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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Daniel Morgan murder (Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard)
This carries on from the following post (click here)
Death of an expert witness
The elimination of private detective Daniel Morgan was planned with unusual care. At around 9pm on 10 March 1987 he left a meeting in the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, and walked into the rear car park. As he unlocked the door of his BMW, someone wielding a huge axe attacked him from behind.
The assailant felled Daniel with four ferocious blows to the head. He was already on his back when the crowning blow struck. It was inflicted with specially concentrated venom – in all probability to ensure that if Daniel was found before his final breath, he could speak no whisper and leave no clue. As the private detective’s lifeblood drained into the tarmac, the murderer slipped away, leaving the axe in his face.
Daniel Morgan was just thirty-seven years old and a father of two very young children.
The next day, before the pathologist began the autopsy he required considerable assistance just to extract the murder weapon. It had been fused with Danny’s cheekbone. Preliminary analysis made it pretty clear this was a professional hit. The 14-inch wooden axe handle had been shrewdly modified. It was expertly wound with Elastoplast to prevent slippage and allow the killer to boost directional control.
At the inquest it was suggested that the location for the killing was specially chosen to fall within the area of Catford police station. The apparent purpose of this particular piece of strategic planning was as sinister as it was simple – to contaminate the murder investigation from the inside, restraining and frustrating the gathering of evidence while keeping well ahead of any honest cop who might be assigned to the murder inquiry. With the integrity of the investigative process subverted, the murder would become what the police call “a sticker” and conveniently remain unsolved.
Today this is precisely the position. The murderer and his co-conspirators remain at large. Bust so does a pungent aura of police corruption. Significantly, the Daniel Morgan murder came just days after the private detective began taking steps to expose that corruption. Because of this, the killing still stalks Scotland Yard, a ghost unexorcised.
Daniel John Morgan was born on 3 November 1949, the middle of three children. The Morgan family line had its roots in Pontardawe, the Welsh valleys then renowned for coal mining. His father grew up in the interwar depression, an especially tough period in the valleys. At Arnhem during the Second World War, Daniel’s father was not only badly wounded but also taken as a prisoner of war. On his liberation in 1945 he had the ranks of captain and continued in service. There he met his wife Isobel who was working as an army telephonist. Later, the couple moved to Singapore where their sons Alistair and then Daniel were born, followed by Jane.
Daniel was always something of an outsider; maybe it was his clubfoot. He didn’t perform well academically in his early rounds within the British education system. At grammar school he preferred wood and metal work to any other subjects. After his father died suddenly at forty-one from emphysema, Daniel went to agricultural college. He then worked on a farm in Denmark for two years learning the language while tilling the fields and chatting up the local talent.
In the late 1970s Daniel moved to London. His mother had remarried, and her new husband got him a job at a south London private detective agency called Madigans. Daniel learned the ropes in the unusual half world, half underworld of private investigation, tracing runaways and rate defaulters for local authorities and proving infidelities for other clients. In this early outpost of the information-sleaze economy, private eyes routinely gained access to confidential information supposedly held only by the state. Madigans, for example, had acquired a set of the reverse directories produced by the Post Office for state agencies, which covered all streets and phone numbers throughout Britain.
Jobs could often be accomplished even more speedily and more profitably with the help of other state assets – local police officers. They could help a private eye in a variety of ways in return for “a drink”, London speak for a payoff.
By 1983 Daniel felt he had mastered the profession of a private eye. He and his Scots-born wife, Iris, were by then the parents of two young children – a daughter called Sarah and a son, also named Daniel. With these new responsibilities went a need for better pay, a pressure further compounded by Daniel’s sense that Madigans cramped his style. He felt he could run a successful business himself.
Daniel first set up a small operation called DJM investigations, opening an office in Thornton Heath, south London. He had been shrewd enough to cultivate good relations with a number of key clients during his time at Madigans and lured some of them away with him when he left. Soon his client list involved tracing and bailiffing work for credit companies, banks and big law firms.
Daniel then set up Southern Investigation, recruiting a bookkeeper called Kevin Lennon as company secretary and a former Madigan employee, Jonathan Rees*, as a fellow director. A tough, compact and exceptionally garrulous former merchant seaman with a Yorkshire accent in marked contrast to his Welsh family name, Rees, then 32, had some contacts in the local underworld and powerful connections in the local police, especially at Catford.
*NB Jonathan Rees was later part of the phone hacking scandal in 2011. It was revealed that he had earned £150,000 a year from the News of the World for supplying illegally obtained information about people in the public eye.
The news that her youngest son had been killed came to Isobel Morgan in the early hours of 11 March 1987 during a phone call from the police. After steadying herself, she contacted her remaining children, Alastair and Jane. When Isobel could manage to get the words out she gave them all the information she had. “Dan’s dead...Murdered...That’s all I’ve been told”.
Alastair drove immediately from his home in Hampshire to London to comfort Iris, his brother’s widow. On the way there he resolved to find out what he could about Daniel’s last few days. Where had he been? What had he been working on? Who had he met at the Golden Lion pub before he was murdered?
Alastair’s loyalty to Daniel ran deep. They’d spent fifteen years as boys sharing a room. Later as men the two became closer still. When Alastair first returned to England after separating from his Swedish wife, Daniel cheered him up and found him a temporary job working by his side in Madigans.
Alastair kept the job until he was ready to move on. But during his time there he developed a view of Jonathan Rees. He found Rees had a strong authoritarian streak and seriously enjoyed the exercise of power that went with his job as a bailiff evicting squatters and gypsies. Rees was also loud mouthed and aggressive – with a strong rhetorical adherence to racist views that expressed his fear of the supposed swamping of the traditional British way of life.
During his drive to London, Alastair also puzzled over something his brother had told him some months earlier, concerning the disappearance of £18,280.62 in cash during a robbery outside Rees’s home.
Behind Daniel’s back, Rees had done a private job to protect the transit of cash for Belmont Car Auctions. The company and Daniel felt Ree’s explanation for carrying so much cash strained credulity. They suspected it was a scam. Rees had claimed he took the money home because the night safe of the bank had mysteriously been superglued. First he dropped off his brothers-in-law, Glen and Gary Vian, two ne’er-do-wells he had recruited to provide security. When he arrived home he was forced to park some distance from his house, whereupon two unidentified men apparently squirted ammonia in his eyes and robbed the money.
As he approached London, Alastair recalled his last conversation with his brother. Daniel had forcefully underlined his suspicions about the robbery and feared his company now faced ruin because Southern Investigations had no insurance for carrying cash. Furthermore, Daniel had told his brother Belmont was suing for the money. By the time Alastair arrived in London he was in a well of deep anxiety.
At the police incident room in Sydenham, Alastair learned the gruesome details of his brother’s killing. Rees, he discovered, had pressed Daniel to come to the Golden Lion and then left just before the attack. Equally strange, while one of Daniel’s trouser pockets had been torn open during the attack, another containing credit cards and £1,000 in cash was untouched. Yet Daniel’s watch was stolen in what, Alastair suspected, was a clumsy attempt to camouflage the murder as a mugging. More intriguing still was word that his brother had been seen writing something on pieces of paper in the pub just before he died. But no notes were found.
Alastair found himself dealing with a middle-aged detective sergeant called Sid Fillery from the murder inquiry. He was a well-padded confident man with powerful fists and a ready line in conversation. Alastair had met him briefly once before when he’d been out drinking with Daniel. At first the resumption of the relationship seemed reassuring. But very soon Alastair had cause to re-assess.
He had no idea how active Fillery had been in the immediate aftermath of the murder. Nor was he aware just how close the friendship between Fillery and Rees had become. They were the best of friends and confidants. The nature of this relationship was by then a matter of extraordinary importance, for Rees was under suspicion not only for the Belmont Car Auction robbery but also for the axe murder of his business partner.
The more Alastair learned about their relationship the more disingenuous Sid Fillery appeared. It emerged he had helped introduce Rees to Belmont.
In addition, Alastair discovered that 24 hours before the murder, Fillery and Rees were drinking at the Golden Lion. The session included a crowd of Catford cops. A row erupted, with some pushing and shoving. Those present would later claim the argument was over whether British policemen should routinely carry guns, with Daniel apparently taking a lone, dissenting view. Another theory is that the Belmont robbery and the missing £18,000 was the real cause of the row.
Rees and Fillery had been out drinking together almost every night in the days before the murder, Alastair learned. In that same period his brother was growing increasingly sceptical about the Belmont robbery and considering whether he should distance himself from Rees and file an entirely separate defence. Daniel was even thinking about bringing in someone else to replace Rees in the business.
It transpired that on the day of the murder Daniel had reluctantly agreed to return to the Golden Lion the night after the row to meet Rees, who told him a man called Paul Goodridge would meet them there to discuss lending Rees money.
Goodridge, a self-styled bodyguard, never turned up at the pub. And at around 8.45pm Rees left the Golden Lion, making him the last known person to see Daniel alive. This one fact had two immediate consequences. It made Rees an obvious suspect – a man to be carefully and neutrally questioned until he could be ruled in or out. Second, it meant that someone other than his best friend in the local police force should have been deployed to investigate and preserve all available evidence. Remarkably none of this was done.
Instead, Fillery interviewed Rees soon after the murder and took his witness statement in which no mention was made of their contact immediately before the murder. Rees was then allowed to leave the station without either his clothes or his car being forensically examined. Fillery had simply told his best friend he could bring them back later.
Alastair couldn’t understand how Fillery was allowed anywhere near the murder inquiry, let alone in such a direct role. He started asking awkward questions. While he waited for answers, Fillery suggested to the Morgan family that Alastair should go back home to Hampshire and not get in the way of the police investigation.
“Eventually I had to go home to get on with my own work”, says Alastair, a translator. “I still made regular calls to the murder squad who could give me little assurance of any progress in the case. Like all the rest of the family I was uneasy”.
Unease turned to alarm when he spoke to his brother’s office manager. Peter Newby said Fillery had visited the detective agency to recover documents the morning after the murder. He claimed the detective filled a black plastic bin liner after specifically asking for at least one file by name – Belmont Car Auctions. Fillery has always denied this. Wherever the truth lies, the Belmont file has never been seen again. As Alastair puts it, “Someone had it”. Significantly, Daniel’s 1987 desk diary had also disappeared.
DS Sid Fillery came off the Morgan murder inquiry after four days. He says as soon as he realised there was a conflict of interest over his relationship with Rees he withdrew. But the senior officer running the murder inquiry claimed at the inquest that he had removed Fillery.
Three weeks later, Fillery was arrested in connection with the murder along with Rees and four others – Glen and Gary Vian, Rees’s brothers-in-law, and two constables from Catford. They were just as suddenly released, without charge and again without anyone troubling to put the Moran family in the picture. They learned of the arrests from the media. Alastair and his mother, Isobel, kept asking questions, but the family liaison was very poor and the Morgans felt they were being deliberately kept in the dark.
Fillery’s closeness to Rees was not the only flaw in the murder investigation. When Alastair went to the Golden Lion the morning after the murder he saw there was no proper crime scene cordon. This meant key evidence could have been missed or even taken away.
The Morgan family also struggled with the unexplained delay in holding an inquest into Daniel’s death. One month before it opened in April 1988 Fillery was allowed to leave the force on a full medical pension. The officer complained of suffering from depression after 22 years’ service.
“We were very unhappy about him leaving the force”, says Alastair, “and we began telling people in high places just how seriously we viewed the situation”. He wrote to the then Conservative home secretary, Douglas Hurd, asking that he authorise a substantial reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest and conviction. “I stressed strongly in my letter that the inference of possible police involvement in the murder was now very serious”, says Alastair. Hurd did nothing, which was somewhat ironic in that in his spare time the home secretary wrote whodunit novels.
In a private latter to the late Paul Keel, the Guardian crime correspondent and one of the only journalists to take a serious interest in the background to Daniel’s killing, Alastair expressed the family’s growing sense of frustration: “Sometimes I get the feeling that individual coppers are so damned busy watching their own backs and guarding their precious reputations that they have little energy left to pinpoint real villains. The really good ones get harassed out by cynical and complacent colleagues”.
“An inquest is due in the fairly near future. But the police are singularly uninformative about all the ins and outs of the hearing, and reading between the lines of their almost total silence, I get the feeling that they themselves don’t feel particularly comfortable about it...Perhaps someone is going to finish up getting egg on their face”.
At last, 13 months after the murder, the inquest opened. But Scotland Yard advised Iris Morgan, Daniel’s widow, that there was no need for the family to be legally represented.
Alastair was appalled. “My mother was, if this is possible, even more suspicious than I was of what was going on. Despite her slender means and with a great deal of help from our solicitor at the time, she arranged for us to have a barrister present to protect our interests and cross-examine witnesses”.
June Tweedie was their barrister. She arrived at the Southwark Coroner’s Court direct from Gibraltar where she had been involved in another controversial inquest and one with more immediately obvious political remifications - the “Death on the Rock” killing of three IRA members in an SAS ambush, which some argue was part of a shoot-to-kill policy exported from the dirty war in Northern Ireland.
Despite their suspicions, nothing prepared the Morgans for what came out at the inquest. An early and electrifying witness was Kevin Lennon, the bookkeeper and company secretary of Southern Investigations.
Lennon explained he had been friendlier with Rees than with the murdered man; and as a result of this friendship Rees had, he claimed, repeatedly confided in him. Rees had come to hate Daniel, repeatedly referring to him in front of other people as “the little Welsh cripple”, Lennon told the inquest. The two were also rivals over a mistress they shared called Margaret Harrison, a local estate agent.
Lennon claimed Rees repeatedly discussed with him how he intended to get Daniel out of the business. Initially, Lennon told the coroner Rees had confided in him that his plan was to get Daniel breathalysed by his friends at Norbury police station while driving home late one night. This would cost Daniel his driving licence and incapacitate him in the business. Lennon added that to his certain knowledge Rees proceeded to try to make such arrangements on at least three occasions. But the plan never came off for reasons that remain unclear.
However, Lennon saved the most dramatic for last. He told the inquest Rees had asked him if he knew anyone who would kill Daniel. “I formed the opinion that Rees was determined either to kill Daniel Morgan or to have him killed”, Lennon told the coroner, adding, “When he spoke to me about it Rees was calm and unemotional about planning Daniel’s death”.
Lennon also revealed that after Fillery left the force he went to work for Southern Investigations. The Morgan family could scarcely believe their ears. 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.
Cross-examined by Tweedie, Lennon volunteered further particulars of conversations he said he’d had with Rees. The bookkeeper testified that Rees had even discussed who would organise the murder (“Policemen from Catford”) and how much it would cost (“£1,000”).
Lennon again: “When questioned by me, Rees said: ‘These police officers are friends of mine and will either murder Daniel or arrange for his murder...’ He [Rees] went on to explain...that if they didn’t do it themselves the police would arrange for some other person over whom they had some criminal charge pending to carry out Daniel’s murder and in return police proceedings against that person would be dropped. Rees continued to explain to me that Daniel’s murder would be carried out within the jurisdiction of Catford Police station”.
At this point the Morgan family barrister interrupted him: “It was, was it not?”
Tweedie: “The reason for the murder being carried out in that area was because those same Catford police officers would then be involved in the murder investigation and would suppress any information linking the murder with Jon Rees or themselves?”
Lennons: “That is right”
Lennon claimed Rees had discussed murdering Daniel with his wife Sharon. She was therefore a key witness. But she never gave evidence, insisting to the coroner, Sir Montague Levine, that she wasn’t mentally fit enough to attend. The coroner appeared unhappy at her absence. Daily Mirror reporter Sylvia Jones, however, soon tracked down Sharon Rees. She was photographed shopping the day after she lodged her sick note with the Coroner’s Court.
The Mirror’s expose did little to bolster Rees’s credibility when his turn came to give evidence. He categorically denied any involvement in the killing of Daniel Morgan.
It also emerged that the police chose Rees to identify the body to spare the family the trauma. The family felt this was completely unprofessional – if only because it gave a suspect direct access to the corpse before making a statement.
The Morgans then learned of a bizarre undercover operation run in parallel to the bodged murder inquiry. The man in charge, detective superintendent Douglas Campbell, acting alone or with CIB [Complaints Investigation Bureau), was trying to sting Rees and Fillery into confessing their involvement in the murder. However, the detective constable he chose for this undercover role was entirely inappropriate. DC Duncan Hanrahan also had no undercover experience. He was, though, friendly with Rees and Fillery, and a fellow Freemason. Another disqualification was his posting at Norbury police station, where Rees had many other friends whom he was allegedly going to use ahead of the murder to fit up Morgan on a spurious drink drive offence.
Nevertheless, Hanrahan’s evidence was not helpful to Rees. The detective had been the night duty officer who initially dealt with Rees’s claim that he had been robbed of the car auction money. Hanrahan told the inquest he felt it was “an inside job” or “a set up”.
Turning to his undercover role, Hanrahan explained how Rees had discussed obstructing the murder inquiry. Indeed, Hanrahan told the inquiry important leads and information, he had changed his mind in retaliation for the way the murder squad was treating him after his friend Sid Fillery was reassigned.
Hanrahan also claimed Rees had discussed ways of actively destabilising the inquiry by attacking its second-in-command, detective inspector Alan Jones. According to Hanrahan, Rees even contemplated planting illegal drugs in his car and having him arrested for possession. Rees denied this.
When murder inquiry boss, detective superintendent Douglas Campbell, gave evidence, he admitted that Fillery’s actions had effectively sabotaged the investigation. But it was comments about Daniel Morgan’s contact with the media just before his murder that really reverberated. Campbell revealed that Daniel had been talking about blowing the whistle on police corruption in south-east London. June Tweedie tried to explore with the senior officer whether this perhaps was the motive for the murder.
Tweedie: “Did you find anything relevant to the demise of Daniel Morgan?”
Campbell: “I could find no evidence at all. It was a suggestion that he had a story to sell to a newspaper. I spoke to the other persons concerned. I even went to the newspaper but if i told you what he was offered you would see it was quite ludicrous. He was alleged to have been offered £250,000 per story.”
Tweedie: “I am not so interested in offers by newspapers”.
Campbell: “All I will say, Madam, is that we looked in all directions to try and substantiate that and we could not”.
At this point Sir Montague Levine brought the line of questioning to a halt. The name of the newspaper(s) and the persons Campbell spoke to during the murder inquiry have never been revealed. Campbell is now retired but he declined to be interviewed.
A verdict of unlawful killing was recorded at the inquest.
Daniel Morgan did have good contacts in the media. At the Daily Mirror he knew a number of reporters including Anton Antonowicz and the Mirrors then political editor, Alastair Campbell.
Antonowicz was helpful and remembered meeting Morgan on several occasions, some of them in a pub behind the newspaper, affectionately known as The Stab in the Back. Campbell, however, was less forthcoming. He was still prime minister Tony Blair’s head of spin when we approached him. He wrote back saying the name Daniel Morgan “rang a bell”, but it would be “a waste of time” to meet.
Daniel had also provided information to Private Eye. But what was more interesting was his work in 1986, a year before the murder, for the BBC. The legal department had hired him to find witnesses to defend a crucial libel case brought by two Tory MPs who’d featured prominently in a Panorama documentary called “Maggie’s Militant Tendency”. A senior BBC source confirms Morgan was hired to locate and interview Conservative Party members who were in Berlin on an official delegation with Neil Hamilton MP. The Panorama expose of right-wing extremism in the Tory ranks alleged that during the Berlin visit Hamilton goose-stepped and gave a mock Hitler salute, an illegal act in Germany at the time. Hamilton and other right-wing Tory MPs denied this and sued the BBC with the support of powerful elements in the party hierarchy and funding from the maverick billionaire, James Goldsmith.
Before caving in, the BBC had robustly defended the programme.
They instructed Morgan to find any witnesses who may have been “got at” and persuaded to keep silent about that night in Berlin.
It is likely Southern Investigations involvement with the BBC would have attracted the attention of MI5 or its freelance contractors working for the Conservative Party. Around this time, Daniel Morgan’s car was burgled and his offices broken into.
But would any of this – from moonlighting cops to silenced Tory witnesses – really have attracted a media price tag of £250,000? It’s unlikely. To earn that much from Fleet Street, Daniel Morgan had to have been on to something very big.
One south London detective called Derek Haslam believes he was. According to Haslam, Daniel’s best contact in the south London police was detective constable Alan “Taffy” Holmes. He illegally obtained police information for Southern Investigations. But Haslam claims Taffy Holmes was serving on the Brinks Mat investigation. He killed himself four months after Daniel’s death. At the time of his suicide he was being investigated for corruption.
These two deaths, at first sight, appear unconnected. But Haslam says you can’t understand either in isolation. “Those who kept the two deaths separate never wanted to know the truth”.
Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn (2004) excerpts from pages 99-109