Brutal car park axe murder suggests police corruption
Daniel Morgan, a private investigator, was brutally axed to death in the car park of a pub in Sydenham, south-east London on 10th March 1987. In April, just weeks after his body had been found; six people were arrested for questioning in connection with the murder, three of them police officers. One was Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery; the others were Alan Purvis and Peter Foley, all of whom knew Daniel’s business partner, Jonathan Rees. There were no charges and all six were released.
It transpired that DS Sid Fillery was actually a member of the team investigating Daniel’s murder. The investigation continued and subsequently Alan Purvis and Peter Foley won damages as a result of their arrest. Daniel’s family remain steadfast and determined to prove there was police involvement in Daniel’s killing.
Daniel Morgan was born in Singapore in 1949. His father, an Arnhem veteran, was an army officer and Daniel grew up in Gwent in Wales. Originally he worked for a large south London private investigation firm before setting up his own company, Southern Investigations, in April1984, in Thornton Heath, south London, with another private detective, Jonathon Rees, as his partner. But tensions rose between the two regarding Rees’s very close contacts with police officers in the area, including a detective sergeant Sid Fillery. It also transpired that Daniel may have uncovered evidence of serious police corruption in the months before his death.
On the night Daniel’s murder he and Jonathon Rees met up in the bar of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, planning to meet a friend of Rees called Paul Goodridge, a massively built man who had worked as a show business bodyguard. Goodridge never appeared and Rees drove off, making calls on his car phone as he went.
Daniel Morgan finished his drink, and went into the car park where someone delivered a number of deadly blows to his head. The killer used a Chinese-made Diamond Brand axe. Its handle was taped with Elastoplast’s – to hide any traces of fingerprints – and it was embedded in Daniel’s skull as far as the blade would go. No one has ever been convicted of his murder but the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his death continue to come under fresh scrutiny even today, more than seventeen years later.
At an inquest in April 1988, a bookkeeper employed by Daniel’s company Southern Investigations alleged that his partner, Jonathan Rees, and Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery (a member of the murder squad) had planned the contract killing. Another of Daniel’s bookkeeper’s, Kevin Lennon, also alleged that Fillery planned early retirement and would step into Daniel’s shoes at Southern Investigations. He told the inquest that he had watched the relationship between Rees and Morgan deteriorate.
Giving evidence himself, Rees was adamant that he had no knowledge of what had happened to his partner. He hotly disputed Lennon’s allegations. Asked by his counsel, Julian Nutter, if he murdered Daniel Morgan, he replied: “I did not.” At the end of the inquest, which returned a verdict of unlawful killing, the coroner Sir Montague Levine said the case “left lots of room for much disquiet”.
Fillery had already left the Police force at the time of the inquest and was working together with Rees. The inquest also heard allegations from other witnesses that Fillery had tampered with evidence and attempted to interfere with witnesses during the murder inquiry.
It was stated that in the weeks before his murder Daniel had repeatedly expressed concerns over corrupt police officers in south London.
At the inquest the coroner concluded, “In all the evidence, over the last two weeks, it must be said here and now that there has not been one single forensic shred of evidence to link anybody who gave evidence in this court with the killing of Daniel Morgan. No blood, no fibres, no fingerprints.”
Daniel’s family could not accept this verdict and approached the Complaints Investigation Branch of Scotland Yard to express their concerns. In July 1988, the Police Complaints Authority (now replaced by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) announced that it was conducting an inquiry into the handling of the case and the murder investigation itself.
The inquiry would be led by Hampshire police; its terms of reference were to investigate “all aspects of police involvement arising from the death of Daniel Morgan.” Unknown to Daniel’s family, the remit of this inquiry was secretly changed at a high level meeting of Scotland Yard top brass in December 1988. Hampshire police later charged Jonathan Rees and another civilian with the murder, but the case was dropped before trial.
Rees would later state that Daniel frequently made passes at women clients or wives of clients, and that he had had at least one affair, hinting there could have been a jealous husband or boyfriend on the scene. Daniel was also supposedly due to be interviewed by West Yorkshire police about a fraud he had uncovered. Another story suggested that he had been watching Colombian cocaine dealers on behalf of a public figure whose daughter had become dependent on the drug, and perhaps they contracted his killing. There were stories, too, of enemies he had made in Denmark and Malta.
Daniels older brother, Alastair was also wrongly implicated in the murder in a visit to the investigation headquarters at Sydenham police station. He said he was asked by a detective what he had been doing at the time of the murder: “I told him I had been at a party with about a dozen friends. Ironically, I had actually been playing Trivial Pursuit at the moment my brother had been killed. The tone of the interview shocked me. Having barely come to terms with the fact that my brother was dead, I was totally unprepared for being treated as a suspect.”