Inside mysterious murder of Daniel Morgan attacked with axe in pub car park

The murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan is one of Britain's great unsolved crimes.

Daniel was killed with an axe in Sydenham, southeast London, on March 10, 1987.

Despite a 34-year campaign for the truth, including five police inquiries and an inquest, nobody has ever been brought to justice over the vicious murder.

But as we now know, the Metropolitan Police's investigation encountered problems from the start with the Force later admitting that the original murder probe had been hampered by corruption.

Former Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, based at Catford police station at the time, was assigned to the case but did not reveal to superiors he had been working unofficially for Southern Investigations, the company Daniel had set up with business partner Jonathan Rees.

In fact, the police officer would go on to replace Daniel at Southern Investigations.

A report for the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that used to oversee the Met, said: "In the following months there were rumours and allegations of high-level police corruption and masonic links surrounding the investigations but no charges resulted."

On the night he was murdered, Daniel had met up with Rees for a drink at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham.

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Soon afterwards he would be found dead in the pub car park next to his car with an axe embedded in his head. His watch was stolen but his wallet and a large amount of money in his jacket pocket were left untouched.

Two sticky plaster strips had been wrapped around the axe handle to prevent fingerprint evidence from being left behind for the police to find.

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In April 1987, the month following the murder, six people, including Sid Fillery and Jonathan Rees, the brothers Glenn and Garry Vian, and two Metropolitan police officers, were arrested on suspicion of murder, though they were all eventually released without charge.

At the inquest into dad-of-two Daniel's death the following year, Kevin Lennon, who worked as an accountant for Southern Investigations, said he had watched Daniel and Rees' relationship deteriorate in the months leading up to the murder.

He claims Rees told him: "My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it. Those police officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange it."

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When asked at the inquest whether he killed Daniel, Rees replied: "I did not."

Rees, along with another man, was again charged with murder in 1989 but the charges were again dropped due to a lack of evidence.

In a separate case, Daniel's former business partner was convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in 2000. He was jailed for seven years.

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A big breakthrough seemed to come in 2008 when Rees, the Vian brothers and James Cook were all arrested on suspicion of murder. Fillery was arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The trial of the quintet began at the Old Bailey began in 2009, but in the end, it would collapse.

A judge dismissed two supergrass witnesses, resulting firstly in a stay of prosecution on Fillery's case and then Cook being discharged.

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Later, a third supergrass witness was dismissed amidst accusations that police had failed to disclose that he was a registered police informant.

The case was abandoned in March 2011 because the prosecution could not guarantee the remaining defendants – Rees and the Vian brothers – right to a fair trial.

Four of the men involved in the trial would later sue the Met alleging malicious prosecution. Rees and the Vian brothers lost their case in 2017 but won an appeal the following year, being awarded £414,000 between them.

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Fillery also won part of his claim, being award £25,000 in interim damages with the judge saying the final sum likely to be much higher.

The case has featured prominently in the media over the years.

A podcast titled Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder topped the UK's iTunes chart in 2016, while a three-part Channel 4 documentary, Murder in the Car Park, was broadcast last year.

Daniel's brother Alastair has campaigned tirelessly in a desperate bid to find out the truth about why his brother was killed and who was responsible for the brutal murder.

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An independent report on the murder was supposed to be released last month but the Home Office has delayed its publication saying it wanted to review the document first.

The report from the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel is now set to be released on Tuesday, June 15.

It is expected to include a sizeable chapter on police corruption, and Daniel's family reacted with fury to the move over fears sections of the report could be redacted.

Morgan family lawyer Raju Bhatt said: "From the family's perspective they have every reason to be suspicious about the motives behind this very belated and completely unwarranted intervention by the Home Secretary.

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"We have to remember that the Home Office itself was complicit in the failings to confront this police corruption all through these decades until the panel was set up."

A Home Office spokeswoman responded that Home Secretary Priti Patel had an obligation to make sure the report complied with human rights and national security considerations.

The mystery into how and why a seemingly low-level private investigator ended up with an axe embedded in his head rumbles on.

There have been many theories about what the motive might have been, such as a business dispute and the possibility Daniel was about to expose "a South London drugs network possibly involving corrupt police officers".

Whether Daniel's family and the wider public will ever find out the definitive truth is another matter.

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