In March 1987 Daniel Morgan, a private detective, was murdered in Sydenham in south east London, just as he was reportedly close to revealing police corruption with links to the News of the World.
You might ask why we would want to look at a murder that took place 25 years ago, but it’s important to understand that the collusion between the police and press that’s being uncovered now isn’t just about events that took place in the past few years, but a pattern of corruption that goes back many decades, and that many of the people involved with past corruption are still involved with the Hackgate scandal even now.
After repeated failed police inquiries into the murder which themselves have been mired in corruption the family of Daniel Morgan are still seeking justice, and have spent the past two decades running the Justice 4 Daniel campaign.
In 1984 Daniel Morgan and Jonathan Rees set up the detective agency Southern Investigations. Jonathan Rees is alleged to have had a “network of corrupt police who were involved in widespread criminality and used Southern Investigations as a conduit for drugs and money”, and that Rees “counted many officers as friends. One of his specialities was to use his "friends" in the force to provide information which he sold to tabloid newspapers.”
On the other hand Daniel Morgan’s role “involved him acting as a bailiff or utilising his particular talent for remembering car registration plates and telephone numbers”.
It is believed that at the time of his murder Daniel Morgan was planning to expose police corruption, described by his brother as “police involvement with criminals, involvement with drugs and weapons importation."
More recently, Tom Watson MP alleged in a Commons adjournment debate that Daniel Morgan has approached Alex Muranchak of the News of the World with a story making allegations about police corruption a week before he died, and was offered £40,000 for the story. He described the relationship between Jonathan Rees and Alex Marunchak as "a close association between Rees and Marunchak ... a relationship that was so close they both had companies registered at the same address". Watson also stated that "thanks to a Guardian investigation we also know that Southern Investigations paid the debts of Marunchak ".
Alex Marunchak would go on to deny those allegations, as well as other allegations made by Tom Watson.
The death of Daniel Morgan
At 9.30pm on Tuesday March 10th 1987 Daniel Morgan’s body was discovered next to his BMW in the parking lot of the Golden Lion pub. An axe, wrapped in Elastoplasts to obscure fingerprints, was protruding at a right angle from his face, his pockets torn open, with notes he had been seen writing missing, but with his wallet and watch still on his body, and he was still holding the two packets of crisps purchased inside the pub.
He had let the Golden Lion pub at 8:55pm after meeting with Jonathan Rees to discuss an issue that was putting pressure on their already fraught relationship. Rees had claimed he had been robbed while transporting £18,000 for a client of Southern Investigations, Belmont Car Auctions, with at least one moonlighting police officer. Both Morgan and Belmont Car Auctions believed this was a lie, and Rees and his associates had taken the money for themselves.
At the 1988 inquest into the murder the Southern Investigations accountant Kevin Lennon said that Jonathan Rees had told him “I've got the perfect solution for Daniel's murder. My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it” and went on to say "He went on to explain to me that if they didn't do it themselves the police would arrange for some person over whom they had some criminal charge pending to carry out Daniel's murder."
The initial police investigation into the murder
Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery at Catford police station was assigned to the case, failing to reveal to his superiors that he had been working for Southern Investigations
At the 1988 inquest Kevin Lennon said Rees wanted Morgan dead after a row: "John Rees explained that, when or after Daniel Morgan had been killed, he would be replaced by a friend of his who was a serving policeman, Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery", and eventually would end up in business with Jonathan Rees at Southern Investigations, recruiting corrupt police officers, and was later convicted for the possession of child pornography.
Sid Fillery and Jonathan Rees would later be arrested in 1987 on suspicion of murder, along with the brothers Glenn and Garry Vian and two Metropolitan police officers, but eventually all of them were released without charge.
Inquiries into the murder
Over the next 20 years five investigations would look into the murder of Daniel Morgan. The initial investigation into the murder by the Metropolitan Police focused on Sid Fillery and Jonathan Rees, both who denied involvement in the murder. This was followed by an inquiry by Hampshire Police in 1988 focusing on Jonathan Rees and another man, but the charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence, with the Hampshire inquiry's 1989 report to the Police Complaints Authority stated that "no evidence whatsoever" had been found of police involvement in the murder. During this period Sid Fillery left the police to join Southern Investigations as Jonathan Rees’ business partner.
In 1999 Operation Nigeria began to investigate Southern Investigations, with bugs being placed inside the Southern Investigations offices by the police. The operation ceased when Jonathan Rees was recorded conspiring with a corrupt police officer to plant cocaine on an innocent woman in order to discredit her during a custody battle, and in December 2000 he was jailed for seven years.
In 2002-2003 a fourth inquiry began, involving the bugging of a suspect’s car and the home of Glenn Vian. The investigation obtained evidence that linked a number of individuals to the murder, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
The fifth inquiry took place in 2006, headed by Detective Superintendent David Cook was set up in secret after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair declared that the first investigation had been compromised by the involvement of Sid Fillery.
Concerns over connections between Masonic Lodge members and the murder required the 36 police officers involved with the case to state they had never been Freemasons, with Cook describing the murder as being one of the worst kept secrets in south-east London, claiming “a whole cabal of people” knew the identity of at least some of those involved. He also claimed attempts had been made to smear Daniel Morgan’s character and there had been attempts to link him with Colombian drug dealers. He identified the main suspects as "white Anglo-Saxons".
Yet again bugs were placed, Jonathan Rees, Sid Fillery, and Glenn and Gary Vian were arrested, along with a builder, James Cook, all on suspicion of murder, plus other related charges. This time however, the suspects made it to court.
The 2011 Old Bailey trial
The trial was badly handled by the prosecution, with 3 supergrass informers being dismissed as key witnesses, resulting in a stay of prosecution for Sid Fillery and James Cook being discharged.
In March 2011 the Director of Public Prosecutions abandoned the case and all remaining charges were dropped. The case had yet to reach the stage where it would look at the murder as it was still dealing with preliminary issues when the prosecution collapsed. The judge noted the case’s vastness and complexity, and considered that the prosecution had been principled and right to drop the case, but the police had “ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the defendants”.
A massive amount of evidence had been gathered, over 750,000 documents, with four more crates of evidence being discovered after the trial collapsed.
Links to the News of the World
After the trial collapsed it was revealed that Jonathan Rees had been working for the News of the World, earning £150,000 supplying illegally obtained information about figures in the public eye. After serving the prison sentence for perverting the course of justice after the Operation Nigeria inquiry Andy Coulson, then editor of the News of the World, hired Jonathan Rees, and worked regularly with the Sunday and Daily Mirror as well. Andy Coulson was later hired by David Cameron as director of communications despite warnings about Andy Coulson’s hiring of the convicted criminal Jonathan Rees.
Using a network of corrupt police officers he illegally obtained information on a variety of public figures, including the Royal family, and was also alleged to have commissioned burglaries on behalf of journalists. However, despite detailed evidence the Metropolitan Police failed to pursue any action against Rees, even to the point of taking the News of the World at their word that Clive Goodman had worked alone when he was convicted for intercepting phone calls from Clarence House.You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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