Background to the Daniel Morgan Murder Inquiry - the Criminal Media Nexus


In light of the public panel inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, I’ve copied below the MS portion of the chapter from my book The Fall of the House of Murdoch to aid the resource page set up by Jack of Kent. It could be a useful summation of events up to July 2012. For more on the conviction of Andy Coulson and the phone hacking trial, go herein July 2014 British Home Secretary Theresa May named Baroness Nuala O’Loan of Kirkinriola, as chair of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel.

The Murder of Daniel Morgan: from “The Criminal Media Nexus” 

Of all the many ‘falls’ in the fall of the House of Murdoch, Coulson’s is one of the most precipitous. Apart from editing the country’s most successful Sunday paper, his recruitment to head up communications for the Conservative Party in 2007 was celebrated in Tory ranks, with Matthew d’Ancona writing in the Sunday Telegraph : This is an unalloyed coup for the Tories, as Mr Coulson is one of the most formidable journalists of his generation, combining a sharp tabloid eye with a keen political intellect.  When the New York Times refuted the ‘rogue reporter’ defence in 2010, the prominent conservative blogger Iain Dale wrote ‘Coulson’s Accusers can Go to Hell:

 “Andy Coulson is bloody good at his job. That’s why the likes of The Guardian, Alastair Campbell, Prescott and Johnson are doing their best to jump on the back of the New York Times story about an ex News of the World journalist who was sacked by the paper for persistent drug and alcohol problems. You don’t think he might have a grudge, do you?….  They all want Coulson’s scalp. Well, sod ’em… Coulson took responsibility for the episode at the time and resigned. What do they want him to do – resign a second time from a job which has nothing to do his previous incarnation?”

Coulson had famously been given a ‘second chance’ by David Cameron after his resignation from the News of the World and as if to show this generosity was a virtuous circle, two years previously Coulson had himself given a ‘second chance’ to someone else who had fallen from grace. He hired Jonathan Rees, private investigator, on his release from prison after serving five years for conspiring to fit up an innocent woman with cocaine in a child custody case. Rees was actually heard planning that crime while the police were investigating another – the bloody murder of his business partner in South London a decade earlier.

Coulson’s direct connection to a second private investigator thereby took the criminal associations of Senior News International management well beyond privacy intrusion. As a “close ally of the Prime Minister” admitted to the Guardian, senior Tories knew some things but not others – “hacking yes, axe murder no.”

The axe murder in question was that of Daniel Morgan who has – in the words the authors of Dial M for Murdoch – one of the Britain’s biggest unsolved crimes  (Watson & Hickman, 2012, pp. 107-10, 167-181). Daniel’s case has undergone no less than five separate police investigations over the last quarter century at a cost of between £20-£40 million but still with no resolution for his brother, mother or children. The most recent murder trial of Rees and his associates collapsed in technicalities and the backlog of three quarters of a million pieces of paperwork as recently as March 2011.  Daniel’s family now accept that the entangled and knotted history of his case may now never be solved in a way to satisfy any criminal courts, but they still want a public inquiry at least to separate some threads. Of those threads the combination of News International involvement and extensive police corruption in South London are salient enough to justify the term ‘criminal media nexus’.

Daniel Morgan’s Southern Investigations was a small but successful private security company that investigated car theft by organised gangs. Work would often take him on travels abroad to investigate corporate fraud. As he got busier, Daniel formed a partnership with Jonathan Rees in the mid-eighties. However, tensions soon built up. According to his brother, Alastair Morgan, Daniel had always avoided jobs involving cash transits, and fell out with Rees when he undertook such a job and a large amount of cash went missing. (Morgan A. , 2012) By spring 1987, Daniel was even more concerned. The private detective told his brother how he’d discovered a network of corrupt police officers in London, led by a senior officer. A colleague of Daniel’s now claims Daniel planned to sell this story of police corruption to a newspaper, and was negotiating with the News of the World. Under Parliamentary privilege, the MP Tom Watson alleged that Daniel approached the tabloid’s crime reporter Alec Marunchak, who offered him £40,000 for the story. Marunchak has vehemently denied this.

On 10 March 1987, half an hour after he was seen drinking with Rees at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, Morgan was found dead in the pub car park next to his BMW with a large fatal axe wound to the back of his head. His trouser pockets were ripped, and notes that he had earlier been seen writing were missing.  Gone too was his watch, although Daniel’s wallet, containing a large sum of money, was still in his jacket pocket.

One of the first detectives assigned to the murder case, DS Sid Fillery stationed at Catford police station, turned out to have been moonlighting for Southern Investigations. In April, he, Jonathan Rees and two other police officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, along with Rees’ brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian. All were then released without charge. By the time the inquest into Daniel Morgan’s death took place the following year, Fillery had retired from the police, and replaced Daniel as Rees’ partner in Southern Investigations. The coroner heard claims that police officers were involved in the murder, and had tampered with evidence and interfered with witnesses: Hampshire police then launched their own investigation. In 1988 they arrested Jonathan Rees and charged him with the murder, but charges were dropped again soon because of a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, Rees was pursuing a lucrative career working for Fleet Street, and soon was claiming the News of the World alone paying him more than £150,000 a year. All this emerged through the surveillance of Southern Investigation in a third secret police inquiry into the unsolved murder. But the third inquiry was interrupted when Rees was overhead planning to plant cocaine on a mother in a custody battle. Rees was arrested and in December 2000 sentenced for seven years imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

While Rees was in prison, a fourth inquiry was launched in 2002-2003, led by David Cook. As his wife, Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, explained to the Leveson Inquiry, News International – who had unbeknownst to the police employed Rees extensively before his emprisonment – took an acute and disturbing interest in the case. Hames broke down as she told Lord Justice Leveson how her family was followed and their phones were hacked in a News of the World operation she claimed was led by Alex Marunchak. Coincidentally, Marunchak, with a Ukrainian background was also revealed in 2011 to have had a side line as translator for Scotland Yard for 21 years.

Marunchak’s boss, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of News of the World, was confronted about this surveillance both by Scotland Yard’s chief press officer, Dick Fedorcio, and Cook himself. On both occasions Brooks said the surveillance was only initiated because she believed Cook and Hames were having an affair. This was an “absolutely pathetic” justification according to Hames who went on to explain: “We had by then been married for four years, had been together for 11 years and had two children!” Hames contends that the real reason was to scupper the police inquiries: “I believe that the real reason for the NoW placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.”

After his release from prison in 2005, Rees began to work almost exclusively for News of the World where his main point of contact is reported to have been Alex Marunchak. The relationship was alleged to have been so close that Marunchak registered his company at the same address.

By the time Andy Coulson’s connections to Rees emerged, the former editor was Director of Communications for the Conservative Party, and the private investigator could not be named because of a new murder trial that had begun in 2008 and would continue for another three years.  When Andy Coulson entered Number Ten Downing Street in May 2010, the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, made a personal call to a Cameron senior staff member to warn him of Coulson’s connection to Rees. It took until March 2011, when the case collapsed through failed disclosure and doubts about two supergrasses, for the truth to be made public. Nick Davies, who described Fillery and Rees as building an “empire of corruption” after getting away with Daniel Morgan’s murder, wrote with Vikram Dodd in the Guardian:

“Rees, now aged 56, worked regularly for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror as well as for the News of the World. His numerous targets included members of the royal family whose bank accounts he penetrated; political figures including Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell; rock stars such as Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and George Michael; the Olympic athlete Linford Christie and former England footballer Gary Lineker; TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan; and people associated with tabloid story topics, including the daughter of the former miners leader Arthur Scargill and the family of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

Jonathan Rees paid a network of corrupt police officers who sold him confidential records. He boasted of other corrupt contacts in banks and government organisations; hired specialists to “blag” confidential data from targets’ current accounts, phone records and car registration; allegedly used “Trojan horse” emails to extract information from computers; and – according to two sources – commissioned burglaries to obtain material for journalists…”

Looking back on Jonathan Rees’ proven criminal acts and allegations they dwarf in depth of criminality (if not in scale) any of the activities of Glen Mulcaire: yet, for reasons of their own, Operation Weeting team has excluded a large quantity of Rees’ material from their investigation. Just as the rogue reporter defence was never credible, the known facts about Rees prove that Mulcaire was not the sole private investigator hired by News International, let alone other Fleet Street papers. But the press’ reliance of covert and illicit sources of material has made them masters of selective disclosure – happy to reveal other people’s secrets, adamant about keeping their own. News International was certainly the market leader in this kind of criminal activity, but certainly – as both Steve Whittamore and Jonathan Rees demonstrate – not alone.

For the family of Daniel Morgan, however, a quarter of a century has passed with no resolution, and none in sight. Alastair Morgan is still campaigning for some kind of justice for his brother, and seeks a full judicial inquiry, hopefully to reach some kind of conclusion while his mother is still alive.  He still remembers one his last meetingss with Daniel at his office. Rees came in and took Daniel outside for ‘private word’. When Daniel returned ten minutes later, he walked up to the window. Alastair asked if anything was the matter, and Daniel replied, concerned but not frightened: “Bent officers. They’re all over the place down here.” He then mentioned to his brother the name of a police officer at the heart of the corruption in the south London police. Alastair has wracked his brains many times to remember the name – it was very bland and unmemorable. He has heard several names since which sound familiar and though he wishes he could be sure what Daniel said, the passage of time has clouded his memory.

TV Pirates

From the grim used-car lots and pub car-parks of South London, the taint of complicity in the bond forged between the police and News International during the Wapping conflict would continue into the blue skies of satellite broadcasting and the new frontiers of cybercrime. ….