Daniel Morgan: who was the murdered private investigator - and what has a new report said about his death?

Daniel Morgan’s murder in1987 became one of Scotland Yard’s longest-running cold cases – and now the Met Police are accused of ‘institutional corruption’

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.

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Now, Daniel’s family have said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick should “absolutely” be considering her position after an inquiry found extensive corruption in the force.

Alastair Morgan (right), the brother of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan, with his partner Kirsteen Knight and family solicitor Raju Bhatt (centre) speaking to the media following the publication of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report (PA)
Alastair Morgan (right), the brother of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan, with his partner Kirsteen Knight and family solicitor Raju Bhatt (centre) speaking to the media following the publication of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report (PA)

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Who was the murdered private investigator?

Daniel Morgan, 37, was found dead in a pub car park with an axe embedded in his hand.

He was murdered at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, on March 10 1987.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has been criticised in a report into the unsolved murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan for her initial refusal, as the then Assistant Commisioner, to allow the panel team access to the HOLMES police data system (PA)

The father-of-two ran a mainly low-level private investigator company with his business partner Johnathan Rees called Southern Investigations.

In April 1988 an inquest into his death recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Hampshire police began investigating the murder and the Metropolitan Police handling of the case in June of that year.

A series of police investigations have been held into the murder in the last three-and-a-half decades.

Alastair Morgan, the brother of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan, speaking to the media following the publication of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report, at Church House (PA)

Who is Johnathan Rees?

In February 1989 Mr Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees and his associate Paul Goodridge were charged with murder, and Mr Goodridge’s girlfriend Jean Wisden was charged with perverting the course of justice.

But three months later, the case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, and Mr Goodridge went on to sue Hampshire Constabulary over the charge.

Later, in 2008, five people were charged in relation to the case – Mr Rees, his brothers-in-law Glenn and Gary 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.

But police failures in disclosing evidence and handling of key witnesses led to the prosecution collapsing by March 2011.

Eight years later in 2019, Mr Rees and the Vian brothers were each awarded six-figure sums in damages after suing the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution.

It is estimated that the five police inquiries cost around £30 million, while according to statements posted on its website, the panel itself – chaired by former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan – cost just over £14.1 million up to the end of 2019/20.

What has the new report said about his death?

Daniel’s brother Alastair Morgan has campaigned for decades for justice for his brother.

In 2013, then-home secretary Theresa May announced that an independent panel was being set up to examine the case – and its findings were published on 15 June.

The Metropolitan Police has been accused of “a form of institutional corruption” for concealing or denying failings over the unsolved murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan.

A report by an independent panel said the force’s first objective was to “protect itself” for failing to acknowledge its many failings since Mr Morgan’s murder, the panel’s chairman Baroness Nuala O’Loan said.

The Met owes Mr Morgan’s family, and the public, an apology for not confronting its systemic failings and those of individual officers, the report said.

In a statement through their lawyer, the family of Mr Morgan said: “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.”

The Independent Panel’s report, which runs to more than 1,200 pages, expressed concern that within the Met “a culture still exists that inhibits both organisational and individual accountability”.

It found: “The family of Daniel Morgan suffered grievously as a consequence of the failure to bring his family to justice, the unwarranted assurances which they were given, the misinformation which was put into the public domain, and the denial of failings in investigation, including failing to acknowledge professional competence, individuals’ venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures.

“The Metropolitan Police also repeatedly failed to take a fresh, thorough and critical look at past failings.

“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.”

The initial investigation into Mr Morgan’s death was heavily criticised, with the murder scene not searched and left unguarded, and no alibis sought for all the suspects.

A later probe by Hampshire Police, brought in to investigate amid fears of corruption, was compromised when a senior Met officer was appointed to work with the team, the report said.

The current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, was criticised for her refusal to allow the panel team access to the HOLMES police data system.

The report said: “The Metropolitan Police’s lack of candour manifested itself in the hurdles placed in the path of the Panel, such as (then Assistant Commissioner) Cressida Dick’s initial refusal to recognise the necessity for the Panel to have access to the HOLMES system.”

The brother of Daniel Morgan said Ms Dick should “absolutely” be considering her position in light of the report.

Alastair Morgan was asked whether Ms Dick should consider resigning.

He responded: “Absolutely she should.”

The family’s solicitor Raju Bhatt added: “You heard from the panel that the institutionalised corruption that they found is a current problem in the present tense.

“The current leadership in the Met has to take responsibility for that continuing.”

Downing Street later said Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has confidence in the Met Commissioner.

Home Secretary Priti Patel described the Morgan case as “one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan Police”.

She added: “Today I have written to Dame Cressida Dick to ask her to provide me with a detailed response into the panel’s recommendations for the Metropolitan Police and the wider issues outlined within the report.”

She also said there were questions the about the ability of the Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog to hold police to account.

Ms Patel added: “I am therefore announcing today that I am bringing forward the next periodic review of the IOPC to start this summer. This will include an assessment of the IOPC’s effectiveness and efficiency.

The Met said in a brief statement: “We deeply regret our failure to bring those who murdered Daniel Morgan to justice.”

It said it was considering the report and would “respond in more detail” later on 15 June.

Additional reporting by PA.