Daniel Morgan: A shameful case, but this time the family won't be ignored

The announcement of an inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan vindicates those who made dark allegations against the powerful

Share
Related Topics

The Home Secretary's announcement of an independent panel to review the murder of Daniel Morgan is a victory for his family. And about time too. From the moment that Daniel was murdered they knew something was very wrong with the police approach. For many 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. Hard lessons need to be learnt.

Let's examine the facts: Daniel was murdered in the car park of the Golden Lion public house in Sydenham, south London on 10 March 1987. An axe was embedded in his head. Daniel had been a partner in a private investigation agency called Southern Investigations. As was the practice in those days, the initial police response was led by the local crime squad. At its head was one Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, an officer long suspected of serious corruption. Soon after the murder, DS Fillery "interviewed" Jonathan Rees, Daniel's partner in Southern Investigations, about his movements on the night in question and his knowledge of what happened.

It is no exaggeration to say that the investigation was fatally undermined from this point. The family knew this but were ignored. Because what DS Fillery chose not to tell his senior officers was that he had been moonlighting and working for Southern Investigations at the time. Soon after the murder he retired from the police on medical grounds and joined Mr Rees as his partner. Both men, along with others, have been arrested and charged in connection with the murder – in Mr Rees's case, twice – but on each and every occasion they have been acquitted. 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 in all likelihood will never be tested before a jury.

There have been five police inquiries into the murder and, to date, nobody has been brought to justice. I had overall responsibility for the case from 2006 until the collapse of the last trial at the Old Bailey in March 2011 and know, better than most, that this is likely to remain the case. The judge said at the time that it was one of the most complex cases ever to come before the courts in this country and he was right. He also said that the police had "ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the defendants".

More than 750,000 documents were assembled, mostly not computerised – not only material gathered in the direct police investigations into the murder, but alsoduring scores of other cases involving serious crime where either the defendants or potential crown witnesses had been involved. The criminal justice system simply could not cope. The people who knew what had happened – criminal supergrasses – were so tainted that the Crown was never in a position to present them as credible witnesses. The archiving of relevant paperwork of old cases by Scotland Yard was also managed in such an appallingly chaotic way that the Director of Public Prosecutions was forced to conclude that he could not guarantee that the defence had access to all the relevant material. There has never been a better illustration of the old adage that it is better 99 guilty men go free than one innocent person go to prison.

Sir Stanley Burnton's appointment to lead an independent panel to examine the case is a tacit acknowledgment that all criminal justice routes to resolve this case have been exhausted. Unencumbered by the demands of the court processes, he is likely to identify the key issues very quickly. With notable exceptions, he will not make the mistake of successive police investigations and several generations of politicians and ignore the family. Daniel's brother Alastair, his mother Isobel and his sister Jane are remarkable people. Articulate, educated and probably, until Daniel's murder, natural supporters of the police, they have been treated quite disgracefully. It's not the court they would have chosen but they deserve their day and I expect their collective testimony to be explosive.

Sir Stanley will also forensically examine the role of the police. This will not be comfortable. In fairness to Scotland Yard, there was a clear acknowledgment by the mid-Nineties that police corruption was, if not at the heart of the case, a contributing factor. Determined and creative efforts were made to obtain the evidence needed to put people before the courts. The trouble was that they never acknowledged this to the family. The word "groupthink" gained currency during the Leveson inquiry – the slavish following of one decision without proper review or reflection. Successive Met hierarchies were guilty of this in this case. They continued to treat the family as the enemy – part of the problem rather than the potential solution. The result was the further alienation of a family that already thought the police were guilty of an appalling cover-up.

The panel will also pay particular attention to the role played by Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook. He led the case from 2002 and did more than anyone to bring the right people to justice. A feisty and outspoken individual, he was also an extremely able and committed detective. Most importantly, he won the trust and respect of the family. Disturbingly, he provides an astonishing link between Southern Investigations, the News of the World and phone-hacking when, in July 2011, it was revealed that the paper had used the detective agency to tail Det Ch Supt Cook and his wife at the height of his involvement in leading the murder investigation.

Daniel Morgan's murder provides a field day for conspiracy theorists. Most conspiracies are more cock-up than conspiracy. The case of Daniel Morgan is altogether more disturbing, as the closer you look, the worse it gets. Sir Stanley's panel is the right forum for all these issues to be ventilated. Theresa May was right to announce its formation and the family deserve nothing less.

John Yates is a former UK head of counterterrorism and executive director of G3, the Good Governance Group

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine