The Daniel Morgan MurderLead Detective Became a Scapegoat for Scotland Yard
As the Channel 4 true-crime series finishes, Byline Times looks at the extraordinary five police investigations into the only Metropolitan Police officer the Morgan family ever trusted
The recent Channel 4 series Murder in the Car Park has reawakened interest in one of the UK’s biggest-ever murder investigations.
Thirty-three years after his death, the family of Daniel Morgan has given up hoping that anyone will ever be brought to justice. But they are now also beginning to despair that even the Government’s own official inquiry will get anywhere.
The Daniel Morgan Panel was set up by Theresa May in 2013. A panel fell short of the judicial inquiry with the power to hear witnesses under oath that the family wanted, but they were assured that the panel would be given “exceptional and full disclosure” and would report “within 12 months of documents being made available”.
But sources close to the panel now say that “it was stillborn” and “they never got access to the information they needed”. It is no surprise that the panel’s work has been subject to repeated delay.
In December 2015, The Independent reported that the inquiry would be completed “late next year”. Late next year came and went and, in January 2017, the BBC said that it was “now unlikely to finish before autumn 2017”.
By November 2017, things were slipping further and the Morgan family were told that the panel would “finally present its findings next year”. In May 2018, the line had changed to: “The panel hopes to complete drafting its report in 2018 before submitting it to the Home Secretary in 2019.”
Last week, we were told that the Metropolitan Police had just discovered a further 580 crates of evidence and that the report’s delivery date would now be spring 2021. By then, it will be eight years and counting since the panel was set up.
Failures of Disclosure
Daniel Morgan was the partner of a man called Jonathan Rees in Southern Investigations detective agency in south London.
They made a good living by, amongst other things, selling tip-offs and crime stories from local police to Fleet Street newspapers – with the News of the World soon to become their biggest client.
A year after Morgan’s murder in March 1987, his position at the agency was taken by recently retired police officer Sid Fillery.
In April 2008, Rees, Glenn Vian, Garry Vian and Jimmy Cook were charged with Morgan’s murder, whilst Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice. Within a year, the case began to run into the sand as, one by one, key supergrass witnesses were discredited.
The prosecution was finally abandoned in March 2011 when boxes of additional evidence were discovered in Met Police storerooms.
There had been clear failures of police disclosure and the judge ruled that the suspects no longer had any prospect of a fair trial. Senior Met officers apologised to the Morgan family for “the repeated failure by the MPS over many years… to accept that corruption played a major part in failing to bring those responsible to justice”.
The family believes that it was fear about the extent of corruption that might be revealed which explains the Met’s apparent reluctance to disclose material to either the court case or the panel.
The Silence of Dave Cook
However, the Met certainly haven’t been idle in other respects.
The Senior Investigating Officer in the case, ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook, was the only Metropolitan Police officer the Morgan family felt able to trust – and the police have investigated him five times over his handling of the Morgan inquiry.
Each time he has been cleared, but the Morgan family wonders whether those investigations were part of an attempt to make him a scapegoat, keep him quiet, cover-up the Met corruption, delay publication of the panel’s report or a combination of all four.
Certainly, the numerous inquiries into Cook raised questions from the off. His house was raided by the police in January 2012 – on the very day that he was due to be granted ‘core participant’ status in the Leveson Inquiry into illegal activity by the press. Leveson heard extensive evidence about the questionable relationship between News International (now News UK) and both Southern Investigations and the Metropolitan Police. As a criminal suspect, Cook was denied core status but Jacqui Hames, his wife at the time, delivered powerful testimony that she and Cook had been spied upon by people using vans linked to News International.
When confronted about why the couple was apparently under surveillance, the former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks offered the rather lame explanation that the newspaper believed the pair were having an affair. They were, of course, having rather more than an affair – they had been married for four years by then and had two children.
Hames’ own analysis was rather more incisive. She told the inquiry: “I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.”
Hames also revealed that, in July 2002 – a week or so before the News of the World vans began appearing outside her family home – phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire had managed to obtain personal and professional details and phone numbers for both her and her husband. What’s worse, the Met had known about this since 2006 but somehow failed to tell her until 2011.
It may have come as something of a relief to both News International and the Met that, without core participant status, Cook wasn’t able to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry to back-up his wife’s testimony. It is also worth remembering that Cook was only arrested because of evidence supplied to the police by News International itself.
The Supergrass Problem
In the four subsequent police investigations into Dave Cook, the most serious allegations against him were that he had coached protected witness Gary Eaton and that, contrary to procedures, he had maintained contact with this witness at a time when Eaton should have been managed exclusively by a separate debrief team.
In the hearings which led up to the Crown Prosecution Service dropping its case against the key suspects in March 2011, Cook was subject to lengthy cross-examination over his handling of Eaton.
The judge, Mr Justice Maddison, gave his findings on whether Cook had coached Eaton about the defendants Rees, Fillery and Cook: “I am concerned that he may have done so [but] I am not able on the evidence available to me to find on a balance of probabilities that such… prompting did take place”.
The judge’s findings about whether Cook had coached Eaton regarding the Vian brothers were more damning: “I conclude that DCS Cook probably did prompt Mr Eaton to implicate the Vian brothers.”
But even these findings were more complex than they first seemed because Eaton named the brothers not as Glenn and Garry, but as “Glenn and Scott”. As the judge in a later damages claim successfully brought by four of the defendants noted: “There is force in [the] observation that, if Cook did prompt Eaton, he did not make a very good job of it.”
On the question of whether Cook contravened guidelines by maintaining contact with Eaton, Cook’s friends insist that he only called Eaton in response to the increasingly desperate messages that the witness was leaving for him, or to return a call from a mobile number he didn’t recognise which turned out to belong to Eaton.
The witness had been given a series of ‘burner’ phones by his police handlers and his number changed frequently. Cook’s friends don’t deny that Eaton often called him, mostly because he was concerned about his own welfare. But they point out that Eaton was a tricky witness with mental health problems and constant complaints about his official police handlers, and Cook was the only person he trusted.
Cook’s friends also point out that senior officers at the Met knew about the problem of Eaton calling him – because he had told them.
Minutes of a Metropolitan Police Oversight Group meeting of September 2006 confirm this: “DC [Dave Cook] outlined the issues in relation to PW2 [Protected Witness 2 – Gary Eaton] being in witness protection… PW2 has also been telephoning DC regularly… JY [John Yates] and DJ [Dave Johnston] and SS [Shaun Sawyer] are concerned about the calls made to DC and a decision will need to be discussed with The CPS re PW2 being arrested or volunteering to be in custody.”
According to these minutes, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, Commander Dave Johnston of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, and Commander Shaun Sawyer of the Specialist Crime Directorate were amongst senior Met police officers who were aware of the calls from Eaton. What is less clear is whether Cook specifically told these senior officers that he had also contacted Eaton himself.
The Fall Guy
Friends of Cook agree that mistakes were made in handling this difficult witness, but they insist that those mistakes were made by the entire team.
In an email of August 2010 to Commander Simon Foy of Homicide Command, Cook set out his feelings about facing cross-examination and having to take the blame:
“During my time in the witness box I avoided washing dirty laundry in public, and instead of pointing towards problems with the debrief of PW2 [Gary Eaton]… I sat there and took a hit on a wide range of issues basically because I was in overall charge of the… investigation and formed the view that, irrespective of where some faults may have been, the buck stopped with me.”
Cook’s friends insist that he would have given all of this evidence to the 2017 case for damages brought by four of the defendants which went against the Met, but they say he was effectively prevented from doing so for several reasons:
- Whilst he wanted to make a full statement about his entire role as SIO, and not just the parts on which he was cross-examined during the hearings of 2009-2011, the Met Police would not supply him with witness and day-book evidence that he would have needed to support his testimony.
- Due to a cost of around £5,000, the police refused to fund a full search of Eaton’s call record on all his mobiles which, it is claimed, would have supported Cook’s account that most of the calls were made by Eaton.
- In 2017, at the time of the damages case, the police were in the middle of one of their many investigations into Cook (which begun in Nov 2014 and only closed in April this year). He felt it would be difficult to support the police position during this civil case while he was being treated as a suspect by them over similar issues in a separate criminal investigation. Effectively, he risked giving evidence that could have been used against him.
Had he been able to give evidence in the damages case, Cook’s friends argue that crucial assertions made against him would have been properly challenged and the outcome would have been very different. As it was, friends say, he feels he was criticised and scapegoated, but was unable to properly put forward his own case.
The most recent investigation into Cook was NFAd (no further action) in April.
So, after more than eight years and five investigations, Dave Cook is now finally free to talk to the Daniel Morgan Panel – unless, of course, the police decide they need to investigate him once again. He is currently scheduled to be interviewed by the panel in August and hopes finally to be able to put across his side of the story.
Meanwhile, the panel has been racking up costs of around £2 million a year – which, over seven years, amounts to around £14 million. But, in a case which, according to one source close to the panel, has been “constantly plagued by police disclosure issues”, will they ever be given the “unprecedented and full disclosure” they were promised that might finally answer some of the myriad questions surrounding the murder of Daniel Morgan?
Don’t count on it.
After publication, the Metropolitan Police Service responded.
The MPS strongly denies the suggestion that particular individuals have been investigated to obstruct their communication with the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (DMIP) or any other inquiry.
The work of the DMIP is ongoing, and the MPS continues to support the panel’s terms of reference. We will continue to explore any new information which may become available in the investigation into Daniel’s murder