Lawyers acting for the family of a murdered private detective have called for a new public inquiry which could shed more light on corrupt relationships between police and journalists.
Daniel Morgan was murdered with an axe in 1987 but despite five police investigations no-one has ever been convicted of his murder.
In March this year Morgan’s former business partner Jonathan Rees was one of three men acquitted of Morgan’s murder when the trial collapsed after 20-months of pre-trial hearings.
BBC Panorama revealed in March this year that Rees and his company, Southern Investigations, was widely used by journalists to find out secret information. Rees was used by the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror to probe the bank accounts of Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Prince Michael of Kent in 1999.
Rees was also used by the News of the World and rehired by the paper after his release from prison in 2005 following his conviction for a serious criminal offence.
During the emergency Commons debate on phone-hacking on 7 July, MP Tom Watson alleged that the News of the World had interfered with a murder investigation in 2002.
Press Gazette understands that the murder investigation in question was into the death of Daniel Morgan.
Watson said: “Rebekah Brooks was present at a meeting with Scotland Yard when police officers pursuing a murder investigation provided her with evidence that her newspaper was interfering with the pursuit of justice.
“They gave her the name of another senior executive at News International, Alex Marunchak. At the meeting, which included Dick Fedorcio of the Metropolitan police, she was told that News of the World staff were guilty of interference and party to using unlawful means to attempt to discredit a police officer and his wife.
“Rebekah Brooks was told of actions by people whom she paid to expose and discredit David Cook and his wife Jackie Haines, so that Mr Cook would be prevented from completing an investigation into a murder. News International was paying people to interfere with police officers and was doing so on behalf of known criminals. We know now that News International had entered the criminal underworld.
“Rebekah Brooks cannot deny being present at that meeting when the actions of people whom she paid were exposed. She cannot deny now being warned that under her auspices unlawful tactics were used for the purpose of interfering with the pursuit of justice. She cannot deny that one of her staff, Alex Marunchak, was named and involved.
“She cannot deny either that she was told by the police that her own paper was using unlawful tactics, in that case to help one of her lawbreaking investigators. This, in my view, shows that her culpability goes beyond taking the blame as head of the organisation; it is about direct knowledge of unlawful behaviour. Was Mr Marunchak dismissed? No. He was promoted.”
This meeting was also brought up during Commons media select committee questions to Rebekah Brooks and former Met Police assistant commissioner John Yates last month. Brooks said that it was extraordinary that Rees was re-hired by the News of the World in 2005 after a serious criminal conviction.
Daniel Morgan’s brother Alastair said: “For almost a quarter of a century, my family has done everything possible to secure justice for Daniel and to expose police corruption. For much of this time, we have encountered stubborn obstruction and worse at the highest levels of the Metropolitan Police.
“We have found an impotent police complaints system and met with inertia or worse on the part of successive governments. We have been failed utterly by all of the institutions designed to protect us. We have seen for ourselves a criminal justice system which has proved incapable of coming to terms with the murder or the subsequent criminality of those charged with enforcing the law.
“In the midst of what is a tragic mess for my family, we recognise that those responsible for the most recent prosecution, police officers and lawyers alike, have done their utmost to redress the catastrophic failures of earlier investigations. Nevertheless, despite their best efforts, the fact remains that there has been no public scrutiny of the evidence available in relation to Daniel’s murder.
“We find real significance in recent and continuing revelations around the News of the World affair in relation to the close relationships between NoW journalists, corrupt police officers and some of those charged with Daniel’s murder.
“In that light, we call upon the Home Secretary now to order a full judicial inquiry into this sorry state of affairs. We consider that the material placed before her cries out for proper public scrutiny of the murder and its handling by the police and the prosecuting authorities over the years. We know she will need courage to ensure that there is such scrutiny – courage which we have found to be signally lacking in her predecessors.”
Lawyers acting for the Morgan family have sent the Home Secretary a detailed submission setting out the grounds for a judicial inquiry into the case.
On 31 March, 2011, acting Met Commissioner Tim Godwin apologised to the Morgan family and acknowledged publicly that there had been a ‘repeated failure by the MPS over many years following Daniel’s murder to accept that corruption had played such a significant part in failing to bring those responsible to justice”.
He said: ‘We recognise that we have to take responsibility for the consequences of the repeated failure of the MPS over the years to confront the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice.’