Inside story of rich pensioner who employed a hitman to kill his spouse

No one at East Brighton Golf Club, perched on the South Downs overlooking the sea, was held in higher regard than Allen Morgan and his lovely wife Margaret. ‘They were like royalty’, is how one member put it.

For more than a quarter of a century, the couple, both former club captains, were a permanent presence at East Brighton, which was founded in 1893.

Past presidents include the Marquis of Abergavenny, the Earl of Chichester, the Duke of Norfolk and First World War Field Marshall Douglas Haig, who lived near the picturesque course.

Allen Morgan was convicted this week of conspiracy to murder his former wife Carol, pictured on their wedding day

Allen Morgan was convicted this week of conspiracy to murder his former wife Carol, pictured on their wedding day

Few epitomised the traditional values of the club more than Allen and Margaret.

‘We do expect hats to have the peak forward, shirts to be tucked in and golf shoes to be worn,’ the rules gently remind everyone and ‘mobile phone use is NOT permitted in the Oak Room’, the Oak Room being the place where functions such as birthday and anniversary parties were regularly held.

More often than not, it was Allen and Margaret who helped organise these events.

This was the genteel world the couple — he was 73 and she was 75 — inhabited on the south coast without putting a foot wrong for more than 25 years.

Home was a beautifully-kept whitewashed 1950s three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Brighton, with a neat gravel garden, solar panels on the roof and a gnome, beloved of a certain ­generation, ‘standing guard’ outside the front door.

No one, on or off the golf course, just a short stroll from Roedean, the famous public school for girls, had a bad word to say about them.

Could this really be the same couple who stood in the dock at Luton Crown Court this week at the end of a ­sensational two-month murder trial?

Allen Morgan, slowed down by ­diabetes and walking with a stick, was ­convicted of conspiracy to murder — yes, conspiracy to ­murder — while Margaret Morgan was acquitted.

Those who know the pensioners are struggling to comprehend the revelations which emerged in court.

Behind the words ‘conspiracy to murder’ is a story which might sound like a cliché but really does resemble the plot of something you might see on TV or find in the fiction section of a bookshop.

Firstly, the crime that Allen ­Morgan was found guilty of occurred more than four decades ago on August 13, 1981, when he hired a hitman to kill his first wife Carol because he was locked in what the prosecution called a ‘passionate but forbidden’ affair with his current wife Margaret.

‘Allen Morgan’ is a name no one could ever have imagined ­appearing in the same sentence as ‘hitman.’

Secondly, the brutality of the frenzied attack he commissioned shocked even police.

Allen Morgan was a permanent presence at East Brighton Golf Club and 'no one had a bad word to say' about him and his wife Margaret

Allen Morgan was a permanent presence at East Brighton Golf Club and ‘no one had a bad word to say’ about him and his wife Margaret

Carol, 36, at the time, with two young children from a previous marriage, was found hacked to death with an axe or machete in the storeroom of the convenience store they ran in Leighton ­Buzzard, Bedfordshire (which is why the trial was in Luton, not Brighton).

Although she died after the first two or three savage blows, the killer unleased at least 15 more and also carved five deep wounds across her face in an apparent ­ritual disfigurement.

‘I have never seen injuries so brutal and sadistic,’ said one detective. Surely Morgan couldn’t have known his wife was going to be killed in this way, even if he did want her out of the way.

Thirdly, Carol’s son and ­daughter, 14 and 12 at the time, have had to come to terms with the fact that the man they called ‘Dad’ for 40 years arranged to have their mother murdered.

On the night she was butchered, he took them to the cinema — ­Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger was on — which was highly ­unusual for him. It was simply to provide him, they now know, with a ‘cast-iron alibi’.

The murder of a mother-of two, in such violent circum-stances in the Home Counties, made the front pages and evening news at the time. ‘Victim of the mad axeman’, screamed one lurid headline.

A rare decision was taken to interview potential witnesses under hypnosis after detectives were unable to make a breakthrough. Information they passed on while in a trance during ­sessions at Leighton Buzzard police station were followed up by 80 officers.

Allen Morgan, slowed down by ­ diabetes and walking with a stick, was ­convicted of conspiracy to murder while Margaret Morgan was acquitted at Luton Crown Court

Allen Morgan, slowed down by ­ diabetes and walking with a stick, was ­convicted of conspiracy to murder while Margaret Morgan was acquitted at Luton Crown Court

This included the account of a girl who said she saw a man ­walking briskly away from the ­corner shop clutching two plastic carrier bags to his chest at the ­relevant time. As he stooped to open his car door, coins and notes spilled out of one of them.

This, it was believed, was the £400 stolen from the shop, along with a large quantity of cigarettes, in order to make the murder look like a robbery gone wrong but which probably acted as part-­payment for the ‘hit.’

There was a flaw in the plan, though. The suspected killer, who had distinctive ‘piggy nostrils’ and has never been caught, had accessed a secret drawer in Allen Morgan’s office containing the missing cash, which suggested it was an ‘inside job’.

How would he have known about it, in other words, if he hadn’t been told where to look?

So suspicion fell on Morgan and his lover, then in their 30s, which only heightened when they were pictured on a sun-drenched ­holiday in Malta, having been tracked down by the News of the World, just seven months after Carol’s death.

‘I don’t feel any guilt,’ Morgan was quoted as saying. ‘I know ­people are saying that Carol has only been dead for a little while and I shouldn’t be sunning myself on the beach with ­Margaret. But my marriage was as good as over . . . I can’t go on mourning for ever.’

The woman, who barely a year on would become his wife and decades later his co-defendant, added: ‘We’ve had enough ­accusations from the police and neighbours. All we want is a new life together.’

For more than 40 years, that’s what they had.

Until one day in 2019, following the opening of a cold case review of the murder, when police arrived at their front door and a scene we have seen many times on television began to unfold in real life.

‘You do not have to say anything,’ the couple were informed, ‘but it may harm your defence . . .’

It would take until 2023 to bring formal charges, however. By then, a key witness, who knew the ­couple back in the 1980s, had been identified and was prepared to testify.

Now 60, Jane Bunting was with them in a pub, she revealed, when Allen Morgan had ­complained bitterly about his marriage. He muttered something about ‘insulin poisoning’ or a ‘car accident’ before saying: ‘You can always pay someone.’

Turning directly to her, he then asked: ‘What about that boyfriend you went out with? He’s a bit of a criminal, wouldn’t he know someone?’

The jury believed her.

A poster released at the time appealing for information about the murder of Carol Morgan

A poster released at the time appealing for information about the murder of Carol Morgan

Her account, bolstered with incriminating financial evidence, has left Allen Morgan facing the prospect of dying in prison when he is sentenced next month.

He inherited his late wife’s estate, including her share of the shop, and there was also a £5,000 insurance policy, a considerable sum back then, remaining on a loan to purchase the business payable on her death.

Police believe he used the money to start the ‘new life’ Margaret spoke of in the newspaper article, away from the whispers and gossip that engulfed them in Bedfordshire.

It took them briefly to ­Doncaster, where Morgan had relatives, then to Sheffield, where they opened another corner shop, before they finally put down roots in Brighton, where he worked as a caretaker and she was a teacher in a ­special school.

They bought their ‘forever home’, an end-of-terrace property — without a mortgage — in 1987 and enjoyed regular, rambling walks together with their dog on the nearby South Downs and the beach.

Was the house purchased with some of his murdered wife’s money? It’s hard to believe it wasn’t, or that money didn’t

play some part in the motive for what happened. Allen Morgan certainly benefited financially from her death, either way.

He and Margaret could often be seen in their immaculate back garden in Brighton, tending the borders in fine weather or standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the greenhouse potting plants.

‘Oh, he liked his gardening,’ said neighbour Shirley Wyatt, adding that Allen had a ‘big heart’ and was very generous with his time, giving her lifts into town in his car on many occasions.

Back at East Brighton Golf Club, there is disbelief at the turn of events involving of two of their own.

There are pictures online of Allen Morgan, in a yellow polo shirt with the club logo, posing for a photograph with fellow ­members and Margaret on the course in the company of two friends. This is who they were, wasn’t it?

‘I don’t believe any of this ­murder stuff for a minute,’ said one ­incredulous member. ‘They’re a lovely couple and good friends of ours. I think it’s dreadful what they have been dragged through. They have been loyal servants of this club for more than 25 years and have both been club captains. They are well liked and take part in lots of ­functions here.’

It was a view shared by everyone who spoke to us.

But Allen Morgan, popular club stalwart, exemplary neighbour and devoted husband and father to two stepchildren, had been living a lie for most of his adult life. He may have even have believed the lie himself after all these years.

The murder of his former wife would have remained unsolved — given that the maniac who actually carried out the attack has never been caught — if the case hadn’t been reopened by detectives from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.

‘Carol was killed in a frenzied and sustained attack, suffering horrific injuries which cruelly cut short her life,’ said Dept Supt Carl Foster, who continued to lead the investigation despite retiring before the case reached trial.

‘Carol was effectively erased from all memory, including those of her two children, who have grown up without their mother, being raised by the ­person who was responsible for her death,’ said Dept Supt Foster. ‘It has had had a significant impact on them.’

Carol’s children, both in their 50s, gave evidence. They spoke of their ‘real shock’ after being told that Allen and Margaret had been arrested.

Dean Morgan said Allen had been a ‘good stepdad’ and his ­sister Jane, now Jane Scales, who still lives in Brighton, said she had an ‘excellent’ relationship with Margaret.

After they were charged last year, Allen Morgan rang his stepson, claiming ‘it was all a mix-up.’ The conversation became heated, he said, ‘and he put the phone down on me. We have not spoken since’.

For more than 40 years, Allen Morgan hid the darkest of secrets from his friends at the golf club, from his neighbours, from his stepchildren, from everyone — apparently even from Margaret because, despite appearing alongside him in the dock, the jury thought she was innocent.

There was a final dramatic twist after her husband was convicted this week.

As she left the courtroom, ­Margaret didn’t turn to look at him, not once.