Marunchak: Tom Watson allegations 'absolutely untrue' - Press Gazette

Marunchak: Tom Watson allegations 'absolutely untrue'

Yesterday, Tom Watson MP made a series of allegations about former News of the World journalist Alex Marunchak, the News of the World and the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan in 1987.

During a Commons adjournement debate he claimed that Daniel Morgan went to Muranchak with a story making allegations about police corruption a week before he died, that he was offered £40,000 for the story and that Marunchak also paid the relatives of police officers for information about the Soham murders in 2002.

Watson said that two of the men arrested on suspicion of the Morgan murder were part of a 'corrupt nexus of private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World".

On Tuesday, former policewoman Jacqui Hames alleged that Marunchak commissioned surveillance of Met police detective Dave Cook in 2002 to 'subvert'a new inquiry into the Morgan murder.

Press Gazette put the following questions to Alex Marunchak today:

  • Did Daniel Morgan go to you, or someone else at the News of the World, with a story about police corruption the week before he died?
  • Was he offered £40,000 for it?
  • Did you, or anyone else at the News of the World, do anything which could have tipped off the police or Daniel's then partner at Southern Investigations Jonathan Rees about what he was said to be alleging?
  • Was the News of the World's surveillance of detective chief superintendent Dave Cook in 2002 linked in any way to his involvement in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry?
  • The general innuendo from what Watson said appears to be that the murder of Daniel Morgan was linked in some way to corrupt relationships involving the News of the World, the police and Morgan's former company Southern Investigations. What is your response to this?

Here is Marunchak's written response:

"Mercifully I didn't see Tom Watson's performance but regret it came slightly too late for him to be an also-ran at the Oscar ceremony.

It astonishes me an MP can abuse parliamentary privilege and waste everybody's time by peddling untruths in this way.

I have never met Watson, nor talked or communicated with him in any way.

Perhaps I should make this clear at the outset – lest he be found crucified on a hill overlooking Jerusalem and I am held, in some way, to be responsible.

The Daniel Morgan murder:

Watson's comments about my professional dealings with murder victim Daniel Morgan are absolutely untrue.

I do not doubt that Morgan's family now believe he was on the verge of exposing police corruption before he died.

If that was indeed a motive for his death – then I know nothing about it.

The reason is that I never heard of Daniel Morgan or Southern Investigations until after his murder.

He never phoned me, contacted or met me, neither directly nor through a third party, by telephone or letter or by any other method.

Nor did he leave graffiti sprayed on walls for me to spot on the way to work which asked me to contact him.

But, I admit, for all I know, he may even have employed someone claiming to have ESP powers to contact me.

Sadly, for Mr Watson, I did not receive any ESP messages either.

Perhaps he should look into this as the basis for his next parliamentary diatribe on the topic?

I was told to cover the Morgan murder story as the News of the World's crime reporter.

Then news editor Bob Warren told me: 'Find out who this man is for a start. We've never heard of him."

Neither I, nor anyone else at the News of the World, offered Morgan £40,000 for his story.

Nor did we offer £100,000.

In fact we never knew he even existed prior to his murder.

The Soham murders:

I was promoted to associate editor of the News of the World in 1997 after 10 years on the News of the World newsdesk.

My primary job was to edit the Irish News of the World in Dublin.

At about this time I was also offered the post of head of news at the Sunday Mirror by then Trinity Mirror director, Kelvin MacKenzie, an offer which I turned down.

I never worked on stories about the Soham murders [which happened in 2002], never wrote copy, nor interviewed anyone.

I did not pay any relatives of police officers involved in the Soham murders.

Instead, I carried on with the task of editing the Irish News of the World and commuted between Dublin and London.

Watson said in parliament he had been told a police informant claimed he overheard me boasting I had paid relatives of police officers in Cambridgeshire for information about the Soham murders. He also claimed I had written Soham stories. For the avoidance of any doubt – what Watson said is completely untrue.

In the unlikely event an experienced Fleet Street hack like myself, based in Dublin, were paying relatives of police officers in Cambridgeshire, would he be stupid enough to blurt it out in front of strangers, one of whom was a police informer? Er, no. I don't think so.

The simple fact is that I was not involved in the Soham story. It was an English story run by the London newsdesk. I was in charge of the Irish News of the World and had no rolewhatsoever in the Soham story.

Jacqui Hames and NoW surveillance of Dave Cook in 2002:

I received information from a source that then minor BBC Crimewatch personality Jacqui Hames was having an affair with a senior officer who was appearing on her TV show.

For the avoidance of doubt, I did nothing to check this, because it was of no interest to me.

I did not look at cuttings, because I had no time, and I was editing the Irish News of the World. But I passed the tittle-tattle on to the London newsdesk as a bit of gossip, which had been passed on to me, and left it to them to deal with as they saw fit.

I do not know to this day what checks they carried out, if any at all, or indeed if they did anything about the information. Nor did I ask them to keep me posted with progress or developments. End of story.

But I do know that I did nothing more than have a 30 second conversation passing on the rumour to the London newsdesk and that was the end of my involvement.

Marunchak had a registered company based at the same address as Southern Investigations:

As part of my master-plan to escape Fleet Street and become a multi-millionaire I registered a limited company at Companies House in London through a chartered accountant. I believe he registered numerous companies at the same address which is the office from which he worked and rented. My name and home address was readily available from Companies House records.

The master plan was to import vodka into Britain and become so incredibly wealthy I could afford to stick two fingers up at Fleet Street. Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, and the vodka company never traded. Not once. It did not take one single penny, nor import a single drop of vodka, let alone a whole bottle-full.

Instead, I was so busy carrying out my work for the paper I never had time to turn my attention to anything else. After a couple of years on the shelf and not trading I had the firm wound up after receiving threatening letters from Companies House for not filing accounts – of which there were none to file.

The allegation Southern Investigations paid Marunchak's debts:

I have a signed, witnessed, dated statement of truth from the then bursar of the school attended by my sons that no one except myself ever paid school fees. These were gratefully received because they were never paid on time or in full.

Eventually these were finally settled in total after I had left the employ of the News of the World and only after the threat of legal action against me and two years after my youngest son finished university. That's five years after he left the school.

But should anyone be interested, then I am happy to give tips to anyone interested in knowing how I managed to achieve this incredible feat and avoid paying school fees for so long. Ditto for my credit cards.

My response to Watson's childish and infantile accusations, which have no basis in fact whatsoever, have been repeated ad infinitum whenever he mischievously makes them.

But he persists in doing so, for whatever motives he has conjured up for himself. After all, he didn't get to where he is on the Labour back benches by being stupid."

Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette