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Jonathan Rees was drinking with his business partner, 37-year-old private investigator Daniel Morgan, at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, on 10 March 1987. Morgan left the pub at 9pm, fifteen minutes after Rees departed. As Morgan unlocked his BMW he was hit in the back of the head with an axe. The fourth and final blow was so ferocious that the blade fused with Morgan’s cheekbone.
Why was Daniel Morgan killed? Threats of violence are an occupational hazard in the seedy and squalid world of private detection. David Bray, a bailiff at Morgan and Rees’s firm Southern Investigations, claimed that Morgan had been having an affair with a local lady and that “the husband had found out about them and had phoned Danny at home and threatened to kill him.”
A few weeks prior to his murder, a West London repossession led to Morgan receiving a phone call: “Living on borrowed time. You’re a dead man.”
But the hit on Morgan appears professional: sticking plaster wrapped around the axe handle provided extra grip while rendering fingerprint identification impossible.
Five police investigations at a cost of £50 million have been conducted into the murder of Daniel Morgan. The stench of Met corruption remains strong. At the crime scene, the police failed to stop people from leaving the Golden Lion or to collect glasses and ashtrays for prints.
As the last known person to see Morgan alive, it was important for Rees (a freemason like more than a few policemen) to be questioned thoroughly. Rees was interviewed by his drinking buddy and confidante Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, who moonlighted for Southern Investigations. Neither were Rees’s car nor clothes examined forensically. After Fillery visited the company offices, Morgan’s desk diary for 1987 disappeared.
According to senior investigating officer Douglas Campbell, Fillery had “ripped the guts out of the case”. Three weeks later, Rees, his two crooked brothers-in-law, Fillery and two cops from Catford nick – within whose bounds Morgan was killed – were arrested for murder. The matter was then dropped.
Ex-DS Sid Fillery then went on to work at Southern Investigations. As journalists Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn conclude:
In essence, Rees’s best friend who ended up playing an instrumental role in the bungled murder inquiry had effortlessly left the Yard on a full medical pension, only to resurface in Daniel’s private investigation agency filling the dead man’s shoes and working in partnership with the main murder suspect.
Southern Investigations under the name Law and Commercial went on to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from newspapers – £116,000 a year from the News of the World alone in 1996/97. In the words of Peter Jukes Southern Investigations was a “one-shop stop for illicit information because of their ability to blag, bug, burgle and bribe cops.”
In concert with senior News International employee Alex Marunchak, the firm acted to destabilize the fourth investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan by placing Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook under surveillance.
Earlier this year, Dave Cook himself was found to have perverted the course of justice in his pursuit of Rees and co, though Mr Justice Mitting ruled that Cook “genuinely” believed men to be guilty.
The Met believe today that Morgan was hawking a story around Fleet Street concerning bent cops, south London drug dealers and Irish paramilitaries. Apparently detective constable Alan “Taffy” Holmes, who had worked on the Brinks Mat robbery investigation (1983 see https://londonlowlife.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/detective-john-fordham-and-the-curse-of-brinks-mat/), was one of Morgan’s sources.
Holmes was master of the Manor of Bensham Masonic Lodge, Croydon. Four months after Morgan’s death, Holmes killed himself. According to a journalist, Holmes was “so bent that his police colleagues openly joked that the undertaker wouldn’t be able to straighten him out long enough to nail down the coffin lid.” At his funeral, one wreath bore the tribute: “To our brave, wonderful and worshipful master who chose death rather than dishonour his friends and workmates.”
In 2013 the then Home Secretary Theresa May appointed the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel to:
shine a light on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan’s murder, its background and the handling of the case since 1987. In doing so the Panel is seeking to address questions arising, in particular those relating to:
- police involvement in Daniel Morgan’s 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; and
- 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.
Alastair Morgan has spent the past three decade fighting for justice for his brother Daniel. While supporting the Independent Panel, Alastair initially hoped for a judicial inquiry into Daniel’s murder. Alastair believes this request was refused because of the embarrassment around ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson’s employment as David Cameron’s director of communications.
Given that investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan have been compromised from the start, what better way could the government hope to achieve some kind of justice for Daniel than by listening to Alastair and commencing with Leveson Two?
- David Connett, “Daniel Morgan Murder: Unsolved 1987 puts the Met Police in the Dock”, Independent, 12 February 2016 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/daniel-morgan-murder-unsolved-1987-crime-puts-the-met-police-in-the-dock-a6866621.html
- Nick Davies, “Jonathan Rees: Private Investigator who Ran Empire of Tabloid Corruption”, Guardian, 11 March 2011 https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/mar/11/jonathan-rees-private-investigator-tabloid
- Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn, Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard (London: Bloomsbury, 2nd edn., 2012).
- Peter Jukes, “The News of the World and the Daniel Morgan Murder: The Key Reason for Leveson Two”, Byline, 6 March 2016 https://www.byline.com/column/2/article/875
- Graeme McLagan, Bent Coppers: The Inside Story of Scotland Yard’s Battle against Police Corruption (London: Orion, 2003).
- Martin Short, Inside the Brotherhood: Further Secrets of the Freemasons (London: Grafton, 1990).
- “Daniel Morgan Family Claim Judicial Inquiry Refused Because of Andy Coulson Links”, Wales Online, 21 March 2013 http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/daniel-morgan-family-claim-judicial-1806762
- “Daniel Morgan Murder: Cook feels the Heat”, Private Eye, no. 1438. 24 February-9 March 2017.