Daniel Morgan: What happened in the case of the murdered private detective?

Daniel Morgan: What happened in the case of the murdered private detective?

A decision by the Home Office to delay a review into the unsolved 1987 murder of British private detective Daniel Morgan has been described as “a kick in the teeth” by the deceased’s family.

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel was due to publish its findings into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the investigation into his death on 17 May, only for the government to intervene saying it wanted to review the document to ensure it complied with human rights considerations and did not compromise national security.

The panel was established by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2013 to address unanswered questions relating to the murder, including the police handling of the case, the role corruption might have played in protecting Morgan’s killer and the links between private eyes, police and journalists connected to the case.

In a statement, Morgan’s relatives attacked Ms May’s successor, Priti Patel, describing her intervention as “unnecessary and inconsistent with the panel’s independence.”

“It is an outrage which betrays her ignorance – and the ignorance of those advising her – with regard to her powers in law and the panel’s terms of reference,” they said.

“It also reveals a disturbing disregard for the public interest in safeguarding the independence of the panel and its report.”

Despite an inquest and five police inquiries into the 38-year-old’s murder in the cark park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south east London, on 10 March 1987, no one has been brought to justice over the father-of-two’s death, with the Met Police admitting corruption had hampered the original murder investigation.

Daniel John Morgan was born in Singapore on 3 November 1949, the son of an army officer.

He and his siblings were raised in Monmouthshire in South Wales and Morgan attended agricultural college in Usk as a teenager before spending time in Denmark, gaining practical experience in farming.

He subsequently changed career to work as a salesman and travel guide, finally settling in Norwood, London, in his late 20s, married with a wife and two children.

In January 1977, Morgan decided to put his exceptional memory for details to use by going to work as a private detective, three years later setting up his own agency, DJM Investigations.

In 1981, the business was renamed Southern Investigations and opened its first office in Thornton Heath, Greater London.

On the night of his death, Morgan had a drink with his partner, Jonathan Rees, at the Golden Lion before heading to his BMW to return home.

He was found dead shortly after, slumped beside the car with an axe wound in the back of his head.

Notes he had been seen writing earlier had been stolen from the torn trouser pockets of his freshly dry-cleaned suit and a Rolex wrist watch taken from his person but his wallet and the cash it contained was left untouched.

Catford police station assigned detective sergeant Sid Fillery to work on the case, unaware that Fillery had previously moonlighted at Southern Investigations off the books.

Rees, Fillery, brothers Glenn and Garry Vian and two Met officers were arrested on suspicion of murder in April 1987 but all were eventually released without charge.

At an inquest into the killing a year later, Rees was alleged to have told Southern’s accountant, Kevin Lennon, that friends of his within the ranks of the local constabulary were going to murder Morgan so that Fillery could replace him as Rees’s business partner.

“My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it,” Lennon claimed Rees had told him. “Those police officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange it.”

Fillery would subsequently retire from the force on medical grounds and did indeed eventually succeed Morgan at Southern. He faced accusations of evidence and witness tampering at the inquest, at which Rees denied murdering Morgan.

That summer, police constable Alan “Taffy” Holmes, an acquaintance of Morgan’s with whom the deceased is alleged to have collaborated on exposing police corruption, was found dead in mysterious circumstances.

Between 1988 and 2006, five inquiries were conducted into Morgan’s murder, with Rees and another man accused in February 1989 before the charges were dropped in May for want of evidence.

Rees was though found guilty of planting cocaine on an innocent woman to discredit her during a child custody battle in 2000 and sentenced to seven years in prison, after which he would continue to find work on the payroll of The News of the World under the editorship of Andy Coulson.

Investigators bugged the offices of Southern Investigations and the home of Glenn Vian as part of the inquiries into “one of the worst-kept secrets in south east London”, as it would be labelled by detective superintendent David Cook, before Rees, the Vian brothers and builder James Cook were arrested in April 2008 on suspicion of murder. Fillery was also arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Their trial at the Old Bailey finally collapsed in March 2011 following the dismissal of three supergrass witnesses and was abandoned by Sir Keir Starmer, then-director of public prosecutions.

Ms May reopened the matter on 10 May 2013 by announcing a new independent inquiry, the findings of which have now been held up by the intervention of Ms Patel.

Meanwhile, Rees, Fillery, James Cook and the Vian brothers launched a £4 million lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution in October 2014.

Fillery was awarded £25,000 in interim damages by the High Court in April 2017 with Rees and the Vians losing their case before appealing and eventually winning damages of £414,000 in 2019.

Interest in the killing of Daniel Morgan remains intense 24 years on, with Peter Jukes’s 10-part podcast Untold examining it in May 2016 and Channel 4’s documentary series Murder in the Car Park following last June.