A man cleared of murder can be named as a private investigator with links to corrupt police officers who earned £150,000 a year from the News of the World for supplying illegally obtained information on people in the public eye.
Jonathan Rees was acquitted of the murder of his former business partner, Daniel Morgan, who was found in a south London car park in 1987 with an axe in the back of his head. The case collapsed after 18 months of legal argument, during which it has been impossible for media to write about Rees's Fleet Street connections.
The ending of the trial means it is now possible for the first time to tell how Rees went to prison in December 2000 after a period of earning six-figure sums from the News of the World.
Rees, who had worked for the paper for seven years, was jailed for planting cocaine on a woman in order to discredit her during divorce proceedings. After his release from prison Rees, who had been bugged for six months by Scotland Yard because of his links with corrupt police officers, was rehired by the News of the World, which was being edited by Andy Coulson.
The revelations call into question David Cameron's judgment in choosing Coulson as director of communications at 10 Downing Street in May 2010. Both he and the deputy prime minister had been warned in March 2010 about Coulson's responsibility for rehiring Rees after his prison sentence.
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The Home Office yesterday ruled out a judicial inquiry into the 17 year old murder of a private detective, despite an MP raising questions about the key investigating role of a former police officer suspected of being involved in the death.
Roger Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, took the unusual step of using parliamentary privilege to name ex-police sergeant Sidney Fillery, who now co-owns a detective agency set up by the victim, Daniel Morgan.
Mr Williams also asked whether the government was unwilling to hold an inquiry because it would prove uncomfortable for the Home Office and the Metropolitan police.
Speaking in a Commons adjournment debate, the MP said Mr Fillery had been one of the officers at Catford CID who played a key role in the first four days of the initial murder inquiry.
During those four crucial ‘golden days’, Mr Williams said, Mr Fillery conducted the first interview with the main suspect, his friend and Mr Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees.
He also had “the opportunity to take possession of key incriminating files . . . including Daniel’s diary, which has never been found”.
Mr Williams, in whose constituency Mr Morgan’s mother, Isabel Hulsmann, lives, said Metropolitan police officers who conducted a fourth investigation last year described the case as “the worst mess they had ever seen”.
According to Mr Williams, the Met said “the real mischief” lay in the initial investigation in 1987, and “the role of ex-police sergeant Sidney Fillery in that investigation lay at the heart of the mischief”.
'I promised to expose the corruption' - Daniel Morgan's brother
The Home Office is to announce an independent review into the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan in south London in 1987.
Six criminal investigations have failed to identify who killed him with an axe.
It has been alleged police corruption prevented the Metropolitan Police from solving his murder.
Daniel's brother Alastair, who has campaigned through five police investigations and a collapsed trial for someone to be held accountable, tells BBC's Newsnight programme "I made a promise to expose the corruption."
The Daniel Morgan murder case is "as grave a case for the Metropolitan Police as was the murder of Stephen Lawrence", the former lead detective in recent investigations tells Channel 4 News.
As the government announced a judge-led independent panel to examine police failings over the 1987 murder of private detective Morgan, Dave Cook, the former lead detective involved in the most recent investigations, made his first ever public comment on the case to Channel 4 News.
Morgan, 37, was found slumped by his BMW in a pub car park in Sydenham, south London, on 10 March 1987. The father of two and partner in a London private investigations firm, Southern Investigations, had been struck in the head several times with an axe which was found embedded in his skull.
This is a case of such magnitude that it deserves the scrutiny it will soon have. - Dave Cook
In the intervening years there have been five police investigations into the murder, at a reported cost of £30m, but no one has ever been convicted. Morgan's business partner at Southern Investigations, Jonathan Rees, along with three others, was charged with the murder in April 2008.
The case, however, collapsed after witnesses had to be withdrawn, with the police accused of withholding evidence.
The role which police corruption has played in this case has been acknowledged at the highest levels within the Metropolitan Police. Former assistant commissioner John Yates once described this as "one of the most deplorable episodes in the entire history of the MPS".
In 2011 the then acting commissioner Timothy Godwin spoke of the "repeated failure of the MPS... to confront the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder".
The government has now asked a judge, Sir Stanley Burnton, to lead an independent panel to examine the circumstances surrounding Daniel Morgan's murder. The handling of the case throughout the whole period since 1987 will also be examined.
This review must do the equivalent of the Hillsborough Review in establishing the truth not just for the sake of the family but also for the public having confidence in the police and judicial process.
The terms of reference will involve the panel seeking to address questions which relate to "police involvement in the murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice and the failure to confront that corruption; and the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media and corruption involved in the linkages between them".
'Bullied, degraded and let down'
Daniel Morgan's brother Alastair welcomed the news, saying: "Through almost three decades of public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians and pleas to the media, we have found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we have been required to endure has been nothing less than mental torture.
"... we trust and hope that the panel, through its examination and publication of all relevant material and information, will assist the authorities to confront and acknowledge this failure for once and for all, so that we may at last be able to get on with our lives."
The Metropolitan Police detective who supervised investigations into the murder from 2002 to 2011, Dave Cook, has spoken publicly for the first time on Friday about the case.
In 2011 Channel 4 News first broadcast claims by Mr Cook and his then wife Jacqui Hames, a former Crimewatch presenter, that the News of the World had placed them under surveillance in an alleged attempt to subvert the police inquiry into Daniel Morgan's murder.
This morning the former detective chief superintendent (who was arrested last January over allegations of unauthorised leaks to a journalist - he is on bail awaiting a decision by the IPCC on whether charges will be brought) gave a statement to Channel 4 News:
"I consider the Daniel Morgan murder as grave a case for the Metropolitan Police as was the murder of Stephen Lawrence, but instead of race being the issue, this time it is about corruption.
"This is a case of such magnitude that it deserves the scrutiny it will soon have. This review must do the equivalent of the Hillsborough Review in establishing the truth not just for the sake of the family but also for the public having confidence in the police and judicial process.
Calls for Scotland Yard to “come clean” about an alleged 27-year cover-up of the Daniel Morgan murder has intensified in the wake of the review into the Stephen Lawrence case.
Alastair Morgan, whose brother, a private investigator, was found with an axe embedded in his skull in 1987, told The Independent that it appeared there was evidence of a corrupt “firm within a firm” operating inside the Metropolitan Police. He called on the force to release all documentary evidence to a separate judge-led panel investigating the unsolved case.
On Thursday the Ellison report, an independent review of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence – another killing that has been tainted with allegations of police corruption – found a direct link between the two cases.
Mr Morgan said: “We have always suspected that there could be overlaps between the two cases. It is essential that we get to the bottom of this.” He said he was concerned by revelations in the Ellison report that nearly all material gathered by Operation Othona, a top-secret anti-corruption investigation set up by the Met in 1993, was destroyed in 2003, because that meant it was likely that information concerning his brother’s case had been lost.
The Ellison team also found that key intelligence of police corruption, known by the former Met Commissioner Lord Stevens that related to the Lawrence murder, had been withheld from the Scotland Yard legal department, which was in charge of disclosure of information to the 1998 Macpherson inquiry into the fatal stabbing of the black student.
Mr Morgan told The Independent: “This is absolutely shocking. Lord Stevens has a lot of explaining to do. Why did he not tell his legal department? He also played a key role in the investigations into Daniel’s death and the documents from Operation Othona appear to have been shredded when he was commissioner.”
The review of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, conducted by Mark Ellison QC, found that the former Detective Sergeant John Davidson – a suspected corrupt officer who worked on the lamentable initial investigation in 1993 – could be linked to Met inquiries into the Daniel Morgan case.
Scotland Yard told the Ellison review that the link was false, but the report cast doubt on current police assurances, concluding: “We have some reservations about accepting this assertion.”
The report also concluded that intelligence relating to Mr Davidson was withheld from the Met’s directorate of legal affairs by Lord Stevens, and was treated with “near to absolute secrecy”. Mr Davidson has denied any corruption.
The report says: “The MPS legal team was unaware that there were also anti-corruption intelligence files mentioning officers involved in the initial murder investigation, and that Deputy Commissioner Stevens was communicating with the [Macpherson inquiry] chairman directly regarding this intelligence.
“Had counsel for the MPS been aware of such material, we are told they would have wanted to understand the nature of it, in order to advise as to whether or not it should be disclosed to the chairman, particularly given the widening of the ambit of the files that the inquiry wished to consider.”
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has appointed an independent panel to look at “police involvement” in the murder of Daniel Morgan, who was killed in a car park amid claims he was about to reveal police malpractice to the News of the World. She told the Commons the Morgan inquiry may “uncover material relevant to the question of corruption”. Lord Stevens did not respond to a request for comment.
Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent
Tuesday 17 January 2017 20.05 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 17 January 2017 22.00 GMT
The alleged conspirators in the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan have been named in court, nearly 30 years after the private detective was found dead with an axe embedded in his head in a pub car park.
The high court heard allegations from lawyers acting for the Metropolitan police that Glenn Vian struck two fatal blows with the axe having been paid to carry out the killing by Jonathan Rees, an investigator who was Morgan’s business partner.
Rees carried out extensive work as an private eye for the News of the World, and earned up to £150,000 a year for the tabloid by providing it with information and stories, despite claims of him having links to police officers suspected of corruption.
Morgan was killed in 1987 and no one has ever been convicted over his death, one of the UK’s most notorious unsolved crimes. The court heard that Morgan was investigating the drugs trade and was killed because he knew too much.
Rees, Vian and others were tried for murder but the case collapsed in 2011. A civil case has allowed the allegations to be aired in public again. Rees and three other men charged at the time are suing the Metropolitan police, alleging officers were so determined to get them that its pursuit was malicious.
Morgan’s family believe the government should hold the second part of the Leveson inquiry into police and media relationships, believing it would help to shed light on their concerns that he was killed to stop him revealing corruption involving police officers and criminals. The government decision is expected later this year on whether Leveson II will take place.
The Met is defending the claim and said there was ample reason to suspect the men of murder. Jeremy Johnson QC, acting for the Met commissioner, said several witnesses who were close to the suspects had given the same description of the conspiracy to kill and silence Morgan.
Johnson told the high court: “The evidence gathered by the police included multiple accounts from various of the claimants’ associates to the effect that Jonathan Rees wanted Daniel Morgan dead, that he had paid his brothers in law, Glenn and Garry Vian, to carry out the murder, that Jimmy Cook was the getaway driver, and Sidney Fillery knew about the murder.”
Fillery was a former Met officer and took Morgan’s place as Rees’s business partner after Morgan’s death. Johnson said an “insidious web of corrupt police officers” was active in south London in the 1980s and 1990s and that some suspected of involvement were also involved in Morgan’s murder.
Johnson told the court the murder and the alleged corruption in shielding the killers had “shocked the conscience of the nation” and that while she was home secretary Theresa May had ordered a panel of inquiry into the corruption claims. It is currently investigating, with its report due out later this year.
Morgan, 37, was a partner in a notorious private detective agency called Southern Investigations. The News of the World and other media used it, and police suspected that it was involved with corrupt officers selling information.
Morgan was killed outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London, on 10 March 1987. Johnson told the high court that one witness claimed Vian had bragged about the fatal attack and said: “Done him straight in the head with an axe. He should have been wearing a crash helmet.”
The suspects were subjected to bugging, and one recording captured Rees revealing he could use his corrupt police contacts to access top secret information, including whether police on the Morgan inquiry were monitoring him and any of the other suspects.
The investigation that collapsed in 2011 was led by DCS David Cook. Lawyers for the men suing the Met attacked his ethics, and Nicholas Bowen QC said Cook may have been driven to see Rees and the others convicted because he “became convinced and resentful that Rees and Southern Investigations had fixed up a surveillance operation of his own activities with the active cooperation of the News of the World”.
The case against Rees and the other men who faced murder charges collapsed mainly because it relied on a series of informants whose testimony was ruled as inadmissible. The judge criticised Cook during the trial for mishandling a crucial supergrass witness. In the end prosecutors decided to offer no evidence.
Bowen told the court: “The impropriety is not limited to the former DCS Cook. The Met police attitude to this case from the beginning was blinkered and a mindset developed which propelled the various investigations towards the goal of seeking the conviction of our clients irrespective of the fact there was no credible evidence against them.”
Police relied on “dodgy, desperate criminals” and “the prosecution was brought without reasonable cause and maliciously”, he said.
Cook will not give evidence in the civil proceedings, the high court heard. It was claimed he passed documents about the case and the corruption involved to a Sun journalist at the time.
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