Good Cop, Bad Press: How a Key Witness in the Daniel Morgan Murder has been Silenced for 7 Years
Peter Jukes, host of the hit Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder podcast, looks at a recent damages claim and a further twist in this decades-long saga.
The murder of private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987, and the five ensuing murder investigations, has always been mired in a toxic combination of police corruption and media corruption.
In the weeks before he was killed, several witnesses allege that the 37-year-old Welsh private detective was trying to get the British press to publish a story of extensive police corruption involving senior officers in the Metropolitan Police and a major drug importation.
As documented in the book I co-authored with Daniel’s brother Alastair, Who Killed Daniel Morgan, some of those sources suggest he was in conversation with Rupert Murdoch’s bestselling News of the World. One source claimed he was working with DC Alan ‘Taffy’ Holmes on the police corruption story. Since our book was published, a close associate has come forward to say he saw Holmes and Daniel Morgan working together on such a story.
Holmes would die a violent death within six months of Daniel, in an apparent suicide.
In the months and years following the deaths and subsequent inquests, both cases have been subject to troubling misreporting.
With their extensive press connections, the murder suspects targeted the lead detectives on the first murder inquiry by trying to place salacious stories about them in the national newspapers. At the inquest into Daniel’s death in 1988, the coroner heard evidence that they were even considering planting drugs on the deputy senior investigating officer to discredit him.
For the next 20 years, Daniel’s former company, Southern Investigations, became a one-stop shop for the British tabloid press, providing confidential police reports, blagging personal details and hacking computers.
Last week, three of the murder suspects were awarded £414,000 in compensation for malicious prosecution after a key witness at the 2011 trial, Gary Eaton, was ruled to have produced inadmissible evidence. However, the misreporting continues, with the Daily Telegraph proclaiming that the Met Police “must pay three men after corrupt officer tried to frame them for axe murder”.
The police officer in question, former Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook, was the lead investigator on the last of the two investigations (Abelard 1 and 2) which resulted in the arrests in 2008.
The case eventually collapsed in March 2011 after one of the longest pre-trial hearings in modern history because of the impossibilities of disclosure. New boxes of evidence were continually being discovered and, with over one million exhibits plus two decades of police corruption, the judge concluded that there was no longer the possibility of a fair trial. This was a full year after Eaton’s evidence was excluded.
Meanwhile, Cook himself has been subject to no less than four police investigations that have effectively silenced him for the past seven years.
The charges – subsequently dropped – look like a mutually convenient excuse for both the Met Police and Murdoch to silence Cook before the Leveson Inquiry.
The first investigation was launched in early 2012 just as Cook was due to become a core participant and give crucial evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press abuses, when News UK dumped thousands of emails on the team investigating phone hacking about payments to public officials.
Included in these emails was correspondence between Dave Cook and Sun crime correspondent Mike Sullivan about writing a book. Sullivan and Cook had worked together several times on the Daniel Morgan investigations with police approval.
The charges – subsequently dropped – look like a mutually convenient excuse for both the Met Police and Murdoch to silence Cook before the Leveson Inquiry. He would have plenty to say about what the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown described as the “criminal media nexus” around private detectives, corrupt police officers and the News of the World.
Of the other three investigations, Operation Megan investigated the claim that Cook coached his witness Gary Eaton to make false allegations. This was subject to a civil trial by Lord Justice Mitting in 2017 which led to last week’s damages award. But – for the same reasons he could not speak out at the Leveson Inquiry because of pending criminal investigations – Cook could not give evidence at that trial either.
In Cook’s absence, the allegations went undefended, despite the fact that the Met’s internal investigations team, the Department of Professional Standards (DPS), had already concluded by November 2016 that there was no evidence Eaton had been coached and judged there was no need for criminal proceedings. But, for some reason, this evidence was not disclosed to the court or called at the civil trial before Lord Justice Mitting. Nor was the court told that Eaton himself had told the police on more than one occasion in 2012 that he had not been coached by Cook.
The one good cop has become – in Alastair Morgan’s words – “a scapegoat” for decades of police and media corruption and his treatment a “travesty of justice”.
As a direct result of the Mitting Judgement, Cook was once again placed under investigation by the Met Police for the very same allegation that they had previously cleared him off. Earlier this year, he was once again cleared of any criminal actions.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told Byline Times that the force would not comment on the legal strategy at that trial or why it accepted the Mitting judgment, knowing the court was not fully informed of the facts.
The Silence Continues
The reign of forced silence continues because of a pending fourth investigation which arose when police raided Cook’s premises in November 2014 on suspicion that he had been talking to a media organisation about the Daniel Morgan case.
Because of this one ongoing investigation, the Metropolitan Police refuses to comment on any of this. But the timing is suspicious.
The fourth investigation began at exactly the moment News UK was approached by BBC’s Panorama to comment about its investigation into the activities of its star reporter, Mazher Mahmood, famed as the News of the World’s ‘Fake Sheikh’.
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Mahmood, who was subsequently convicted of perverting the course of justice, figures prominently in the story of Daniel Morgan and Southern Investigations. News UK managed to delay the broadcast of the Panorama documentary twice.
Since the Metropolitan Police refuses to comment on whether News UK’s complaints to the force triggered this fourth investigation into Cook, we have no way of knowing whether – like the first investigation – there has been some mutual benefit in silencing Cook again.
In a statement to Byline Times, the Met Police said that any allegation of delaying any further inquiry into the circumstances of Daniel’s murder was “unfounded”, and that it would “strongly deny the claim that particular individuals have been investigated to obstruct their communication with the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (DMIP) or any other inquiry”.
With over one million exhibits plus two decades of police corruption, the judge concluded that there was no longer the possibility of a fair trial.
Whatever the reasons though, Dave Cook certainly has been silenced now for seven years, unable to tell his side of the story to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, the press, or our Untold podcast. And so one of the key witnesses in the whole 32-year-old Daniel Morgan saga, and the one good cop according to the family, has become – in Alastair Morgan’s words – “a scapegoat” for decades of police and media corruption and his treatment a “travesty of justice”.
Only when Dave Cook is finally free to speak will we discover the extent of the police and media cover-up in the Daniel Morgan murder – and have any reassurance that it isn’t continuing to this day.
You can catch up with the full story of Untold: the Daniel Morgan Murder podcast here.