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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little