On 10 March 1987 the body of a young private investigator called Daniel Morgan was found in the car park of a south London pub. An axe was embedded in his face.
Last week, a former business partner of Morgan’s, Jonathan Rees, together with two brothers, Glenn and Garry Vian, were aquitted at the Old Bailey after the case against the three was dropped by the CPS because the amount of paperwork involved meant that it could not be guaranteed that the defence had been able to see all the evidence before the trial started. A fourth man, Jimmy Cook, had been cleared at an earlier hearing and Sid Fillery, a former police detective from Catford, had been cleared of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Rees and the Vians have previous convictions for serious offences. Rees served seven years from December 2000 for planting drugs on an innocent woman he was trying to frame. On his release, he was immediately re-engaged by his previous client, the News Of The World.
An employee of Morgan’s and Rees’s firm, Southern Investigations, said in evidence 23 years ago that a business contact had talked of wanting Morgan dead and that his police contacts at Catford would help bring this about.
We shall never know who murdered Daniel Morgan, in the same way that we’ll never know who killed Stephen Lawrence. But note the names above, just for the record.
As with the Lawrence case, there are questions about the role of the police. Rees had been paying a network of corrupt cops who sold him information. There have been five police investigations into the Morgan murder, the first of which is now admitted by the cops themselves to have been obstructed by police corruption. The collapse of the case last week seems to have been due to a genuine cock-up by the new team who investigated the case and by the CPS, rather than corruption. But after the series police of cover-ups that have dogged this case, one has to be a bit cynical about that.
After the collapse of the case an honest cop, Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, expressed his personal feelings to the Morgan family, describing the outcome as “wholly regrettable.” He went on: “This current investigation has identified, ever more clearly, how the initial inquiry failed the family and the wider public. It was quite apparent that police corruption was a debilitating factor in that investigation…Significant changes have occurred since that time; nevertheless, there are important issues which we need to examine in order to understand what led to today’s decision.”
The only newspaper to have given this case extensive coverage has been the Guardian (from which most of the information in this piece has been obtained). The Murdoch press has largely ignored it, which is, perhaps not surprising: the main customer of the information that Rees obtained by bribing cops and hacking into phones was the News Of The World (though the Mirror also paid him for information).
Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates has some explaining to do: he assured Parliament that the phone-hacking scandal was limited to Clive Goodman (former NOTW royal correspondent) and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, both of whom were jailed in 2007. He also stated that hacking phone messages was only illegal if the recipient had not yet listened to them (!). Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, has accused Yates of misleading two parliamentary select committees on the phone-hacking issue. Now, the director of public prosecutions has written to the Guardian, accusing Yates of misrepresenting him in attempting to justify the evidence he gave the select committees.
But if Yates has some explaining to do, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have even more: this time-line shows that Andy Coulson (until recently, Cameron’s communications director) must have known about Rees’s activities when he was Deputy Editor and then Editor of the NOTW – and that Cameron must have known this when he gave Coulson his job with the Tories and the coaltion government. Clegg must have known about the prosecution of Rees and its implications when he signed up to Cameron’s coalition.
The whole business stinks of Murdoch criminality, police corruption and Tory/Lib-Dem complicity. There will be more revelations tonight at 8.30 on BBC 1’s Panorama.
Meanwhile the killers of Daniel Morgan and their police friends have gone free, while his family are left to grieve. Morgan’s brother Alistair told the Guardian: “It was obvious my brother was going to blow the lid off the links between the police and criminals.”