Justice Denied

Post Magazine - 14 Aug 2011

After a quarter of a century fighting for justice, Alastair Morgan’s nerves are frayed. His eyes quiver as adrenaline pumps through his body and a palpable fear that he is about to explode stalks the room and lurks behind the television set, the source of his rising exasperation.

“It’s good of you to come round. I was about to kick the TV set in,” he says, as he drags his attention away from Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World (NotW) editor and News International chief executive at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal that’s rocked British society, as she answers questions from a panel of grave-looking politicians.

Unfolding on-screen is a bonfire of vanities, greed and evil Morgan helped ignite.

“Watching the Home Affairs Select Committee is driving me mad. I just watched these politicians quiz the cops [senior Metropolitan Police chiefs], and they were totally unprepared and didn’t ask the right questions. They’re letting them all off the hook,” he says, seething, before slumping on the sofa in resignation.

Morgan knows much about questioning the establishment. He has been squaring up to the British state for almost 25 years, demanding the murderer of his younger brother, Daniel, and any accomplices be brought to book.

Daniel Morgan was a private detective axed to death in a south London car park in 1987.

The unsolved killing is Britain’s most investigated murder and the Morgan file haunts London’s Metropolitan Police (Met) and the force’s headquarters, New Scotland Yard. The boxes containing bundles of interview transcripts, statements and evidence logs emit a stench of police malfeasance that reaches to the highest level of the force.

The Morgan family has endured five murder investigations (and countless court appearances), each of which has seen the same prime suspects named, accused and arrested. In turn, though, each inquiry, the last of which collapsed in court in March, has failed to convict a murderer.

After the last case was dismissed, Met chiefs admitted corruption and a cover-up in their ranks. They apologised, saying the organisations designed to protect citizens from the abuses of power had failed not just the Morgans but the British public.

In his relentless hunt for the killers, Alastair Morgan, an unassuming 62-year-old translator, unwittingly constructed a web that has snared corrupt policemen and exposed a shadowy nexus of crooked private investigators and equally corrupt and immoral tabloid-press editors and reporters.

What’s more, he played a pivotal role in launching the unprecedented moral probe taking place on his TV, an act of soul-searching that is reshaping the cultural landscape of 21st-century Britain - and beyond.

Morgan’s agitation intensifies. Significant others complicit in allowing his brother’s killers to roam free are lining up under oath to tell “the truth” - Brooks and senior police chiefs among them. He’s trying to keep a lid on the emotions that beset a man who has taken on the state and suddenly realised he’s landed a devastating blow in the fight for truth.

Twenty four years ago Daniel Morgan finished his drink and walked out into the dark and chilly March evening air to his BMW, parked in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in South London.

Daniel had founded and ran Southern Investigations, a small private-detective agency that undertook bailiff work and fraud investigations, mostly. The 37-year-old was an astute gumshoe. He had an almost photographic memory and used his talent for remembering figures and details such as car registration plates and phone numbers to great effect. A married man with two young children, he was known to have had two extramarital affairs.

The agency was proving successful and he invited another investigator, Jonathan Rees, who had useful contacts with police officers, to become his partner. However, the relationship between the two men soon soured after Daniel found out Rees was employing police-officer friends for moonlighting duties. The situation came to a head when Rees claimed he and two minders had been robbed while transporting £18,000 for a client, a car-auction company, to an overnight safe-deposit bank. Daniel and the client suspected Rees and his wingmen had staged the robbery, so he called a meeting in the Golden Lion with his partner to discuss the issue.

What was said between the two that evening is unclear but, according to witnesses, when Rees rose to leave at 8.55pm, he called out “goodbye” to Daniel, leading many to assume all was well between the men. Daniel put down his empty glass minutes later and made for the car park. Lowering his head to pick out the correct key from the bunch in his hand was his last living act.

His body was found lying next to his car at 9:30pm, with an axe embedded at a right angle in the side of his face. There were two packets of crisps in his hand and his suit trousers had been ripped. His Rolex watch had been taken but his inside jacket pocket contained £1,100 in banknotes. The axe handle had been covered in sticking plaster to prevent there being fingerprints. The four brutal blows the weapon had struck appeared to have one purpose: to silence the man.

At first, it was suggested that a jealous husband was to blame. When the family was informed about the murder, though, Alastair Morgan thought otherwise.

“When I got the news, I took a taxi up to London to be with Daniel’s wife and children. I was in a state of shock but I knew then who one of Daniel’s killers was,” recalls Morgan. “In the weeks before his murder Daniel had repeatedly expressed concerns over corrupt police officers in south London.”

Morgan and the rest of his family now believe Daniel was killed because he was about to expose a network of corrupt police officers working with Rees, who were using the agency as a conduit through which to indulge in a raft of crimes, such as drug dealing and money laundering.

Initially, Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery of Catford police station was assigned to the case. But the officer failed to inform his superiors about a conflict of interest.

“Fillery was one of the officers working for Rees at my brother’s agency,” Morgan says.

Morgan informed the police of his theories but was told he was obstructing the inquiry. With emotions running wild, his family urged him to let the police do their job.

The Morgan brothers were born in Singapore, 11 months apart. Daniel was born with a club foot and had to undergo nine operations to correct it. They were successful; he went on to play rugby, a lifelong passion, along with restoring vintage cars.

Though they went their separate ways in adulthood, “we remained close”, says Alastair Morgan.

Five days into the inquiry and with Morgan breathing down his neck, Fillery stepped down, disclosing his close links with Rees. Three weeks later, he was arrested, along with Rees and Glenn and Garry Vian, brothers-in-law of Rees, on suspicion of murder. Two other Met officers were also arrested.

However, officers assigned to the case decided there were no charges to answer and all six were released.

The following year, 1988, staff from Southern Investigations were called to give evidence at an inquest into Daniel’s death. To the shock of the Morgan family, a bookkeeper employed by Rees, Kevin Lennon, told the court Rees and Fillery had planned the murder.

Lennon said he watched Rees’ relationship with Daniel deteriorate and claimed Fillery had planned an early retirement so he could step into Daniel’s shoes at Southern Investigations. He described in court how Rees had told him six months before the killing that he had found the perfect solution to the problem of Daniel querying his activities.

The court heard Rees had said: “My mates at Catford nick [police station] are going to arrange it. Those police officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange for someone on a charge to do it.”

The inquest also heard claims from other witnesses that Fillery had tampered with evidence and attempted to interfere with witnesses during the first, crucial days of the investigation.

However, Rees denied involvement and the inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing. The Morgan family approached the Police Complaints Authority. An internal police inquiry by Hampshire Constabulary, a neutral force, was ordered to investigate “all aspects of police involvement arising from the death of Daniel Morgan”.

In 1989, officers from the Hampshire force charged Rees and two civilians with the murder - but the case was dropped before it came to trial because of a lack of evidence. The probe also declared there was “no evidence whatsoever of police involvement in the murder”.

Rees sued the police. Meanwhile, Fillery obtained a medical discharge from the police force and joined Rees as a partner in Southern Investigations.

Fuelled by a sense of injustice, Morgan began lobbying his member of parliament. He held a series of meetings with senior Scotland Yard officers, culminating in a meeting with then Met Commissioner Paul Condon in November 1997. Condon promised to review the case.

In late 1998, unbeknown to the Morgan family, Scotland Yard’s “ghost squad” began a covert inquiry into the murder. The squad relies on supergrasses - convicted criminals who swap evidence of other crimes for a lessened sentence. A convicted criminal had come forward with details about the murder and Southern Investigations’ offices were bugged.

The covert listening devices failed to record details of Daniel’s murder. However, in December 2000, Rees and two others, one a serving policeman, were convicted of conspiring to plant cocaine on a woman in order to discredit her in a child-custody battle. Rees was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and jailed for seven years.

Troubled by the secrecy of the inquiry, Morgan demanded answers and disclosure of the 1989 report from Hampshire police.

With pressure mounting, senior Met officers ordered a fourth inquiry into the murder, led by Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook. Cook began trawling through the files - unaware that he himself was being snooped on.

From their low-rent South London office, Rees and Fillery set up and ran a complex network of corrupt police officers and other contacts in important offices, such as those of telecommunications companies and banks. They obtained information on individuals in the public eye, which they sold on to tabloid newspapers.

The royal family, senior politicians, sports stars and entertainment celebrities were regular targets and the demand for private information on such people from harassed reporters seeking to satisfy cutthroat editors was unrelenting.

The money was rolling in but there was one cash cow that stood apart from the trough-feeding tabloid herd - News of the World. In one year alone, Rees and Fillery received £150,000 from the paper.

“No one pays like News of the World,” Rees once said, unaware his office had been bugged. The listening device, planted in April 1999, revealed other details of their empire of corruption and criminality.

During his 2000 trial, NotW was named as the paymaster behind the purchase of sensitive, secret intelligence obtained from Britain’s national police computer through one of Rees’ police contacts. The revelation failed to make headlines, however.

“Bent coppers” were not the only ones selling information to Rees. Included in his web of nefarious contacts were customs and excise officers, a corrupt tax inspector with access to business records and two bank workers with access to customer accounts. Rees also developed so-called “blaggers”, who could trick their way into phone companies and lay their hands on home addresses, numbers and itemised phone bills - information valued especially highly at the lower end of Fleet Street. He was also moving with the digital times; he developed ways to tap computers by using so-called Trojan horses, to copy the hard drives of targets.

Rees was a vital tool in digging out the scoops that made NotW Britain’s best-selling Sunday newspaper, though he is now accused of helping other red-top papers, including the Daily Mirror, then edited by CNN chat-show host Piers Morgan.

So it came as a blow for Fleet Street - especially for NotW - when Rees was jailed in 2000.

Nonetheless, the trade in illegal news gathering continued. Fillery kept Southern Investigations going and Rees was but one of several private investigators belonging to a mud-raking club serving the tabloids. That club included Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking the phones of the royal family and who, in July, was accused of hacking the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dowler - a scandal that shocked the world and exposed the rot endemic in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

In 2002, while in prison, Rees received worrying news; the police were once again investigating Daniel’s murder. He knew what he had to do. He called NotW, then edited by Brooks.

In June 2002, Cook appeared on TV to appeal for fresh information to try and solve, for a fourth time, the murder of Daniel. A day later, he was told by officers at Scotland Yard that Fillery had been in touch with a senior NotW journalist, Alex Marunchak, who, according to reports, agreed to “sort Cook out”.

Days after the TV appeal, Cook noticed a van parked outside his home, and the following day he saw two. Both followed him as he took his two-year-old son to nursery school. He alerted Scotland Yard, which sent an officer to investigate. The driver of one of the vans identified himself as a photojournalist working for NotW. Both vans were found to be leased to the paper. During the same week, letters in Cook’s postbox showed signs of having been tampered with.

Scotland Yard chose not to mount a formal inquiry but asked Brooks for an explanation. She revealed the paper was investigating a tip-off that Cook was having an affair with another officer, Jacqui Hames, a co-presenter of BBC’s Crimewatch, the TV programme he had appeared on appealing for help in solving Daniel’s murder.

The excuse would be rejected as “complete rubbish” - Cook and Hames had been married to one another for several years.

Marunchak and Rees were old friends and there is evidence the pair were working together as far back as 1987, the year of Daniel’s murder. The reporter apparently agreed to use photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on Cook.

Several days later, Cook was warned that somebody claiming to work for the Inland Revenue had contacted the police finance department, asking for his home address “so they could send him a cheque with a tax refund”. The finance department refused to give out the information.

Not to be deterred, NotW hired Mulcaire, who succeeded in obtaining Cook’s home address, his internal payroll number at the Met, his date of birth and figures for the amount he and his wife were paying for their mortgage. He also obtained Hames’ mobile phone number and the password to her messaging account.

In January 2003, Brooks was invited to a meeting at Scotland Yard. She was confronted by Cook, his boss, Commander Andre Baker, and Scotland Yard’s head of media relations, Dick Fedorcio, and asked why Cook was being investigated by Marunchak.

It is not publicly known what Brooks said but Baker took no further action and, according to media reports, this reflected the wishes of Fedorcio, who had a close working relationship with the editor and wanted “to avoid unnecessary friction” with NotW.

Cook continued his investigation into Daniel’s murder and put forward evidence on a number of individuals, including Rees and Fillery. But in 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.

Undeterred, Morgan continued his pursuit for justice, and, in 2005, the family finally had a breakthrough.

Met Commissioner Ian Blair admitted the first murder investigation, headed by Fillery, had been “compromised” by police corruption - a landmark public admission. A fifth inquiry into the murder was launched in 2006, with Cook again leading the investigation.

By now, Rees was out of jail and had been rehired by then NotW editor Andy Coulson. Following the conviction of one of the newspaper’s reporters in relation to illegal phone hacking, Coulson would resign in 2007 and go on to become the press spokesman for David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister.

Rees was up to his old tricks when officers rearrested him in 2008, along with the Vian brothers, Fillery and another suspect. But the Morgans were again denied justice.

After more than two years of wrangling and legal arguments by the defendants, the dismissal of three supergrasses, accusations of police withholding evidence and a general blundering by prosecution, the case collapsed and the accused once again walked free.

But despite another disappointment for the Morgans, the case had rocked the Met. Police chiefs issued a statement after the dismissal that read: “This recent investigation has identified even more closely that the initial inquiry failed the family and wider public. It is also clear police corruption was a debilitating factor to those earlier inquiries. This was wholly unacceptable.”

Furthermore, the collapse of the case saw reporting restrictions lifted, so the media could lay bare Rees’ links with NotW and expose the shady relationships that existed between police, the media and politicians. The revelations proved vital in putting the phone-hacking scandal into the media spotlight.

“If it had not been for Alastair Morgan’s persistence in seeking justice for his brother we would never have known the full extent of Jonathan Rees’ criminality and his relationship with the News of the World,” said Duncan Campbell, a senior journalist at The Guardian newspaper, which broke the phone-hacking story.

Alastair Morgan zaps Brooks into silence with the TV remote. Fatigue is etched into the corners of his eyes as he attempts to sweep the exhaustion from his face with his hand.

He has kept up his campaign for justice for more than half his adult life, convinced that police improbity played not only a hand in letting his brother’s killers escape justice, but was also instrumental in the murder plot. He has demonstrated, picketed, pleaded, campaigned and banged relentlessly on doors, and provided thousands of files of evidence of a system rotten to its core.

For his efforts, he was met with stonewalling, hostility and indifference, and has been labelled a crazed conspiracy theorist in a smear campaign by those who feared he was closing in on his quarry.

“It has driven me mad and I have often lost the will to live,” he says.

He calls out to Kirsteen Knight, his partner of 17 years, who is watching the Select Committee questioning in the next room, the modest home-based nerve centre of their “Justice For Daniel” campaign.

“Many times I have thought about quitting the country,” Morgan says. “There is no vigour in our democracy.”

The nervous energy is evaporating and the room is filling with despondency.

“Look at what you helped start,” I offer, nodding towards the screen.

“But I haven’t got justice for Daniel,” he replies. “That was what I set out to do. It was one of two goals: to expose the police for corruption and get justice for my brother. I don’t think Daniel’s killers will ever be caught now.

“So in that sense, giving 25 years of my life, 25 years of struggle… is that great progress?”

Knight steps into the room and tries to inject some optimism into her brooding partner.

“In proving people wrong - that you have been right since the beginning - it’s been great progress,” she says.

Yes, he agrees. “Without Kirsteen, I would never have coped,” he says.

In a flash he’s back from the brink of despair and detailing his next strategy in the fight for justice: a public inquiry.

“I dare not stop as I wonder what kind of person I’ll find - what I have become. There’s no pleasure in this. But then I know Daniel would have been a good brother, and done the same for me.”

© South China Post

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