Successive senior officers at Scotland Yard failed to unearth massive police corruption and allowed the killers of a private detective to remain at large in what may be "the most shameful episode in the Metropolitan Police's history", a former Scotland Yard assistant commissioner has said.
Writing in The Independent on Sunday today, John Yates, the former UK head of counter-terrorism, said Met bosses were guilty of following others' decisions "without proper review or reflection", leaving the family of Daniel Morgan fighting for justice for more than a quarter of a century.
"Successive Met hierarchies were guilty of [group-think] regarding this murder... The result was the further alienation of a family that already thought that the police were guilty of an appalling cover-up," he said. "For more than 25 years they were lied to, fobbed off, patronised and dismissed as crackpots by the very people who should have been helping them – the police. The result? A family have been denied justice and guilty men today are walking free. It is one of the most, if not the most shameful episodes in Scotland Yard's history."
Daniel Morgan, a 37-year-old father of two, was found with an axe in his head in a south London pub car park in March 1987. His family believes he was about to expose corruption at the highest levels of the Met, including revealing their close links with sections of the media.
In 2011, the trial of three men accused of the murder collapsed. After five police inquiries, acting Met commissioner Tim Godwin accepted that police corruption had shielded the killers.
On Friday, the Home Secretary ordered an independent panel, chaired by the former appeals court judge Sir Stanley Burnton, to examine the case. Sir Stanley will look at claims that in 2002 the News of the World placed the head of the Morgan murder investigation, former Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, under surveillance – allegedly on the orders of an executive. It is said the now defunct paper followed Mr Cook and his children and "blagged" his personal details from police databases as well as trying to access his, and his then wife's, voicemail.
Speaking earlier this week, Mr Cook said the murder was as serious a case for the Met as that of Stephen Lawrence, which, widely regarded as a watershed moment for the force, led to it being accused of institutionalised racism. "Instead of race being the issue, this time it is about corruption," he said.
Mr Cook's former wife and former Metropolitan Police detective Jacqui Hames, who presented Crimewatch between 1990 and 2006, told The IoS yesterday: "I wholeheartedly agree with John Yates... We police 'by consent' in this country, and the public are in danger of withdrawing their permission if a culture of proper openness and transparency isn't established as a result of this case."
Mr Yates, who had overall responsibility for the case from 2006 until the collapse of the trial in 2011, said the Morgan family had been "treated quite disgracefully... The theory that Daniel was about to expose serious corruption and drug-dealing between police and private investigators, and was murdered because of it, is a theory that will never be tested before a jury."