Alastair Morgan: A murder, a failed trial, and a family who want answers
For 25 years, he has fought to establish the truth about the killing of his brother. Cahal Milmo meets him
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 04 May 2012
The phone call that condemned Alastair Morgan to a life of seeking justice came at 5am on a spring day 25 years ago. Ever since he picked up the phone to hear from his mother that his brother Daniel was dead, he has fought an unceasing battle for the truth aimed not just at the killers but also those whose job it was to find them.
On 21 May, the latest testimony to the failure of the Metropolitan Police and the criminal justice system to put private investigator Daniel Morgan's murderers behind bars will be delivered, when a delayed review by Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service into last year's collapsed trial of three suspects is shown to Mr Morgan and his family.
The document itself is unlikely to tell Mr Morgan anything he did not already know about the extraordinary failings that mean his brother's killers remain at large. But it will open the way for what the 63-year-old translator believes is the last best hope to establish the truth about perhaps the most notorious unsolved murder of the last 50 years.
Once the review has been delivered, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will be forced to decide whether she will grant the family's request for a judge-led inquiry into Daniel's death. At the heart of that inquiry will be the allegation that police corruption led to the killing and contributed to the failure of five police investigations, costing an estimated £40m, to secure a conviction.
Speaking at his home in Clerkenwell, Mr Morgan told The Independent: "My relationship with the British state is pretty much finished. It took us 25 years to see a Home Secretary about my brother's case. When we finally got there, Mrs May said it was all very serious and there must be a police investigation.
"I said, no, no Mrs May, we've had 25 years of police investigations and they've let us down every step of the way. The only way to deal with this now is a full judge-led inquiry. I don't know of any case worse than Daniel's, especially from the point of view of suspected criminality within the police."
A cloud of alleged police corruption has hung over the Morgan case since the night of 10 March 1987 when police were called to the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, and found the body of the private detective, then 37, next to his car with an axe embedded in his head.
The killer had wrapped the handle of the weapon in fabric sticking plaster to avoid leaving any fingerprints. Mr Morgan had been in the pub for a pre-arranged meeting with his business partner, Jonathan Rees, who helped run Southern Investigations, the detective agency set up by Daniel. Mr Rees, who denied at Daniel's inquest that he had murdered him, was one of the three men acquitted of the killing last year.
According to at least two witnesses to whom Daniel spoke at a meeting of vintage car enthusiasts two days before his death, the father-of-two believed he had uncovered "serious police corruption". Further allegations have emerged that shortly before his death, Mr Morgan had approached the News of the World with a story revealing a circle of corrupt police officers who were potentially involved in a cocaine smuggling ring.
Throughout the intervening years, his brother has been an unstinting presence in the Morgan case. Since 1987, he calculates he has held 600 meetings related to Daniel's death, 200 of which have been with police, officials or MPs.
He said: "It is like a nightmare. Having a family member murdered is something that happens to other people. It just developed as a nightmare, the whole thing. The arrests of police, the inquest, what happened to Daniel's company. When my mother phoned that morning, she said the police could not tell her what had happened to him. I immediately knew there was something wrong. I don't know how but I sensed there was something sinister. I just didn't know how sinister."
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