Summer of 87: Two Violent Deaths, Two Rising Murdoch Stars

As the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel continues to sift through years of evidence on the most investigated  murder in British history,  four key characters emerge from the news coverage of the time. 


What is startling about the Daniel Morgan murder is that the key allegation of police conspiracy was made within weeks of the 37-year-old’s murder on 10 March 1987. The Times reported Daniel was “due to be interviewed by West Yorkshire police about a fraud he had uncovered.” Meanwhile, in the Daily Express:

According to the Express, the ‘swoop’  followed ‘irregularities’ in files  found at Southern Investigations, the private detective company based in Croydon Daniel set up two years before.

Though the arrested police officers aren’t named in this April 1987 article,  ‘John’ Rees was Daniel’s business partner and co-founder of Southern Investigations. It would take a year, until the inquest at Southwark coroner’s court, for a more detailed picture of the alleged conspiracy to become clear. 

The accountant for Southern Investigations, Kevin Lennon, told the inquest jury that Jonathan Rees plotted with police to have Daniel killed and the murder investigation compromised.

In a witness statement Lennon named one of the original investigating officers, DS Sid ‘Fullery’ (actually Fillery) as part of the murder plot, and claimed Fillery would then leave the police force and take over Daniel’s role at Southern Investigations.

By the time of the inquest, Fillery had indeed left the Met and was by then Rees’ business partner. 

Detective Superintendent Douglas Campbell told the coroner’s court that Daniel was trying to sell a story of police corruption to a national newspaper for £250,000 in the days before he was murdered.

Four days later, Alastair Morgan made the accusation that Rees was a party to a plot to kill his younger brother. 

Towards the end of the article the senior investigating officer made an astonishing admission which broadened the Daniel  Morgan allegations beyond police corruption to a wider conspiracy involving the media. 

Detective Superintendent Douglas Campbell  told the coroner’s court that Daniel was trying to sell a story of police corruption to a national newspaper for £250,000 in the days before he was murdered.

After the jury reached a verdict of ‘unlawful’ killing,  Alastair denounced the plotters as ‘Scoundrels’ and an internal investigation by Scotland Yard was announced. The mention of an organisation which “provides a meeting place between serving officers, former colleagues and private investigators” seems to be an oblique reference to  Freemasons lodges in the area. 

The following day the papers reported that the Met’s D eputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Winship had been tasked to head up the investigation into the ‘Scoundrels.’


DAC Peter Winship was having a busy year because he was already leading another investigation into allegations of police corruption in South East London  – one that had already led to the violent death of DC Alan “Taffy Holmes”. 

Not only was Taffy’s suicide just four months after Daniel’s murder, the private eye and the detective  sergeant knew each other. Both were Welshmen with the same circle of acquaintances in the Croydon area. 

Not only was Taffy’s suicide just four months after Daniel’s murder, the private eye and the detective sergeant knew each other. Both were Welshmen with the same circle of acquaintances in the Croydon area.

At the inquest into Holmes’ death, a couple of weeks before Daniel’s, two motives for the policeman’s suicide were mooted: a tangled love life and an internal police investigation. 

Taffy was previously a member of SO1 (7)*, the serious crime squad, and was partnered with  DS John ‘OJ’ Davidson  on the Brinks Mat investigation. (Davidson would   go on to be castigated in both the MacPherson and Ellison reports and accused of links with the families of Stephen Lawrence’s killers).

The jury was not allowed to ask questions about this secret ‘probe’ back in 1988  – but they would not have to look back far to discover what it was.


Early in July 87 – four months after Daniel’s murder and a few weeks before Taffy’s suicide – news leaked out about a secret investigation into a Top Yard Chief. 

A month later a front page on the the Express had more details, linking the corruption allegations to Kenneth Noye and the Brinks-Mat bullion heist. 

Norman Luck (who seems to be the best informed crime reporters of the time) explicitly linked the death of Taffy Holmes with this investigation of “his former boss.”

The next day  the “senior officer” was named as Commander Ray Adams, recently installed as head of criminal intelligence. 

The voluminous redacted version of Operation Russell is online here (summary starting on page six).   Though the formal investigation began on 12 April 1987, it was in February 1987, before the murder, that a minor drug dealer, Raymond Gray, began to make a series of five taped interviews. In the final interview, on 8 April 1987, Gray made over two dozen allegations of police corruption, focusing on Ray Adams. 

Quizzed during the internal investigation, Commander Adams was obviously familiar with the Daniel Morgan killing: indeed he accused his accuser, Gray, of instigating Daniel’s murder. 

After two years of investigation into these allegations Adam was exonerated of all but a few minor disciplinary charges. 

However, Adams turned up again in another corruption investigation in the nineties, Operation Othona.   He retired from the Met for health reasons in 1993, and – after brief stint a Kroll security – Adams became head of European Security for NDS. NDS was an important subsidiary of News Corp as it provided the digital encryption service for satellite smart cards which were key to Rupert Murdoch’s expansion plans in the 90s. 

Adams remained a head of ‘Operational Security’ for NDS for nearly a decade, reporting direct to the chair of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch. In 1998 he was quizzed as potential ‘channel of influence’ in the Macpherson Inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder, and though the inquiry noticed “strange features” in his evidence he was cleared of any wrong doing. 

Adams remained a head of ‘Operational Security’ for NDS security for nearly a decade, reporting direct to the chair of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch. 

Adams was named in 2002 and 2003 in civil legal suits by Canal Plus and Echostar alleging the News Corp subsidiary hacked their satellite smart cards and flooded the market with clones. 

A similar allegation was made by a Panorama program about hacking British digital rivals in 2012 during which Adams was doorstepped: he denied all the allegations. The Australian Financial Review alleged Australian Pay-TV companies had also been hacked. The Daily Mail alleged links between “Murdoch’s Yard Man” and Kenneth Noye.  


The second figure in Murdoch’s News Corp connected to events in the Summer of 87 was a rising young crime reporter in the best-selling News of the World – Alex Marunchak.

While the original police investigation had discovered evidence suggesting Daniel may have been killed because he was going to expose police corruption to a “national newspaper” a former boss of Rees and Daniel Morgan has been much more specific. 

As Labour MP Tom Watson said in parliament in 2012: “Daniel was about to take a story exposing police corruption to Mr Marunchak and was promised a payment of £40,000.”

Marunchak responded by denying he’d ever heard of Daniel Morgan or Southern Investigations until after the murder.  

However, an examination of newspaper archives for 1986-7 reveals that many of Marunchak’s exclusive crime stories derived from the South East Regional Crime Squad area, and he often quoted anonymous ‘senior officers’. 

After Daniel’s murder and Taffy’s suicide, Marunchak also appeared in Operation Russell, apparently calling in to report a meeting between a ‘senior’ officer and Adams when the latter was still under investigation. 

Up until this point Marunchak had written about Taffy Holmes in the same terms as Norman Luck at the Express: as a suicide provoked by a police investigation into cops suborned by Kenneth Noye, and communicating through freemasonry.  

Two weeks later, covering Taffy’s funeral, the Noye connection had become secondary. Now the emphasis was on Holmes’ tangled love life. 

Despite front page coverage of Lennon’s accusations in the rest of the press the  News of the World ignored the explosive revelations of the inquest throughout 1988 – a strange omission given their crime correspondent’s interest the previous summer. (Alastair Morgan believes he saw Marunchak at Southwark coroner’s court in the company of Rees.)

Meanwhile, though no crime articles appeared in the News of the World, Rees and Marunchak allegedly formed a lucrative business partnership at this time. Another book keeper, Marjorie Williams, hired days after Daniel’s murder, told BBC Radio’s the report that Southern Investigations started invoicing Marunchak for hundreds of small cash payments per month, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, which they would collect from him in person. Williams did the book-keeping from 1987 to 1990.  

 Southern Investigations started invoicing Marunchak for hundreds of small cash payments per month, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, which they would collect from him in person. 

Through the nineties this trade increased, with Southern Investigations billing News of the World hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. Rees and Fillery worked with the tabloid’s star reporter Mazher Mahmood during this time. A police bug in the Southern Investigations officer overheard Rees and Marunchak falling out over unpaid invoices in 1999 and discussing Kenneth Noye.  

That legal dispute was allegedly settled by the paper’s managing editor, Stuart Kuttner. (Evidence in the Hacking Trial suggests the police are in possession of Kuttner’s News International notebooks.) 

In 2000, upon Rebekah Brooks’ assumption of the editorship of the paper, Marunchak was moved to Dublin as Ireland editor of News of the World.  

On June 24 2002, two days before a new murder investigation was publicly launched on Crimewatch, Marunchak took a call from Fillery which triggered surveillance of the new investigating officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook and his family. One of the vans used to surveil Cook  was leased to Mahmood’s photographer, Bradley Page. 

When the editor of The News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, was confronted by Cook with evidence of this surveillance and Marunchak’s long term financial relationship with Rees six months later she praised him as a “great editor.” After this meeting Brooks went on to talk to the head of the Met, Commissioner Stevens. Sources claim she briefed Stuart Kuttner the next day. 

On release from prison in 2005 Rees was re-employed by the paper’s new editor, Andy Coulson.  

When quizzed by Tom Watson at a DCMS select committee hearing in 2011 about when he first met his long standing crime and Ireland editor “Mr Alex Marunchak…” Murdoch replied; “Mister-?”

Mr Watson: Alex Marunchak. He worked for the company for 25 years.

Rupert Murdoch: I don’t remember meeting him. I might have shaken hands walking through the office, but I don’t have any memory of him.

But no-one asked Murdoch about Ray Adams or whether his own Management and Standards Committee have looked into the multiple links between his media empire and one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Met revealed in the Daniel Morgan murder. 

*CORRECTION: 16:07 15/07/2015 – not S018 as in previous version.

If you have corrections, queries or wish to comment in the piece itself, please contact me peter at byline dot com.

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