LONDON (Bywire News) - The report into private investigator Daniel Morgan's murder was finally released today after years of delays from the Home Office. It is about as damning as it possibly could be, and there are a lot of people and organisations who have questions to answer.
Not least of them are politicians and the Metropolitan Police for standing in the way of inquiries, failing to cooperate and the Home Office who seeked to delay its release.
The panel found that institutional corruption played a huge part in the failures of the multiple investigations in to the murder, and added that corruption is still prevalent within the police, saying:
"Institutional corruption isn't used in a historic sense. It is used in a current sense."
There are two big issues we should look into above all else that hindered the case: police incompetence and corruption and the complicity of the Murdoch-led media.
Problems were identified from the outset of the original murder investigation in 1987.
"There were multiple very significant failings in the conduct of this investigation from the moment of the discovery of Daniel Morgan’s body," said the report.
The murder scene was not sealed off, alibis were not sought and the report found evidence that suspects may have been tipped off that they were about to be arrested.
The subsequent inquest a year later was not much better. Testimony from Southern Investigations’ former bookkeeper, Kevin Lennon, should have been damning. He claimed that Daniel Morgan's former business partner Jonathan Rees had asked if he knew anyone who could kill Daniel and that officers from Catford Police Station would arrange the murder.
Lennon also claimed that police officer Sid Fillery knew Daniel was going to be murdered and that he planned to retire from the police on grounds of ill health to become Rees’ partner. This, as it turned out, is exactly what happened.
Strangely, the coroner claimed during the inquest - "inaccurately", said the report – that he had heard no evidence regarding any police involvement in the murder. This statement, they said, was used by the Met for many years in blocking off suggestions that there should be a public accounting.
The report also questioned the independence of a second investigation which was carried out by Hampshire Police Complaints Commission in 1988. A senior member of the Met was appointed to work with Hampshire Constabulary and had full access to the investigation. Despite what the report claimed was "significant contradictory evidence", the Hampshire Police found that the original investigation had been thorough.
The report also criticised police officer David Cook, who has been described as the only person the Morgan family ever trusted, for his mishandling of the fourth investigation into Morgan’s death. He was found to have acted improperly with a key witness which led to his evidence being excluded and the case collapsing.
“There is evidence of a culture within the Metropolitan Police in 1987, which permitted very close association between police officers who were either members of the investigation or were close to those who were part of the investigation team, and individuals linked to crime”, said the report.
It found evidence that police officers were meeting with Fillery and Rees even after they had both been arrested in connection to the crime. Daniel Morgan’s murder, it found, may well have been discussed and Rees may have used these interactions to gain information about the investigation.
They also found that anti-corruption officers often faced hostility within the organisation. They were encouraged to seek transfers and faced disciplinary hearings. This was an extension of the so-called ‘blue wall mentality’ which is meant to encourage a united front for police in the fight against crime - but all too often it’s used to deter investigations of corruption.
The panel have recommended that there should be an investigation about more protections for police officers who raise concerns about wrong doing.
They also found numerous incidents in which police had passed information to criminals in return for payment or benefits, helped to sabotage evidence and even to commit crimes in order to get a share in insurance payouts.
Most importantly of all, the panel found that the police had prioritised protecting its reputation over rooting out corruption.
“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,” said the panel.
Another key question that the report looked at had been relationships police officers had with the media, especially the News of the World. The report found multiple instances where police officers were passing information to journalists. Data from the Met Police found 273 instances in which journalists were provided with confidential information by Law & Commercial, formally known as Southern Investigations.
It also confirmed much of what we already knew, including that News of the World journalists had close connections with Rees and Fillery and that this extended even after Rees was imprisoned for perverting the cause of justice when he planted cocaine on a mother during her child custody battle.
The report also found strong circumstantial evidence which "suggests very strongly that intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook, his wife Jacqui Hames, and their family was arranged by former DS Fillery and [News of the World reporter] Alex Marunchak".
When Cook became part of the investigation after fronting an edition of BBC’s TV show Crimewatch, he and his wife Jacqui Hames soon found themselves under surveillance. Hames described in an interview the frightening feeling of finding garden furniture moved, and people in cars monitoring her house.
The explanation given by journalists was that they were investigating an affair between Hames and Cook, but this holds little water as it was well known the two were married.
Questions surrounding the media were enough for SNP MP Stuart McDonald to say during the debate on the report today that it backs the case for a second Leveson Inquiry. In response, Patel claimed that the government had consulted Sir Brian Leveson about whether or not to go ahead with the second inquiry and that he has agreed it would not be appropriate.
This, as we’ve said several times in our previous coverage, is not true. Sir Leveson has revealed that he 'fundamentally disagreed' with the decision not to go ahead with the inquiry.
What happens now?
The panel has made several recommendations and the Home Secretary has pledged to ask the various departments to report on progress. However, as to whether this will lead to serious change, we’ll have to see.
The most serious questions that need answering are about the culture of corruption which continues to infect the police and the complicit actions of the media. For either of these things to change will require extensive reform and a major overhaul of the system.
As to whether anyone has the courage to do so – or if they will try and let this fade into the background - remains to be seen. Morgan’s brother Alistair, though, is in no doubt that this should be seen as a beginning. That could be bad news for those who would like to see this case fade from national consciousness.
Alistair Morgan’s tireless work has been instrumental in keeping this case alive in the public eye, and there is no sign he, or campaign groups such as Hacked Off, are going to back off now.
(Writing by Tom Cropper, editing by Jess Miller.)