LONDON (Bywire News) - After eight years, and despite the best efforts of Home Secretary Priti Patel, the full and unredacted report into Daniel Morgan’s murder is set to be revealed tomorrow on the 15th June. But why is this report so controversial, and what revelations are we likely to see?
A notorious case
The murder of Daniel Morgan is one of the UK’s most heavily investigated and notorious murders. In March 1987, Morgan was found dead in a pub car park with an axe embedded in his skull. Multiple investigations have failed to find the culprits, but has focused in on several men in particular: Daniel’s former business partner Jonathan Rees, brothers Glenn and Garry Vian, and former policeman Sid Fillery were all charged with his murder but acquitted in 2011. Rees and the Vian brothers were awarded six figure sums due to misconduct committed by police investigating the case.
The investigation was flawed from the very beginning. One of the investigators assigned to the case was Sid Fillery, who handled some of the early interviews of the suspects. However, he did not disclose that he had a relationship with both Jonathan Rees and Daniel Morgan. Both men had been drinking with Morgan in the pub before his murder.
Fillery had also been moonlighting at Southern Investigations, Morgan and Rees’ PI firm, and, according to evidence given by Southern employee Kevin Lennon, was seen by Rees as a future partner of the company once Morgan was out of the way.
By this time, the two business partners had fallen out. According to a report in the Observer from 2004, Rees tried to have Morgan convicted of drink-driving. If he lost his license, Rees reasoned, Morgan would be unable to work as a private investigator.
Eventually, according to Lennon’s evidence at the original murder inquest, Rees decided that the only option was to have Morgan killed and replace him with Fillery.
What did Daniel Morgan know?
Several reasons have been put forward for Morgan’s murder. Initially, suspicion focused on disputes between himself and Rees. The two were said to have regular violent arguments in the office, but Rees sought to downplay the friction between the two, claiming that when he left Morgan on the night of his murder, the two parted on good terms. Other witnesses have disputed this version of events.
More recent investigations have suggested that Morgan was homing in on a much more serious story focusing on links between corrupt police and drugs - another man thought to have been working with Morgan at the time, Taffy Holmes, also died that summer under suspicious circumstances - apparently committing suicide due to his involvement with another corruption investigation.
Key to everything is the activity of Morgan’s firm Southern Investigations, which worked with corrupt police officers and tabloids on a number of highly questionable investigations. After Morgan’s death, Jonathan Rees took on a new business partner - Fillery, the man that Lennon claimed was slated to take over from Morgan before his murder.
Both partners would later have their fair share of problems with the police. Rees served time in prison for perverting the course of justice by planting cocaine on a mother as part of a custody battle, and Fillery was arrested after child abuse images were found on his computer.
In 1997 a police officer from the Metropolitan, Derek Haslam, went undercover at Southern Investigations. During his nine years under cover, he would discover more about the work of Taffy Holmes and Daniel Morgan to uncover the story of police corruption that they intended to sell to the press before their deaths. He was told by his handler that two men resembling Holmes and Morgan had previously met with the News of the World’s crime reporter, Alex Marunchak.
Marunchak would go on to be a central figure at the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal. He claims never to have heard of Daniel Morgan until his murder.
For a tabloid crime reporter, Marunchak certainly seemed to take little interest in the murder. While the rest of the press gobbled up the tasty story of police corruption and murder, the News of the World stayed strangely silent. Only once did Marunchak write a story on the subject.
That article, published two years after the murder, relied mainly on information from Jonathan Rees. One thing the piece did not reveal was that, by this time, Marunchak and Rees had a lucrative business arrangement.
The Murdoch connection
Throughout the nineties, Fillery and Rees worked closely with the News of the World. Marjorie Williams, a bookkeeper at Southern Investigations, said during evidence that the firm billed thousands of pounds each month from the paper in small payments. These, she said, were collected from Marunchak.
Rees and Fillery became the go-to people for illicit information. By 1996-97 they were earning more than £100k a year from the paper.
Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, who led the covert infiltration of Southern Investigations, gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that newspapers such as the Sun and News of the World used the agency to source stories.
He said during the Inquiry:
“Many of these stories… were being leaked by police officers who were already suspected of corruption or by unknown officers connected to officers suspected of corruption who were found to have a relationship with Southern Investigations.”
The relationship between the News of the World and Jonathan Rees continued for years – even after the phone hacking scandal and even after he was jailed for framing an innocent woman on a drugs charge. It only ended in 2008 after he was once again arrested on suspicion of Morgan’s murder.
In 2002 the investigation gained fresh impetus with an appearance on BBC’s Crimewatch. Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook became the public face of Operation Abelard as he fronted the segment on the TV show.
At the time, Cook was married to Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames. The couple soon found themselves the target of mystery surveillance.
The surveillance was soon discovered to have been ordered by the News of the World. It would later be revealed that Fillery and Rees had been tipped off about the investigation and that they were suspects in Morgan’s murder. They, in turn, contacted Alex Marunchak - who allegedly promised to "sort Cook out".
Shortly after, Surrey Police contacted Cook telling him they had been contacted by someone claiming to be from HMRC asking for his address so they could send a tax refund. They flagged the call as suspicious and did not provide the information. NOTW investigator Glen Mulcaire eventually succeeded in blagging Cook’s details including his home address, internal payroll number and mortgage details. He also obtained a mobile number for Cook’s wife and password for her email account.
Cook confronted the then-editor of the newspaper, Rebekah Brooks, with details of the surveillance at an event. She is said to have defended Marunchak, describing him as a "good editor", but she agreed to look into the matter. Not only did Marunchak face no action; he actually received a promotion.
There was further interference when Sir Iain Blair launched a fifth murder investigation. However, details quickly reached the ears of the suspects. Marunchak was on the war path once again, hawking stories about Jacqui Haimes’ business interests. There was nothing to these stories, and the intention seems to have been to maliciously discredit her husband, who was leading the investigation.
It’s still going on
There’s every reason to believe the cover up is still going on. Whatever the content of the Daniel Morgan report tomorrow, there will be an attempt to frame these as historic failings. The government will claim the press and the police have cleaned up their act – just as they did in the aftermath of the Leveson Inquiry.
The fact that Priti Patel has had “private dinners” with Rupert Murdoch is a major red flag that the organisation with most to lose from this report is still pulling the strings of power. Why else was the Home Office so hell-bent on trying to keep the report a secret?
(Writing by Tom Cropper, editing by Jess Miller.)