Daniel Morgan: No evidence of media contact before killing - Press Gazette

Daniel Morgan: No firm evidence murdered investigator spoke to media about police corruption before killing

Daniel Morgan killing

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel has found no hard evidence that the private investigator spoke to the media about police corruption before his killing.

There were reports that he had spoken about selling such a story for £250,000. And after his death the firm he worked for, Southern Investigations, would go on to have close ties to the News of the World.

The panel’s report published today exposes a catalogue of failings during five failed investigations into the 1987. And it found that, up to the present day, the Met Police has appeared more concerned about protecting itself and its reputation than uncovering the truth about the most investigated murder in British criminal history.

Morgan was killed with an axe in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, on 10 March 1987.

The report said that Bryan Madagan, a former employer of  Morgan, had made a statement to police in May 1987 in which he recalled a conversation with Morgan, before Christmas 1986:

“Daniel joined me and during conversation mentioned words to the effect that he was going to ‘hit the jackpot’. I can’t remember his actual words but the gist of the conversation was to the effect that he had been in contact with a Sunday newspaper who had offered him a sum in the region of £250,000 for an exposé on his business client relationship with regard to how he obtained his information. He didn’t elaborate on this but I drew the inference and I don’t think unnaturally that he meant his dealings with police officers.”

On 12 March 1987 (two days after the murder), a message was received by police from journalist Sylvia Jones of the Daily Mirror. This stated that Morgan used to deal with the press a great deal, and that he had previously been in business with Madagan but that after an acrimonious split, Daniel had tried to get the Daily Mirror to ‘“do a dirty” piece’ on Madagan and that “Madagan always swore revenge”.

On 21 May 1987, Anthony Pearce of Southern Investigations informed police that Bryan Madagan had told him the previous day: “He had received information from a local police officer that there were police officers engaged in illegal activities. Daniel Morgan also had the same information and related to him illegal police activities and he was going to the Sunday newspapers with the knowledge and was to obtain a substantial sum of money from the newspaper.”

However, no firm evidence that Morgan spoke to a journalist about police corruption before his death has been uncovered.

On 18 August 1987, DC Richard Davis reported that he had spoken to Nicholas Fullagar of the Daily Mirror who said that he did not recall Daniel Morgan approaching him with a story about police corruption; he did recall Morgan’s business associate Jonathan Rees passing stories to him although he did not think they were about police corruption.

On 8 February 1988, Anton Antonowicz, a reporter with the Daily Mirror,  was asked by police about his knowledge of Daniel Morgan.

Antonowicz said he knew Morgan and about a month before his death had received a call asking him to contact him urgently. He said he did not receive the message until after Morgan’s murder.

In 2012 MP Tom Watson alleged in the House of Commons that Morgan had gone to Alex Marunchak of the News of the World with a story about police corruption a week before he died. Marunchak would later work closely with Southern Investigations.

The Independent Panel report said: “There has been much media speculation about a News of the World journalist, Alex Marunchak, who became closely involved with Southern Investigations sometime after Daniel Morgan’s death. There is no evidence that Daniel Morgan had any contact with him.

“There is also no evidence that Alex Marunchak was contacted by the Morgan One Investigation about any knowledge he may have had of Daniel Morgan.

“On 13 October 2009, Alex Marunchak made a statement to the Abelard Two Investigation that he ‘had never met or had any contact with Daniel Morgan under any circumstances’ and ‘did not know anything about him prior to his murder’.

“There is nothing to indicate that Alex Marunchak was in a business or social relationship with those at Southern Investigations before the murder of Daniel Morgan.”

The report heard that a police press officer spoke informally to crime reporters Jeff Edwards of the Daily Star and John Toomey of the Sunday People during the first Morgan investigation.

“Both Jeff Edwards and John Toomey had reportedly made enquiries of several other colleagues and had said that there was no trace whatsoever of anything to support the suggestion that Daniel Morgan had been trying to sell anyone a story on police corruption, and that ‘there was certainly no suggestion that he was anticipating any £250,000 payout’. The press officer added that a story on police corruption would have to be a ‘remarkable story to merit an offer of £250,000’ and said that, if someone selling such a story was murdered, ‘the story would have appeared immediately’.”

The report concluded: “No information indicating that Daniel Morgan had significant contact with any journalist has been identified.”

On the issue of whether Morgan was in discussion with the media about police corruption before his death, the panel said: “There have been indications since 1987 that Daniel Morgan had been going to report police corruption, and to sell a story about corruption to the media. The nature of that corruption has never been established.

“There were a number of possibilities, some of which were never examined fully, including a connection between the recovery by Daniel Morgan of a Range Rover from Malta in February 1987, and a major fraud investigation being conducted by West Yorkshire Police.

“It is also possible that local officers involved in identified lucrative corrupt practices, such as, selling confidential information, assisting criminals with inside police information and ‘moonlighting’, thought that their police careers and pensions were under threat, and that future, potentially lucrative, options might be put at risk by Daniel Morgan’s alleged intention to reveal what he knew.

“The evidence supporting this theory as to why Daniel Morgan was murdered was never seriously investigated, despite the fact that in the years following Daniel Morgan’s murder, several of the police officers connected to Daniel Morgan’s circles and business were investigated for and convicted of serious crime.”

News of the World spied on police

However, a shadow remains over the News of the World over its actions during the re-investigation of the murder of Daniel Morgan began in April 2001.

The report notes that during the investigation DCS David Cook, the Senior Investigating Officer, and his wife were subjected to surveillance and various attempts were made to gather information about them by people working for the News of the World. It noted that this caused them considerable distress.

The CPS advised in January 2012 that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Jonathan Rees, former DS Fillery, Alex Marunchak and Glenn Mulcaire over this.

However, the panel stated that “the circumstantial evidence suggests very strongly that intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook, his wife Jacqui Hames, and their family was arranged by former DS Fillery and Alex Marunchak.”

Prosecutors conspired with police to avoid embarrassment for the Met after arrest of Sun source

A subplot to the Morgan case involved one of the investigating officers – DCS David Cook – who, having lost faith in the Met’s ability to investigate the case, instead decided to share what he knew about it with Sun crime reporter Mike Sullivan.

Cook was arrested in January 2012 on suspicion of committing misconduct in a public office was not cleared until 11 November 2015.

The panel heard how, in March 2011, it was discovered that Cook had supplied large quantities of information to Sullivan. The pair were reportedly in discussions about writing a book together.

The panel said: “Two searches of former DCS David Cook’s home in 2012 and 2014 had led to the discovery of enormous amounts of material belonging to police and other criminal justice agencies. He had disclosed much of this material to journalists and others. He said that he had done this because, if he could not bring the murderers of Daniel Morgan to justice, then he wanted to write a book, to reveal the evidence of corruption within alliances between elements of policing, private investigation and the media.”

The panel report indicates that the Crown Prosecution Service conspired with the Met Police to drop the investigation against Cook because they did not want embarrassing disclosures to be made public.

The panel notes: “Had proper investigation occurred and had the prosecutors employed by the Crown Prosecution Service discharged their duties fully, it is possible that there would have been compelling arguments as to why it would not have been in the public interest to prosecute former DCS Cook. Had proceedings been issued against former DCS Cook there would have been an obligation on the Metropolitan Police to engage in a most extensive disclosure process, given the extent of the materials which he had abstracted and disseminated without authorisation. The extent to which it was possible for one officer to misconduct himself would have become apparent. This would have caused substantial embarrassment to the Metropolitan Police.

“The Panel does not accept that the failure to investigate former DCS David Cook’s activities properly was a mere accident or omission. As a consequence of the legal constraints under which the Panel rightly operates, it has not been possible to disclose the extent of the content of some of the material which it has seen. However, the Panel is of the view that the Metropolitan Police were aware of parts at least of this situation when the Panel was appointed by the Home Secretary in 2013, and that as more understanding emerged, the imperative was in part to protect the reputation of the police, rather than to expend resources dealing with the totality of the issues emerging.

“Any serving officer with access to sensitive information, has the opportunity to remove it and use it for unlawful purposes. The failure of the Metropolitan Police to prevent DCS David Cook from removing materials over such a protracted time period causes concern as to the extent to which such behaviour may be continuing within the police service, unchecked.”

Civil proceedings against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office by former DCS David Cook were concluded in July 2019 with the award of substantial damages.

The Independent Panel’s report, which runs to more than 1,200 pages, expressed concern that within the Met “a culture still exists that inhibits both organisational and individual accountability”.

The current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was criticised for her refusal to allow the panel team access to the HOLMES police data system.

The report said: “The Metropolitan Police’s lack of candour manifested itself in the hurdles placed in the path of the Panel, such as (then Assistant Commissioner) Cressida Dick’s initial refusal to recognise the necessity for the Panel to have access to the HOLMES system.”



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette