The detective who knew too much

Ian Thomson delves into the most-investigated unsolved killing in British history as the investigation report was finally released on 15 June

Artillery Row

Daniel Morgan, one of Britain’s 10,000-odd registered private detectives, was reckoned to be an ace surveillance man. On the night of 10 March 1987, however, he was murdered on leaving the Golden Lion public house, Sydenham Road, south-east London. He had been drinking with his business partner Jonathan Rees. A customer discovered the body in the pub car park at about 9.40pm. An axe was embedded in his face. Three blows had been delivered with the blade to the back of the detective’s head followed by a final blow to the side. On the blood-puddled asphalt were the keys to his silver BMW coupé and two unopened packets of crisps. Morgan, 37, a brawny, mustachioed man, lived in South Norwood with his wife Iris and their two children, Sarah and Daniel. Were he alive now, he would be 72. Three decades on, Morgan’s killer remains unidentified and the circumstances surrounding his death are ever more murky. With rumours of sexual jealousy, tabloid newspaper corruption and Scotland Yard wrongdoing, “The Golden Wonder” murder – named for the crisps found at the crime scene – has become the most-investigated unsolved killing in British history.

Preliminary enquiries established that the murder weapon was a £45 Chinese-manufacture Diamond Brand chopping axe. Round the handle were two strips of sticking plaster; either these were to afford a better grip or to ensure that no fingerprints remained. Morgan’s £830 Rolex wrist watch had been stolen – but £1100 left untouched in a jacket pocket. Robbery thus seemed an unlikely motive. A contract hit? Certainly as a qualified bailiff Morgan had made some enemies; he specialised in debt collection and vehicle seizure; he snooped on errant spouses and undertook other sorry gumshoe work. The banknotes were most likely part of an outstanding payment to the detective agency he had set up with Jonathan Rees in Thornton Heath, south-west London, in 1984: Southern Investigations.

“The Golden Wonder” murder – named for the crisps found at the crime scene – has become the most-investigated unsolved killing in British history

Like many detective agencies, Southern Investigations was comfortably flexible in its attitude to the law. Morgan himself had an illegal link into the Police National Computer, but his colleague Rees operated at a much more sleazy end of the trade. A big, bluff northerner from Rotherham in South Yorkshire, on the sly Rees made money from selling confidential information to the “redtop” nationals. During the 1990s, Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World paid him in excess of £150,000 a year for information on, among other notables, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex (whose bank accounts he infiltrated), Peter Mandelson, Gary Lineker, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. As a freemason with police associates, Rees was very much part of a Thatcher-era story of press intrusion, public sector corruption and criminality. In those days, perhaps especially in London south of the river, police and thieves were not infrequently in cahoots with each other. While Rees was pleased to dine with Met officers at Masonic gala events in Croydon, Morgan had a low opinion of the police. “All police are bastards!” he was heard to say shortly before his death.

Born in colonial Singapore in 1949 to an army officer father, Morgan was a hard-working, self-reliant man with a memory for car number plates and other usefully incriminating detail. “He knew the Guinness Book of Records back to front”, his brother Alastair would recall. It was nothing for Morgan to drive from London to the West Country and back in a single day’s sleuthing. However, relations had soured between Morgan and Rees. Morgan complained to Alastair that he was doing all the agency’s work while Rees lounged in pubs with his masonic “bent copper” mates. At the time of his murder, Morgan was romantically involved with Margaret Harrison, a Thornton Heath estate agent with two teenage daughters. There is some suggestion that Harrison may also have been involved with Rees. Allegedly, Rees paid for her daughters’ school fees, and was often talking on the phone to her. Harrison later told an inquest that she had been on a date with Rees on the day of the murder, but insisted that she slept only with Morgan. She was unable to explain the sixty or so calls Rees had made to her from his car-phone in the three months prior to the murder. One of these had lasted twelve minutes. Rees’s wife Sharon was later at a loss  – or perhaps unwilling – to corroborate his claim that the call was made by her, not by him, and concerned a takeaway Indian meal. (They subsequently divorced).

At 8.00pm on the evening of 9 March, the day before his murder, Morgan met Rees and a police officer friend of his in the Golden Lion, a pub he did not usually frequent. He parked his BMW in the street outside, and went in to find Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery of Catford C.I.D. Fillery, a serving officer of 23 years (and, like Rees, a freemason), was at that time working illegally as a security guard for Rees at a car auctions business in Charlton south of the Thames. The previous year, on the evening of 6 March 1986, Rees claimed to have been mugged of £18,000 in Belmont Car Auctions takings, sprayed with ammonia and coshed after failing to deposit the cash in a Midland Bank nightsafe (which, he insisted, had been “superglued” shut). Morgan did not believe him. He was certain that Rees had faked the robbery and pocketed the money for himself and Fillery. Whether from sexual envy or some other friction within the partnership, relations between Morgan and Rees had since “turned to hatred”, according to their bookkeeper, Kevin Lennon. As the evening progressed, a row erupted after Morgan was overheard to shout that he was opposed to hiring officers of Fillery’s sort because they reflected badly on Southern Investigations. Fillery retaliated that he did not care for Morgan’s appearance, his garrulousness or his flirtatious way with women. He ought to mind his fucking step.

After the quarrel, the men drank on together in silence. Morgan agreed to meet Rees in the same pub the following day in order to resume the argument and (it later emerged) to meet Paul Goodridge, a former showbiz bodyguard in the pay of, among others, Liz Taylor and Bo Derek. Morgan’s last moments can be pieced together only sketchily. At 6.30pm on 10 March he briefly met his mistress Margaret Harrison at Regan’s Wine Bar on Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath. Harrison would later recall that Morgan appeared to be his “normal self” as they chatted over a bottle of wine. She and Morgan had been in a “loose relationship” for eighteen months. Some time after 7.00pm, Morgan left Harrison so as to meet Rees at the Golden Lion. For some reason he parked his car in the secluded, poorly lit car park round the back of the pub. There were few customers in the Golden Lion that night. After arguing again with Morgan about the car auction “robbery”, Rees departed at 8.55 pm, leaving Morgan to complete some agency paperwork. Goodridge never did turn up. At about 9.15pm Morgan walked through the beer garden to the rear of the pub, where someone was waiting for him. Minutes later Joseph O’Brien, the publican, was alerted by a customer: “Joe, I think there’s a body… or a dummy out in the car park.” A smartly dressed drunk appeared to have collapsed beside a parked BMW. O’Brien telephoned for the police and soon a squad car arrived, followed by an ambulance.


Sid Fillery of the Catford plainclothes squad was assigned to the case. He interviewed Rees under caution and accompanied him to the mortuary in order to identify the body. Fillery also took possession of documents from Southern Investigations (among them, Morgan’s diary for that year of 1987), but initially failed to disclose to his police superiors that he was moonlighting for the Thornton Heath-based detective agency or that he and Rees were close friends. So the first investigation was corrupted – the Met subsequently admitted as much – by the actions of Detective Sergeant Fillery. A month later, Fillery and two other Catford officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Rees and his brothers-in-law Glenn and Gary Vian, part-time security bouncers involved in south London drug trade trafficking, were also arrested – on suspicion of murder. Following eighteen hours of interrogation, all six men were released without charge. During the coroner’s inquest held a year later, in April 1988, it was suggested by Julian Nutter, the lawyer representing Rees, that the Golden Lion was a pub frequented by a local drugs dealer. “The dealer was known to use a minder who had a frightening tool of the trade – an axe.” Nutter speculated that Morgan had been killed after stumbling on – or interfering with – a drugs transaction. The inquest, conducted by Sir Montague ‘Monty’ Levine, again raised concerns of police collusion. Kevin Lennon, the bookkeeper, testified that Rees and his Catford Met contacts had arranged a £1000 contract for Morgan’s murder. (‘I’ve got it fixed’, Rees reportedly told Lennon six months before the murder.) The killing was to be staged within the jurisdiction of Catford; that way, the officers involved could suppress damaging evidence linking them.

Incredibly, not one strand of forensic evidence was found to implicate anyone

Incredibly, not one strand of forensic evidence was found to implicate anyone. “No blood. No fibres. No fingerprints”, said the coroner, who returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Four months after the inquest, in August 1988, Morgan was buried in Beckenham cemetery in a “recuperable” coffin: cremation was not an option in case the body had to be exhumed for further forensic testing. In police parlance, even at this early stage, the Morgan case was a “sticker” – one that would not be solved. It seems likely that Morgan was about to expose a case of extensive drug-related police corruption implicating Rees, Fillery and other South London Met officers. Understandably Morgan did not trust the police to investigate; he himself had influential press contacts (among them, Alastair Campbell at the Mirror) and might eventually have decided to sell his story to the News of the World. In the late 1980s, after Fillery had brazenly joined Southern Investigations as Rees’s replacement partner, the Morgan family began to speak openly of a police cover-up. The detective’s mother, Isobel Hulsmann, claimed that “Daniel had vital information – he had to be silenced.”


During a third police enquiry, launched covertly in 1998, the Southern Investigations office was bugged. No evidence that Rees was involved in Morgan’s murder was recorded, but the listening device picked up on a conspiracy hatched by Rees to plant Class A drugs on a woman in a child custody case. Also exposed was Rees’s involvement in Fleet Street corruption; a contact at the Sunday Mirror had asked Rees to access the bank accounts of Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex.

Reporter: Do you remember a couple of months ago, you got me some details on Edward’s business and Sophie’s businesses and how well they were doing?

Rees: Yeah.

Reporter: And you did a check on Sophie’s bank account?

Rees: Yeah.

Reporter: Is it possible to do that again? I’m not exactly sure what they’re after but they seem to be under the impression that, you know, she was in the paper the other day for appearing in Hello magazine. They think she’s had some kind of payment off them.

Rees: What? Off of Hello?

Reporter: Um, yeah.

Rees: … find out how much.

Reporter: Well, we just want to see if there’s been any change to her bank account.

Rees was arrested and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for perverting the course of justice. Daniel Morgan’s former colleague was at last behind bars – but not for his murder.

The heat was closing in all the same.


On 26 June 2002, Morgan’s mother appeared on the BBC television programme Crimewatch. Isobel Hulsmann’s emotional appeal was accompanied by a police reward of £50,000 for information. “How could I have had my son taken away from me like this? What sort of people do this?… It’s cruel, it’s evil, it’s awful. Daniel harmed nobody.” By now, the campaign for justice for her son had gone on for fifteen years. “I can’t move on. I want to move on so desperately. I shall soon be 75 and I just would love to have a few years of peace of mind.” Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, a courteous, dry-humoured Scot, led the fourth inquiry. I was covering the case at the time for the Independent newspaperCook was interviewed by me on 18 September 2002, at Hendon police headquarters, Aerodrome Road, north-west London, shortly after the Crimewatch episode aired. He told me:

This is a tremendously interesting story. Interesting beyond belief. Any investigation into Morgan’s death has to begin with the near-certainty that it was a conspiracy and not the work of a lone individual. Not all those involved may have known that Morgan was going to be killed, but they certainly knew that something was going to happen.

It was imperative that Morgan’s murder be solved: not only was the Met’s honour at stake, said Cook, but the dead man’s family was owed “long wished-for peace of mind.” Cook went on to say that he had been “delighted” with the Crimewatch response and believed that he had found a “nugget – but whether it’s a 24-carat nugget, we’ll have to see.” One of the many rumours related to Morgan is that he was killed by a woman: the Elastoplast round the axe handle was said to indicate the grip of small hands. Cook said with finality: “No. In my view, Morgan was not killed by a woman… But yes, passion comes from many sources. Greed – financial greed – encourages passion. And this is a story about greed – greed pure and simple.”

“Margaret Harrison?”

“We’ve spoken to Morgan’s mistress. The fact that she was with Morgan just two hours prior to his murder means that she’s inevitably part of our investigation. I mean: to say that she’s not involved in the investigation would be wrong. However, we’ve no reason to believe that she’s a suspect.”

“Could Rees have left the Golden Lion in the knowledge that Morgan was about to be killed?”

“I’m not prepared to say “yes” or “no”. But it tells us something about Rees’s character, doesn’t it, that he planted drugs on an innocent woman so that her husband could get access to their child. He’s not the sort of person I’d have round to tea.”

I asked about Paul Goodridge, the showbiz minder. “Goodridge is part of the whole… shadow behind the Morgan mystery. I’m not just looking at the people I think are responsible. I’m looking at the people who surrounded the people I think are responsible.” Cook had taken the investigation abroad. “Enquiries have been made in Denmark – Morgan used to live in Denmark, he had a Danish girlfriend there in his student days. And we’ve also been to Malta. He did a car repossession job there – a “motor snatch-back” – shortly before his death.”

“And Sid Fillery. What about Sid Fillery?”

“To be honest with you, I’d have more chance of knowing the truth about Fillery’s activities in the Force than I would in giving you the lottery numbers. Shadowy is not the word for him.”

“Morgan’s missing Rolex is odd, isn’t it?”

‘Well, it’s one of the many mysteries in the Morgan case. The watch hasn’t been traced. Rolexes are unique – each with its own serial number – so they’re pretty hard to get rid of.’

“Maybe there was an inscription on the back? An incriminating inscription?”

“Maybe, odds are we’ll never know.”

Cook believed that he had identified the getaway car – a pale green VW Polo – but much about the case remained obscure. “Some things might even have been deliberately obscured – still, I’m getting a pretty good picture now and my determination to catch the sods responsible is strong. I’ve got officers all over the place. I’ve got things happening.” Or so Cook thought. Unknown to him, the News of the World had put him and his wife, Jacqui Hames, under surveillance. Two hired vans followed Cook as he took his two-year-old son to nursery. Why? At the 2011-2012 Leveson press inquiry Hames, herself a Crimewatch presenter, rejected as “absolutely pathetic” the claim made by the newspaper’s then editor Rebekah Brooks that her journalists were “investigating whether Jacqui Hames was conducting an affair with David Cook”. It is much more likely that suspects in the Morgan murder were using the News of the World to intimidate the family and “subvert the investigation.” Eight years later, the Cook-Hames marriage dissolved owing perhaps to the stress caused by press intrusion and surveillance.

So far the Morgan case has cost the British taxpayer over £50 million in police and other expenditures

Meanwhile Sid Fillery, who had been running Southern Investigations while Rees was in jail, was arrested in April 2003 when anti-corruption officers found evidence on his personal computer of child pornography. He was charged and convicted. Detective Cook, as yet unaware of the tabloid surveillance, had meanwhile persuaded south London career criminals, relatives and enemies to turn Queen’s evidence and talk about the Morgan murder. In return, they were offered reduced sentences, protection and new identities.

The Old Bailey trial began in September 2009. Legal arguments went on for eighteen months – the longest pre-trial wrangling in British judicial history – until the trial collapsed in March 2011 after three “supergrass” witnesses were discredited and the Met claimed to have lost track of documents relative to the case. The prosecution alleged that Morgan was murdered after he discovered that Rees was using Southern Investigations to launder the proceeds from drug trafficking. Rees’s brother-in-law Glenn Vian had reportedly wielded the axe; Glenn’s brother Gary had acted as look-out. Rees was the bait to get Morgan into the pub; James Cook, an associate, was the getaway man. Sid Fillery, having himself been accused of perverting the course of justice, joined the four others and left the Old Bailey a free man.

With the collapse of the Old Bailey hearing, those who murdered Morgan will most likely never be brought to book. Nevertheless, the then Home Secretary Theresa May, disquieted by what she called this “horrific murder”, opened a Hillsborough-style independent inquiry in the spring of 2013. Police promised to co-operate but for the first two years they hesitated to hand over any incriminating case papers. Nothing came of the inquiry. In October 2014, however, Rees, the Vian brothers, Sid Fillery and James Cook launched a £4 million lawsuit against the Met for “malicious persecution” after it was alleged that Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook had compromised the integrity of the justice system by “coaching” a witness in his evidence. Rees and Vian lost their claim initially, but Fillery was awarded £25,000 in interim damages, with more promised later. Two years down the line, in 2018, Rees and the Vians were awarded £414,000 after winning their case.

So far the Morgan case has cost the British taxpayer over £50 million in police and other expenditures. There is more than enough darkness in this murder for us all; the Home Office promised to review the case last May after an independent panel had published its findings. However, Priti Patel provoked fury on 18 May by demanding that the findings be handed over for review prior to publication, angering both the Morgan family and members of the panel. While Patel cited the need to consider “national security” and “human rights obligations” before making the report public, one source with close knowledge of the five Metropolitan police inquiries into the murder, said: “There are no national security issues involved. There are national embarrassment issues.” Finally, on 15 June, the report was published. Running to more than 1,200 pages, it accused the Met Police of, among other things, “institutional corruption” over the unsolved killing and provoked calls for Cressida Dick to resign.

And now? Southern Investigations is defunct. Sid Fillery helps to run a pub in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Jonathan Rees lives with his mistress Margaret Harrison in Weybridge, Surrey. The News of the World, after 168 years in print, closed down in 2011 following revelations of phone hacking in which Rees was implicated. Detective Cook, having been found guilty of “misfeasance in public office”, has reportedly gone to ground in Scotland. Meanwhile the Golden Lion, a former Victorian music-hall, has been refurbished many times with chintz fittings, brass candlesticks and framed sepia photographs. The pale peach ceiling is new but otherwise the Golden Lion remains every inch a south-east London community pub. The only shadow cast across the interior is the killing, on the night of 10th March 1987, of the detective who knew too much.

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