Ex-business partner denies corruption hindered Daniel Morgan probe

Daniel Morgan’s ex-business partner denies Met Police corruption hindered murder probe: Private detective says drinking with officers close to the case – even after he became a suspect – did not hamper the investigation

  • Ex-business partner Jonathan Rees denies Met Police corruption hindered Daniel Morgan murder probe
  • Mr Rees, a private investigator, drank with officers close to the investigation even after becoming a suspect
  • When asked if he was involved in the murder of Mr Morgan, Mr Rees told the BBC: ‘No. For what motive?’
  • Mr Morgan, a private investigator, was killed with an axe outside Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987
  • But his murder remains unsolved, despite five separate criminal inquiries and an inquest, at £30m cost  

A private detective who was a prime suspect during inquiries into the murder of his former business partner Daniel Morgan has denied allegations that Metropolitan Police corruption hindered its inquiries. 

In a bombshell report, an independent panel last week found that Jonathan Rees drank in pubs with officers close to the investigation even after he became a suspect. Though it said it had not found enough evidence to prove police involvement in Mr Morgan’s death, it said five inquiries into the murder were all flawed or compromised by police corruption. 

The report sensationally concluded that the Metropolitan Police had prioritised its reputation over finding Mr Morgan’s killer – sparking allegations of institutional corruption in Scotland Yard and calls for Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick’s resignation.  

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rees said he did not consider exchanging information with police as being corrupt. He also denied involvement in the murder, calling Mr Morgan ‘my friend’ and saying that the death of his former business partner had caused him ‘financial and business grief’. 

Mr Morgan, a private investigator, was killed with an axe outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London in 1987 – but the murder has never been solved despite five separate criminal inquiries and an inquest, at an estimated cost of £30million.  

Mr Rees and Mr Morgan ran a small private investigation agency, Southern Investigations, in the 1980s. Mr Rees concentrated on investigations for defence lawyers, while Mr Morgan specialised as a bailiff and debt collector.

According to the report, police became suspicious after seeing Mr Rees’s ‘extremely nervous’ behaviour on the night of the murder. An inquest witness later alleged he had been told that Mr Rees had paid to have Mr Morgan murdered because the partners had fallen out over the running of the business.  

When asked by the BBC if he had killed Mr Morgan, Mr Rees replied: ‘No. For what motive? Danny was my friend… he taught me a lot and earned the firm a lot of money. It was a partnership. 

‘And so the more he brings in, the more I bring in, the more profits we get to share at the end of the year. And it worked well. So him dying caused me a massive amount of grief, financially and business-wise, because the partnership ceased to exist.’ 

In a bombshell report, an independent panel last week found that Jonathan Rees drank in pubs with officers close to the investigation even after he became a suspect

A private detective who was a prime suspect during inquiries into the murder of his former business partner Daniel Morgan has denied allegations that Metropolitan Police corruption hindered its inquiries

Mr Morgan was killed with an axe outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London

 

In its report last week, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel concluded forms of police corruption had hampered both the murder inquiry, and its own work to investigate the reasons why the case was never solved.

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel found ‘extensive evidence’ of links between Mr Rees, Metropolitan Police Detective Sergreant Sid Fillery and other officers – even after Mr Rees had become a suspect in the murder.

Mr Rees accepted that he drank with serving officers, but said: ‘Relationships between a journalist or private investigator with officers in the case, and lawyers and barristers exchanging information, I don’t see that as corrupt.’ 

Asked by the BBC if he personally knew any officers who he regarded as corrupt, he said: ‘I’ve never worked with them. There were some people that I wouldn’t cross the road to talk to them. There were some wrong’uns, that they got themselves involved in things that were totally illegal and wrong.’

One police officer had resigned while under investigation and another had been dismissed for failing to meet standards of honesty and integrity.

Nigel Shepherd, a lawyer representing Mr Rees and Mr Fillery, said that the intelligence report was an attempt by the Metropolitan Police to cover their ‘shambolic investigation’ and that its claims could not be verified.

Mr Rees said he had employed some officers who had been suspended for disciplinary reasons, though ‘some we couldn’t take on because of what they were accused of.’ 

In 2000, Mr Rees was convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice with another corrupt officer, Detective Constable Austin Warnes, after they arranged to plant drugs in the car of a young mother and have them discovered by the police. Mr Rees was working for her husband during a custody battle.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rees also claimed he was innocent of that offence and that the conviction was being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It is understood that the CCRC rejected his application for an appeal in December.  

The independent panel also found a Met Police analysis from 2000 which detailed 273 cases where ‘journalists were provided with confidential information’ by Mr Rees’s agency. Mr Rees denied paying police cash, but admitted paying their expenses and buying them drinks and meals. 

He also rubbished suggestions that his decision to give Mr Fillery a job at Southern Investigations ‘nearly two years’ after Mr Morgan’s death was part of a plan to fill a ‘dead man’s shoes’.

The panel’s report points to evidence that Mr Fillery told other officers seven months after the murder that he might go and work for Mr Rees – and worked without pay at the firm before taking the job.

The panel concluded there was evidence indicating that Mr Rees had a ‘very close and unprofessional relationship with Det Sgt Fillery’.

Its report also contains dozens of allegations about or criticisms of Mr Rees, but did not accuse him or anyone else of involvement in Mr Morgan’s murder because the panel is not a court. 

Mr Rees said the case against him and other defendants collapsed because ‘there was no evidence against us’ – not because of corruption. Allegations against him came in ‘anonymous phone calls, letters, gossip, and vicious rumours’, he told the BBC. 

Mr Rees believes police were ‘blinkered’, pursuing one line of inquiry, that he was part of a murder conspiracy. He continues to work as a private investigator. 

Mr Morgan’s son, also called Daniel, has spoken of his anger, and said Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick should consider her position. He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘I don’t accept their apologies. 

‘I think we’ve heard enough apologies. I think it’s time for action now and I’m not sure whether they are, with what they’ve said, the right institution and the right organisation to get to the bottom of all these allegations.

‘They’ve essentially admitted there were some failings, they’ve talked about why the process has taken so long.

When asked by the BBC if he had killed Mr Morgan, Mr Rees replied: ‘No. For what motive?’

Daniel Morgan was investigating claims of corruption within the Metropolitan Police when he was murdered in 1987

Nick Ephgrave, the Assistant Commissioner, talked about not getting the balance right with how they approached the panel in terms of releasing documents. 

It comes as Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she does not believe the force is institutionally corrupt and said she did not obstruct the work of an inquiry into the Daniel Morgan case. 

The police chief hit back at the findings from an independent panel as she defended Scotland Yard’s work and her job.

However, Mr Morgan said: ‘I think the Commissioner should consider her position, I think potentially it should be taken out of her hands. 

‘A lot of this happened way before she was ever the commissioner but she is a continuation of the same culture, I’m afraid. The culture of the Metropolitan Police is cancerous and I think the only way you get rid of cancer is you cut it out.’

Mr Morgan added that he didn’t believe the force represented value for money and urged London’s Mayor to intervene.

He said: ‘I call on Sadiq Khan to do something to make sure the Met Police is, and represents, more value for money for the people of London because it’s our service and it should be treated as such. It shouldn’t be us and them.

‘When I look at this, [the panel] have done a really good job and for that I’m grateful but society owed the Morgan family this document. 

‘We’ve been let down seriously, this is a scandal. This is the walk we’ve had to walk, this is the Morgan family’s shoes and when you dive into this you appreciate this is a disgusting mess and never should have happened. 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she does not believe the force is institutionally corrupt

Alastair Morgan (right), the brother of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan, with his family solicitor Raju Bhatt (centre) speaking to the media following the publication of the report

‘My dad had an axe embedded in his skull and was left for dead in a murder that was meant to look like a robbery that was actually an execution. That’s quite a hard thing to come to terms with.’

Amid calls for her to resign, Dame Cressida said: ‘I don’t believe we are institutionally corrupt. No, I don’t accept that. I have the deepest feelings for Daniel Morgan’s family. They have shown extraordinary grit and determination and courage.

‘Yesterday, I apologised again to them for our failings and the fact that we have not brought anybody to justice despite six investigations and countless other reviews and pieces of work.’

She added: ‘And for the fact that, in so doing and along the way, we have clearly, we the Met, my force, of which I’m very proud to be the Commissioner, we have caused them extra anguish. But I don’t accept that we are institutionally corrupt, no.’

An independent panel led by Baroness Nuala O’Loan found that the Met had put protecting its own reputation above finding Mr Morgan’s killer.

The panel’s report said: ‘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.’

Lord Blair defended current Scotland Yard boss Dame Cressida Dick as ‘the finest officer of her generation’ and refused to accept there is systemic corruption in the force’

Dame Cressida said it is her job to focus on leading the Met through ‘what has been in the last 15 months, for all sorts of reasons, some pretty challenging times’.

She added: ‘My people do very difficult work, they have to make very difficult decisions, often with far too little time, sometimes with far too little information. I’m very proud of them. I love my job and I will continue to do it.

‘I’m an honourable person. If I thought I should be considering my position I would be, but I don’t.’

Dame Cressida’s comments come after one of her predecessors Lord Ian Blair hit out at accusations that the force is institutionally corrupt as ‘just not true’.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he defended the current Scotland Yard boss as ‘the finest officer of her generation’ and refused to accept there is systemic corruption in the force.

He said: ‘The allegation that the Met is institutionally corrupt is just not true. There is no evidence of systemic corruption in the Metropolitan Police.

‘If you then use that to describe a reluctance to come forward, you then have to compare the BBC marking its own homework over Martin Bashir.

‘Institutions do have a protective process and I’m sorry about that but I just don’t believe the words institutionally corrupt in any way reflect what the public understanding of what that would mean.’

The Met admitted in 2011 that the grossly inadequate first investigation into Mr Morgan’s murder – which saw the murder scene left unsearched and unguarded – had been hampered by corruption.

But the panel has now found that corruption had gone on after the initial inquiry, and questioned why no action had been taken to bring those who sabotaged the first investigation to justice.

A string of police investigations and an inquest have failed to convict anyone of the killing or any associated corruption in protecting those responsible.

The numerous inquiries into the case have largely been due to the campaigning efforts of Mr Morgan’s brother Alastair, who has fought for justice for more than 30 years.

He said on Twitter today: ‘We achieved a historic result yesterday and I’m pleased and proud of this.’

But he expressed his regret that his mother Isobel Hulsmann, who died in 2017, did not live to see the report’s publication, something that he blames on the Met.

Mr Morgan said: ‘My greatest regret is that my mother never lived to see the publication of the Daniel Morgan panel’s report. The Met’s constant delays and obstructions made this impossible.’  

Britain’s most senior police officer faced calls for her head after the report concluded she personally placed ‘hurdles’ in the way of the search for the truth about Mr Morgan’s death. 

The independent panel found Scotland Yard had been more interested in protecting its reputation than in cracking what has been dubbed the ‘most investigated unsolved murder in the history of the Metropolitan Police’.

Baroness O’Loan, who led the inquiry, described the institutional corruption finding as equivalent to the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which concluded the force was ‘institutionally racist’. 

She said the failings of the original shambolic murder investigation had been compounded over the past three decades by the shameful attempts to hide the extent of the rot at the heart of the force.

She added Scotland Yard owed Mr Morgan’s family an apology for not confronting its systemic failings and those of individual officers, including Dame Cressida.

The baroness accused the commissioner of ‘obfuscation’ – thwarting attempts to access sensitive documents and police computers, leading to costly delays in the inquiry.

‘The family of Daniel Morgan has 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,’ she added. 

‘Concealing or denying failings for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit, and constitutes a form of institutional corruption.’

Concerns about vetting police officers persist to the present day, said Baroness O’Loan, adding that there were no adequate safeguards to ensure that officers were not engaging in criminality.

Professor Rodney Morgan, a panel member, said: ‘The term ‘institutional corruption’ is not used in a historic sense, it’s used in the present tense.’ Yesterday Mr Morgan’s brother Alastair said the family would consider suing the force for putting them ‘through hell’.

Asked whether Dame Cressida should resign, he said: ‘Yes, absolutely I think she should consider her position.’

In a statement, the Morgan family said: ‘At almost every step, we found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we were required to endure was nothing less than torture.’

Singling out Dame Cressida for blame, the report said she had not given a ‘reasonable explanation’ for blocking access to computer data and delaying the release of files, the last of which were provided only in March.

The investigation into Mr Morgan’s murder was described as ‘shockingly incompetent’, with officers failing to search the scene, which was left unguarded, ‘pathetic’ forensic work and no alibis sought for suspects.

A Home Office source said there were ‘serious concerns with the Met’s leadership and how it responded to failings’ – although Home Secretary Priti Patel and Boris Johnson later expressed confidence in Dame Cressida. 

The commissioner apologised for past mistakes, saying: ‘It is a matter of great regret that no one has been brought to justice and that our mistakes have compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family. For that I apologise again now.

‘I have been personally determined that the Met provided the panel with the fullest level of co-operation in an open and transparent manner, with complete integrity at all times.’

Scotland Yard rejected the report’s finding of institutional corruption, with assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave saying: ‘It doesn’t reflect what I see every day.’

He insisted the panel had been given ‘unparalleled access’ including to the police Holmes database, adding: ‘The commissioner has no need to consider her position. She has overseen disclosure to an extent never seen before.’

The force is conducting a review of the case and has repeated appeals for anyone with information to come forward. It has offered a £50,000 reward.  

Who is Daniel Morgan and why was he murdered?

Daniel Morgan, who worked as a private detective, was killed after leaving a pub

Despite five police investigations and an inquest, no-one has ever been brought to justice over private investigator Daniel Morgan’s killing in 1987.

The Metropolitan Police have previously admitted the initial inquiry into the unsolved case was blighted by police corruption.

Here is a timeline of key dates:

– March 10 1987: Daniel Morgan is murdered with an axe in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London.

– April 1988: An inquest into his death records a verdict of unlawful killing.

– June 1988: Hampshire police begin investigating the murder and the Metropolitan Police handling of the case.

– February 1989: Mr Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees and his associate Paul Goodridge are charged with murder and Mr Goodridge’s girlfriend Jean Wisden is charged with perverting the course of justice.

– May 1989: The case is dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Goodridge later sues Hampshire Constabulary.

– 1997: A new investigation is opened into Mr Morgan’s death, but ends when separate crimes are uncovered. In September 1999, Mr Rees is charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over a plot to plant cocaine on a woman involved in a custody dispute, and later jailed for six years, raised to seven years on appeal.

– Late 2000: A formal review is carried out of the case, which leads to another investigation opening the following year. It is closed in March 2003 with no charges brought.

– February 2004: Mr Morgan’s family call on the Government to open a public inquiry into the case, but it is refused.

– April 2008: Five people are arrested and charged in connection with the case. Jonathan Rees, his brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian, and an associate, James Cook, were charged with Mr Morgan’s murder, while former police officer Sid Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice.

– March 2011: The prosecution collapses after police failings relating to disclosure of evidence and handling of informants. In the wake of the collapse, Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell and Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin both acknowledge that corruption hampered the early investigations into Mr Morgan’s death.

– 2013: Then-home secretary Theresa May announces that an independent panel will be set up to examine the case.

– July 2019: Mr Rees and the Vian brothers are all awarded six-figure sums in damages after successfully suing the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution. A High Court judge rules that Mr Rees and Glenn Vian should each receive £155,000, and Garry Vian should get £104,000.

– May 18 2021: The Independent Panel is due to publish its report, but suffers delays due to the Home Office initially claiming no Parliamentary time can be found to make publication possible, and then insisting it wishes to review the document and make redactions as it sees necessary on national security or human rights grounds.

– May 28: An agreement is reached that a small team of Home Office officials will be allowed to read the report before its publication on June 15, with any redactions marked in footnotes. Mr Morgan’s family will also be allowed to read the full report.

– June 8: The Home Office confirms that the full, unredacted report will be published on June 15.

– June 15: The Met is damned and family call for Dame Cressida Dick to resign. 

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