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Former police detective from Great Yarmouth area wins compensation battle over axe murder arrest

PUBLISHED: 15:10 17 February 2017 | UPDATED: 21:42 17 February 2017

Sidney Fillery outside High Court during hearing in his damages bid against the Met Police. 

Image by Paul Keogh

Sidney Fillery outside High Court during hearing in his damages bid against the Met Police. Image by Paul Keogh

Paul Keogh

A former detective who spent four months in jail after he was accused of corruption in a notorious murder inquiry has won a substantial compensation payout.

A former detective who spent four months in jail after he was accused of corruption in a notorious murder inquiry has won a substantial compensation payout.

Sidney Fillery, 70, and who lives in the Great Yarmouth area, was accused of trying to cover up the axe murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan in a pub car park in 1987 by threatening a witness.

Mr Fillery, a former Metropolitan Police detective, was part of the original Scotland Yard team probing the killing of Mr Morgan who ran the Southern Investigations agency in Thornton Heath, Surrey.

He was arrested in April 2008 and charged with perverting the course of justice over allegations that he made a threat to a potential witness.

Mr Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice, but the case collapsed in 2010 when the witness, a serious criminal, was shown to be unreliable.

He had been “coached” in his evidence by Detective Cheif Superintendent David Cook in his desperation to see the case solved, the High Court heard.

Today, in a case which has run up £1.6m in legal bills, Mr Justice Mitting ruled that Cook was guilty of “misfeasance in public office” and ordered London’s Met Police to pay Mr Fillery damages.

He will receive £25,000 up front, but his barrister Nicholas Bowen QC said the full claim, to be assessed later, was for “many multiples of that”.

However, three men who spent two years in jail before being acquitted of the actual murder saw their damages claims dismissed.

“Mr Fillery was pursued in this way when there was absolutely no evidence to support it,” Mr Bowen told the court.

“The only evidence against him was a thoroughly compromised, corrupt individual, who had been coached by a senior investigating officer.

“The way Mr Fillery has been treated in this case - as the focus of effectively police corruption - is an outrage.”

Mr Morgan, from Llanfrechfa, Torfaen, was 37 when he was found with an axe embedded in his head after an attack outside the Golden Lion, in Sydenham.

His business partner, Jonathan Rees, now 62, and brothers Glenn, 58, and Garry Vian, 56, were all arrested - alongside Mr Fillery - in the aftermath.

However, the case was not proceeded with and charges were only made in 2008 after further evidence from a new witness came to light.

Facing a long sentence himself for other offences, Gary Eaton implicated the Vian brothers in the killing and gave a motive for Mr Rees to have been involved.

He also said Mr Fillery had approached him after the murder and told him to keep his mouth shut or the same would happen to him.

Rees, of Weybridge, and the Vian brothers, of Croydon, were charged with murder, while Mr Fillery, now of Great Yarmouth and in 2011 worked at the Lion Inn pub in the Thurne, was charged with perverting the course of justice.

But the case “never got near a jury” after Eaton’s evidence was thrown out by Old Bailey judge, Mr Justice Maddison, and the men were ultimately released.

Mr Justice Maddison said DCS Cook had probably prompted Eaton to implicate the Vian brothers in the killing.

Last month, all four of the cleared men sued the Met Police for malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office.

Eaton had been “coached” in his evidence by Cook, who was fixated on the men he believed were guilty, their lawyers said.

DCS Cook had broken many of the rules designed to protect the integrity of the justice system, Mr Bowen said.

He had been warned that Eaton was “extremely unreliable” and had mental health issues and yet had contacted him on several occasions, against the rules.

Cook had since “gone into hiding in Scotland” and refused to give evidence in the compensation battle.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Mitting said what Cook had done in relation to Eaton was tantamount to a crime in itself.

He continued: “By prompting a potentially unreliable witness to implicate Glenn and Garry Vian in the Morgan murder, then conceal the fact he had done so from the CPS and prosecuting counsel, Cook did an act which tended to pervert the course of justice.”

He added: “He contaminated the source of justice. He knew what he was doing and did it deliberately. He can therefore be taken to have intended to do it.

“The ingredients of the crime were present.”

However, his motive had been only to secure the charges and convictions of those he himself believed were guilty, he continued.

The judge rejected the malicious prosecution claims, but said Mr Fillery’s misfeasance claim should succeed and he should be awarded damages to be assessed.

Misfeasance claims by the other three men were rejected because the judge said there had been other evidence at the time which could have resulted in charges.

During the trial last month, Met barrister Jeremy Johnson QC accepted that the murder inquiry had exposed an “invidious web of corrupt police officers” in south London in the 1980s and 1990s.

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