Details have been released of an Independent Panel, set up along similar lines to the Hillsborough inquiry, which will probe the extent to which corruption involving the News of the World was a factor in one of the UK’s most notorious unsolved murders.
The Independent Panel looking into the murder of Daniel Morgan will be led by Sir Stanley Burnton and its remit is to examine the circumstances of the murder, its background and the handling of the case over the whole period since March 1987.
This will include:
- 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
- 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.
Private investigator Daniel Morgan was murdered with an axe in a South London car park in 1987. Since then there have been five failed police investigations and a criminal prosecution which collapsed in 2011 after 18 months of pre-trial argument.
One of the defendants in that case, Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees, has worked extensively for the News of the World (as well as the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror).
Tom Watson MP claimed last year that Morgan went to a News of the World journalist with a story making allegations about police corruption a week before he was killed.
He claimed that two of the men arrested on suspicion of the Morgan murder were part of a “corrupt nexus of private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World”.
The journalist named by Watson, who Press Gazette is not naming for legal reasons, has denied that he was ever contacted by Morgan.
Daniel’s brother Alastair issued a statement today on behalf of his mother Isobel, his sister Jane and himself.
He said: “In 2011, over 24 years after Daniel’s murder, the Metropolitan Police finally admitted that their first investigation of this crime was crippled by police corruption.
“As Daniel’s family, we were aware of that corruption within three weeks of the murder: we said so then, and we have been saying so ever since. 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. It has changed our relationship with this country forever.
“In the meanwhile, the allegations and evidence of serious corruption within the Metropolitan Police – extending to recent history and the highest ranks – remained unaddressed through five police investigations and a prosecution aborted after 18 months of pre-trial argument.
“Over most of this period, we witnessed a complete unwillingness by police and successive government to face up to what was occurring, and ultimately a complete failure by police leadership to deal effectively with serious police criminality.
“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.”
Writing in Press Gazette in 2011, Alastair Morgan – who trained as a journalist – said: “I remember how pleased I was when I started the course to read the words of Lord Donaldson about the primary role of the fourth estate, namely 'to unmask the fraudulent'.
“An inquest into the death of my brother back in 1988 concluded that he'd been 'unlawfully killed". This was no surprise as he'd been found with the blade of a 14in hatchet embedded in his face. There were disturbingly well-developed allegations and evidence of police involvement in the murder too.
“The fourth estate descended on the inquest like a flock of pigeons. 'Cops in 'murder plot''and 'Murder mistress in got-at denial'were two of the headlines I vividly recall. Then, as fast as they'd fl ocked in, they fl ew away, as if a hungry fox had shown up in an aviary. And they stayed away, while the police investigated themselves, the press watchdog wagged its tail and ministers regurgitated assurances fed to them by top cops.
“After this, the London media barely pointed its nose in the direction of the unsolved murder and the allegations of police involvement for many years. I tried hard, but few wanted to know. Or rather, some wanted to know, but fewer still were willing to write. Some red-tops even spread unfounded speculation about the murder, which was less than helpful."