In March 1987, the body of successful private investigator Daniel Morgan was discovered in a London pub car park after an ax had been driven deep into his skull. Despite five police investigations in the 34 years since, no one has ever been brought to justice over the murder—but, on Tuesday, Morgan’s family finally started to get some answers.
A damning report from an independent panel—released Tuesday after eight years of work—has accused London’s Metropolitan Police of “a form of institutional corruption” that saw it trying to “protect itself” by failing to acknowledge its repeated missteps in Britain’s biggest unsolved murder. It also accused one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid titles of trying to disrupt the murder investigation by intimidating its lead detective.
The panel said Morgan’s family “suffered grievously as a consequence of the failure to bring his murderer or murderers to justice, the unwarranted assurances which they were given, the misinformation which was put into the public domain, and the denial of the failings in investigation, including failing to acknowledge professional incompetence, individuals’ venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures.”
It added: “Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit and constitutes a form of institutional corruption.”
Daniel Morgan ran a lucrative private investigations agency, Southern Investigations, with business partner Jonathan Rees in the 1980s.
On the night of the murder, Morgan and Rees had a drink together, and it’s been reported that Morgan was preparing to expose corruption by local police officers at the time of his killing. Rees and the officer put in charge of the Morgan case, Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, were arrested on suspicion of murder weeks later, but released due to lack of evidence.
Fillery later replaced Morgan as Rees’ partner at Southern Investigations, and the two were known to sell stories to the now-defunct Murdoch-owned tabloid newspaper the News of the World. The panel said it had been investigating “connections between private investigators, police officers, and journalists at the News of the World,” and named one of its reporters, Alex Marunchak, as having a close connection to Southern.
Journalists from the Murdoch paper were caught spying on the case’s lead investigator, Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, and the panel’s report said that its gathered evidence “suggests very strongly that the intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook… was arranged by former DS Fillery and Alex Marunchak with a view to discrediting DCS Cook and/or to intimidate him and thus disrupt” his murder investigation.
Morgan’s family said in a statement released shortly after the report, “We welcome the recognition that we—and the public at large—have been failed over the decades by a culture of corruption and cover-up in the Metropolitan Police, an institutionalised corruption that has permeated successive regimes in the Metropolitan Police and beyond to this day.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Tuesday that the “deeply alarming” panel report had revealed a “litany of mistakes” from the Metropolitan police that she said had “irreparably damaged the chances of successful prosecution.” Patel went on to describe the Morgan case as “one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan police.”
The Met said, “We deeply regret that no-one has been convicted of Daniel's murder. We have not stopped pursuing justice. We accept corruption was a major factor in the failure of the 1987 investigation. This compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family and for this we apologize.”