England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Justice for Daniel morgan and all victims of police corruption and violence

An independent Panel report on the murder of Daniel Morgan has accused the Metropolitan Police of “institutionalised corruption” spanning over three decades. 

Daniel Morgan was a private investigator who ran a firm called Southern Investigations, and in 1987 he was found dead in a pub car park with an axe embedded in his head. The killer attempted to make it look like a robbery by taking his Rolex watch, but didn’t take £1,000 in cash from an envelope in his pocket. He had been writing notes in the pub, but these were not found on his person.

In the weeks before he died, Daniel was working on an investigation into corruption in the Metropolitan Police. He planned to sell the story to a journalist at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. He was well-connected – one of his contacts was Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s future spin doctor. But the story was never published – Morgan was murdered before it could be. 

Daniel’s business partner, Jonathan Rees, quickly became the prime suspect. He was closely linked with corrupt police officers in Catford, and witnesses say he told them Morgan would be murdered within the jurisdiction of Catford Police Station – which he was – and that it would be arranged or carried out by police officers. One of the allegedly corrupt officers, Sid Fillery, was put in charge of the investigation into the murder, and reportedly failed to properly interview his friend Rees in connection with the crime. Witnesses further stated that Rees planned to replace Morgan after his death with Fillery as his new business partner – which he did. 

Weeks later Fillery was arrested in connection with the murder, along with Rees and two other police officers. None were charged at the time, and the inquiry stated that the investigation into them was badly mishandled: “Alibis were not sought for all the suspects. The search warrants associated with the arrests were seriously inadequate … Lines of enquiry were not followed through properly. Many of the opportunities which were lost were not retrievable.” 

Despite five criminal investigations, an inquest and now an inquiry, no-one has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the murder. The police failed to investigate adequately, leaving the Morgan family to do so alone. The “Untold” podcast tells the story of the murder and subsequent investigation in great detail, and their work with the trade union movement was important in amplifying the story.

The Panel’s verdict was damning on every level of the Metropolitan Police, and vindicates Daniel Morgan and his family’s claims of corruption both at the time and since. In the 1970s and 80s the Met was half-jokingly said to employ more criminals than they caught – the inquiry describes a practice in one department where corrupt officers would leave a brown envelope full of cash on the desk of a newly promoted officer, and if they reported it then their promotion would be cancelled immediately. It also highlights claims that the CID department with which Rees and Fillery were closely associated was “the most routinely corrupt organisation in London”. 

The use of informants was also scrutinised as part of the inquiry, as they were often used in a corrupt manner. Unfortunately the panel’s verdict on informants comes too late to impact the recent Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) bill, which gives informants and undercover police blanket immunity from prosecution for any criminal activity undertaken “in the line of duty” – including rape, murder and torture. 

The Panel also raised concerns about the role of the press, particularly the Murdoch-owned News of the World, and its connections with corrupt police officers and organised crime. A warning letter sent by the Panel said that the News of the World was “linked to the criminality associated with the murder”. An early leak in the first investigation has been linked to an allegedly corrupt former officer turned journalist, John Ross, who is suspected of “inadvertently” informing the arrested suspects thus enabling them to destroy evidence. News of the World journalists have been directly accused of intrusive surveillance of DCS David Cook, who was involved in the second investigation into Morgan’s murder. The inquiry states that the “evidence suggests very strongly” that this was arranged by “former DS Fillery and [News of the World journalist] Alex Marunchak with a view to discrediting DCS Cook and/or to intimidate him”. There is also some speculation that the journalist to whom Daniel planned to sell the story about police corruption informed Rees and Fillery about his intentions. The Morgan family have accused Murdoch’s News International of failing to co-operate with the inquiry.

It should come as no surprise that a union-bashing, phone-hacking Murdoch rag would potentially be so closely linked to the murder of someone planning to expose police corruption – this would have threatened their cosy relationship with the bent cops. As disgusting as the phone-hacking scandal was, even hacking the voicemails of a murdered child was just the tip of the iceberg – their “dark arts” included computer hacking, covert surveillance, police bribery, bugging and more. The Government’s refusal to investigate this further despite the evidence uncovered by the Panel demonstrates their own rottenness, and that they are still in Murdoch’s pocket. 

The Met’s decades-long failures in this murder, and its failure to co-operate with the inquiry itself were strongly criticised by the Panel. There was a lengthy delay caused by the Met failing to hand over crucial documents – the report was commissioned in 2013, and some documents were not handed over until March 2021. Cressida Dick, the current Commissioner of the Met, was directly responsible for that delay but despite this obvious failure – in a career full of similar disasters – she has already been backed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, and, shamefully, Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

The Morgan family have called for Dick to “consider her position” following these revelations. Given her track record of direct responsibility for the operation that caused the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, and presiding over the Met when a serving officer allegedly murdered Sarah Everard, and the met police then attacked women mourning her death, such calls are very understandable. This is not an organisation that can be changed by one resignation or sacking, however. Dick would be replaced by another senior officer who would continue to run things in the same way – rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is not the answer.

The corruption addressed in the report spans decades, and the Panel specifically stated that the Met’s denial and concealment of its failings in respect of Daniel’s murder was “institutionally corrupt”. It will take more than the verdict of the Panel to change the Met, however – the Macpherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence found that the Met was “institutionally racist”, and over two decades later it still is. 

The “institutionally corrupt” Met, along with all other police forces, must be brought under democratic community control. Corruption and brutality should be dealt with properly by genuinely independent worker-led bodies, with Black, LGBTQ+ and womens’ organisations specifically represented alongside the trade unions. Riot police, Special Branch and undercover units should be disbanded. 

To achieve genuine justice for Daniel Morgan and others like him, as well as for all victims of police brutality, we need to build a united working class movement to fight for the end of the capitalist system that the police enforce. 

Further reading/listening:

The report of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel

Untouchables: Dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard by Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard

Untold: the murder of Daniel Morgan – a podcast looking at Daniel’s murder and the investigation into it 

“No Justice No Peace” by Johnny Silvercloud is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 – picture credit


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