The murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan remains one of London’s most notorious unsolved cases.
On March 10, 1987, the 37 year-old father-of-two was hacked to death with an axe outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham.
Why was he killed? His family, including brother Alastair, are convinced that Daniel was close to exposing a group of corrupt police officers, but five investigations have failed to provide an answer or bring his killers to justice.
Daniel Morgan ran a detective agency called Southern Investigations. The night he was killed he had a 90-minute meeting with his business partner Jonathan Rees at the Golden Lion. At 9pm he left by a back entrance to get to the car park, a Rolex watch on his wrist and £1,100 in his pocket.
He was later found lying on the ground near his car with an axe embedded in the side of his head. The Rolex was missing but the cash remained.
The following month Rees, his brothers in law Garry and Glenn Vian, and Sid Fillery, one of the Catford police station detectives initially assigned to the case, were arrested, only to be released without charge.
At the inquest in 1988, the bookkeeper at Southern Investigations alleged that Rees and Fillery planned the contract killing. By this time Fillery had retired and joined the agency as Rees’ new partner.
The pair went on to carry out work for a number of tabloid newspapers including the News of the World and are said to have provided the information for exposes of celebrities, politicans and royalty.
A second inquiry by Hampshire Police began on 24 June 1988 following a complaint by the Morgan family to Home Secretary Douglas Hurd. Rees was again arrested, but the charges were dropped.
Between June 1998 and May 1999 police monitored the offices of Southern Investigations as part of a third investigation. Although it did not assist the murder enquiry, it did provide evidence that Rees was in a plot to frame model Kim James with drugs to help her husband win custody of their son. In December 2000 he was jailed for six years at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
A fourth investigation began in 2002 but a year later the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to go ahead with a case against Rees and two others on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The last, flawed attempt began in 2006. Two years later Rees, Garry Vian, Glenn Vian and James Cook were charged with murder and Sidney Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice.
It was expected the trial would take place in April 2009. Two years of legal wrangling over disclosure of evidence and police handling of witnesses followed. In February 2010 a judge stopped the case against Sidney Fillery after excluding the evidence of a key witness. The charges against Cook were dropped in November. The entire case collapsed in March 2011 after prosecutors accepted they could no longer guarantee that full disclosure of evidence could be made to the defence.
The Metropolitan Police have since admitted that the original investigation in 1987 was tainted by police corruption.
Alastair Morgan commented at the end of the case: “We have encountered stubborn obstruction and worse at the highest levels of the Metropolitan police. We have found an impotent police complaints system, and we have met with inertia or worse on the part of successive governments. We have been failed utterly by all of the institutions designed to protect us.”
On 10 May 2013 the Home Secretary Theresa May announced an independent judge-led inquiry would look into the circumstances of the case.
The remit of the panel involves addressing questions related to “police involvement in the murder, the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice and the failure to confront that corruption, the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them.”
Links and further reading:
The website set up by Daniel Morgan’s family www.justice4daniel.org
Daniel’s brother was also involved in the podcast series (and book) Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder Exposed.
Two other books cover the case in depth: Bent Coppers: The inside story of Scotland Yard’s battle against police corruption (Graeme McLagan) and Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard (Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn).
‘Daniel Morgan murder, 24 years, five police enquiries but no justice‘, Guardian, March 11, 2011.
Original pictures of the murder scene in 1987 can be found in ‘Corrupt police are blamed for £50m collapse of murder case‘, Daily Mail, March 11, 2011.
‘Phone Hacking Scandal: Rees obtained information using dark arts‘, Guardian, June 8, 2011.
‘News of the World spied on detective during murder enquiry,’ Telegraph, July 5, 2011.
The website of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which was set up in May 2013 but has still not published its report.