from a Croydon garage that Daniel rented to restore his car. When recovered, the wheels were gone and it had been sprayed red.

The current owner told police he bought the car from South London dealer Bunny Gillam. He has since died but cops believe an associate of one of Danny’s killers gave it to him to sell.

The Met's Det Chief Supt David Cook, leading the new inquiry, said: “The car could be the icing on the cake for us. It went missing soon after Danny died.”

“We don’t believe the person who sold it to the current owner had anything to do with the murder, but we do think he may have been connected to those responsible.”

“We are now trying to piece together the car’s history.”

A fortnight after his murder, Daniel’s wife Iris was told by his business partner to collect the car from the Croydon garage.

But their daughter Sarah, who was aged seven when Daniel was murdered, now tells The Sun: “The car had gone when Mum got to the garage. We’ve been told it was then worth £15,000 - a lot to my mum, who had lost her husband and had two children. And Dad’s killers were so greedy they just couldn’t resist taking the car.”

“They rubbed salt in our wounds and now I hope Dad’s car returns to haunt them.”

Daniel’s body was found slumped by his BMW at the Golden Lion at 9.40pm on March 10, 1987. Stuck in his head was the axe. Tape was wound round the handle to ensure no fingerprints were left.

His business partner Jonathan Rees and Met Police detective sergeant Sid Fillery emerged as suspects for the murder.

Fillery was among a number of cops who moonlighted for Daniel’s Southern Investigations agency and he went on to become Rees’s partner after Daniel’s murder.

Daniel’s relationship with Rees had become fraught over the latter’s business methods and the use of cops to carry out security jobs. Tensions between the partners then got worse in March 1986 when Rees claimed he was robbed of £18,000 that he was guarding for an auction firm. The auctioneers believed it was a sham and they launched a civil claim against Southern Investigations.

Rees agreed to pay back the cash and wanted to take it from company accounts but Daniel refused. In his bid to remove Daniel from their firm, Rees is then alleged to have tried to have him arrested for drink-driving.

Company bookkeeper Kevin Lennon told Daniel’s inquest how Rees had told him, “I’ve got the perfect solution for Daniel’s murder. My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it.” Daniel met Rees at the Golden Lion on the night of his murder. Rees left him at the bar and 15 minutes later Daniel walked out to his death.

Because the murder happened on Catford Police’s patch, among the cops assigned to the case was Fillery, who did not tell his superiors about his link to Daniel or the company.

Fillery was involved in the search of Southern Investigations’ offices in Thornton Heath. Crucial company files and Daniel’s diary were later discovered missing.

And when Rees was quizzed over Daniel’s murder one of the interviewing officers was Fillery.

Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair conceded last year that the first investigation into Daniel’s murder had been “compromised”. Rees and Fillery were held over the murder in April 1987 but never charged - and both deny the murder.

After the inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing the following year, Hampshire Police reviewed the case. Rees was charged with murder in 1989 but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

Fillery had obtained a medical discharge from the police and joined Rees as a partner in the firm, to the fury of Daniel’s family who campaigned for justice. The Met’s then Commissioner Lord Condon promised in November 1997 to review the case again.

The next year anti-corruption officers planted a bug in Southern Investigations’ offices in a bid to trap them talking about the murder. Nothing emerged. But it did unearth a police plot led by Rees to fit up an innocent woman with cocaine, so that her estranged husband could win custody of their child.

Anti-corruption police moved in and Rees was given a six-year jail term, increased to seven after appeal - and detective constable Austin Warnes was sentenced to four years.

In 2002, the Met carried out its third inquiry into Daniel’s murder. It failed when the CPS ruled there was not enough evidence to charge.

But Fillery was convicted at Bow Street Magistrates with possession of indecent material of children found on his computer when he was arrested.

The fourth inquiry into Daniel’s murder began in secret last year. And Det Chief Supt Cook says it is “heading in the right direction.”

He added: “We have made significant inroads. I am now confident I have a clear picture emerging and a lot more evidence.”

Daniel’s brother Alistair, inset left, who has campaigned tirelessly for justice, said: “I believe the murder of my brother is a damning indictment of the criminal justice system. There is no doubt at all in my mind that police were involved in the murder of my brother.”

“Afterwards there was a cover- up. The integrity of the police has been seriously jeopardised.”

“But at long last I now believe the police are getting to grips with it and we are now hopeful it is going to be resolved soon.”

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