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Daniel Morgan: 'Institutional corruption' revealed in London's police force over 1987 axe murder

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By Philip Andrew Churm  & Chris Cummins
Daniel Morgan as a child
Daniel Morgan as a child   -   Copyright  Family Handout
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"Systemic failings", "failings of individual officers", and "lack of candour" are just some of the conclusions found by a report on how London's Metropolitan Police dealt with a 1987 murder.

More than 34 years after London-based private investigator Daniel Morgan was axed to death in a pub car park, and despite five investigations and an extensive inquiry, his family still do not have justice for his murder.

The eight-year-long probe into the murder has cost around €18.6m and the panel’s findings were finally released on Tuesday (June 15) in a 1,200-page report.

In a statement accompanying the huge report, Baroness Nuala O’Loan wrote:

“By not acknowledging or confronting, over the 34 years since the murder, its systemic failings, or the failings of individual officers, by making incorrect assertions about the quality of investigations, and by its lack of candour, which is evident from the materials we have examined we believe the Metropolitan Police’s first objective was to protect itself. In so doing it compounded the suffering and trauma of the family. The Metropolitan Police were not honest in their dealings with Daniel Morgan’s family, or the public. The family and the public are owed an apology.”

The purpose of the inquiry was to investigate claims of police involvement in Morgan's murder and corruption in the subsequent investigations.

Morgan family lawyer calls out police 'institutional corruption'

The family's lawyer Raju Bhatt said in a press conference after the report was released that it is clear that police "institutional corruption" detailed is a current, not just historic, problem.

In the report, the panel found that:

"The family of Daniel Morgan suffered grievously as a consequence of the failure to bring his murderer(s) to justice, the unwarranted assurances which they were given, the misinformation which was put into the public domain, and the denial of the failings in investigation, including failing to acknowledge professional incompetence, individuals’ venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures. The Metropolitan Police also repeatedly failed to take a fresh, thorough and critical look at past failings. Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for the reputational benefit and constitutes a form of institutional corruption."

The Metropolitan Police Service apologises, recognises corruption

The Metropolitan Police Service released a statement after the panel report was released on Tuesday saying it "deeply regrets our failure to bring those responsible for the murder of Daniel Morgan to justice. There is no doubt our failings compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family and for this we profoundly apologise."

The Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave also said in the statement: “Since Daniel’s murder, we’ve completely overhauled our ability to identify corruption and ensure every officer and member of staff understands their responsibility to stand up for our fundamental values of professionalism, integrity, compassion and courage. But that does not mean we are complacent." He added that the police has "never been better at finding corruption and getting rid of it.”

The UK police service is now offering one of its largest-ever rewards - the equivalent of 58,000 euros - for information leading to the successful prosecution of those responsible for the murder.

Collusion between media organisations and law enforcement

Daniel’s brother Alastair Morgan has relentlessly lobbied politicians and journalists and published a successful book, “Untold: Exposing the Truth Behind the Daniel Morgan Murder”.

Alastair also wants some light to be thrown on numerous investigations that were tainted by claims of corruption and incompetence. He long-suspected close collusion between media organisations and law enforcement authorities.

“There are three elements in this tale. There’s the police and the murderers. Then we have government and there is the press,” said Alastair.

“There was, I believe, police corruption of one description or another either inside the investigations or externally within the police; making decisions and affecting the tapestry.”

Police handout
Daniel MorganPolice handout

Daniel’s partner in the private investigation firm "Southern Investigations" was Jonathan Rees, who had close links with local police officers.

Alastair claimed there were many questions to be answered about Rees’ background and involvement.

“This guy had a lot of contacts in the police,” he said. “What I didn’t realise at that time was that it went much, much deeper than that. There were deep, dark corners in these relationships that I was completely unaware of.”

Rees was one of four men charged with Morgan’s murder in 2008. They were later cleared when the case collapsed.

One of the others charged was Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, a close friend of Rees who, after Daniel’s murder, became a partner in the private investigation company.

Daniel was 37 when he was killed. He was married with two young children.

Suspects monitored

Both Rees and Fillery became suspects in the murder investigation and police began monitoring their activities. This led to Rees being arrested for planting cocaine on the innocent wife of a client who was fighting for custody in a divorce battle.

Rees was jailed for seven years in 2000 for the offence.

Fillery was convicted in 2003 of possession of indecent images of children on a computer seized by investigators. He received a three-year community rehabilitation order.

A fresh investigation was launched in 2006 and was headed by Scotland Yard officer, DCS Dave Cook. Cook was married to a BBC presenter, Jacqui Hames, whose phone was hacked by News of the World journalists who believed she was having an affair with Cook. They were unaware the couple were actually married.

Hames received substantial damages for the intrusion.

Strong evidence of an attempt to discredit the investigation officer

The new report says there is circumstantial evidence that "suggests very strongly that the intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook, his wife, Jacqui Hames, and their family was arranged by former DS Fillery and Alex Marunchak with a view to discrediting DCS Cook and/or to intimidate him" and thus disrupt the latest investigation.

There is also evidence included from a bookkeeper of Rees' firm, who worked there after Morgan's murder. She said she'd heard the firm paid a credit card bill and child school fees for News of the World Editor Alex Marunchak.

Euronews
Alastair Morgan, brother of Daniel, in an interview with EuronewsEuronews

The fresh investigation led several new witnesses to come forward, including some organised criminals. Rees and two of his in-laws, Garry and Glenn Vian, along with another man, were charged with murder.

Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice but the case collapsed in 2011 after it was found that some informants gave false evidence.

Alastair spoke of his shock when the first witness began giving evidence in court. Alastair said of the witness: “He had been asked, by Jonathan Rees, to find someone to murder my brother - on several occasions.”

It was later revealed that the witness was a known criminal who was employed by Rees to manage the accounts of the firm. Alastair said the witness claimed that Rees had said his “friend, Sid Fillery, was going to be on the investigation and he is going to sort it out.”

'Stinking mess'

Cook was criticised when the case collapsed but Alastair believes he was handed a “poisoned chalice” in a system that had evaded honesty.

Alastair said he frequently messaged the inquiry panel to suggest “There is a morass of corruption in our culture that embraces police corruption, hardcore criminals, senior executives of the press, senior police officers and it’s a dirty, stinking mess.

“I discovered that there was a lucrative business going on between journalists, on the one hand, police and the suspects in my brother’s murder.”

Panel report delayed by British Home Secretary

Tuesday’s report release was delayed by British Home Secretary, Priti Patel. It has prompted criticism by opposition politicians that there was an attempt to cover up details of the report, which might implicate Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “People with very close friends in News International might want to delay or even prevent this publication.”

The Home Office insisted that they were obliged to check the report for any national security concerns.

Raju Bhatt, the lawyer for the Morgan family said the panel has “finally named the sickness …. the police corruption and criminality that has wrecked our lives”