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Press and Police Corruption: Mail Hearing Reveals More Connections between Murders of Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence 

Witness statements on behalf of the claimants against Associated News plunge us straight back into what Gordon Brown once described as the ‘criminal media nexus’ 

Alastair Morgan and his partner Kirsteen Knight with solicitor Raju Bhatt (centre) at the publication of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report in 2021. Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA/Alamy

PresS & Police CorruptionMail Hearing Reveals More Connections between Murders of Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence

Witness statements on behalf of the claimants against Associated News plunge us straight back into what Gordon Brown once described as the ‘criminal media nexus’ 

Though covered with very tight reporting restrictions, the hearing of the case of various claimants against Associated News Limited (the company that owns the Mail) before Mr Justice Nicklin this week has still brought some shocking allegations which were not covered or included in the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report two years ago. 

The evidence comes from a witness statement by former Metropolitan Police officer Derek Haslam.

Listeners to Untold: the Daniel Morgan Murder podcast, or readers of the book Who Killed Daniel Morgan? that I co-wrote with Daniel’s brother Alastair, will know Haslam as a key figure in the investigations into the notorious Southern Investigations private detective agency and its role as the one-stop-shop for the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street, at the centre of a web of corrupt police officers.

Haslam knew both Daniel Morgan and his Southern Investigations business partner Jonathan Rees – the latter arrested three times on suspicion of involvement in Daniel’s death.

He was also close to another police officer, DC Alan ‘Taffy’ Holmes, who committed suicide in suspicious circumstances a few months after Daniel was axed to death in the car park of a south London pub.

Along with five other contemporaneous witnesses, Haslam alleges that both DC Holmes and Daniel Morgan were involved in trying to sell a story of police corruption to the British press around the time of their deaths.

Having left the police, a decade later, Haslam was tasked by the Met’s anti-corruption squad to infiltrate Southern Investigations, on the understanding he would look for evidence on the Morgan murder and the murder or ‘assisted suicide’ of Taffy Holmes.

He remained undercover for nine years and helped set up a bug in the offices of the private investigations company. In the few brief months of 1999 the probe was operable, the surveillance picked up dozens of crimes, many related to the media and unlawful news-gathering.

In his witness statement, Haslam says that Jonathan Rees, and the former detective who took over Daniel’s role at Southern Investigations, Sid Fillery, frequently confided “they did work for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday”.

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“By work,” Haslam continues, “I mean selling to Mail title journalists their regular Pl [private investigator] services such as hacking and blagging, as well as tips and story leads which they got hold of using their usual methods.

“Rees boasted that he also carried out landline tapping and burglaries to get information for the Mail titles. I also remember him talking about doing electronic surveillance and paying police officers for the Mail titles.”

Associated News, the holding company behind the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday vigorously denies these claims, dismissing them as “preposterous”.

But, as Alastair Morgan and I outlined in our book, much of Haslam’s testimony is independently supported by the transcripts of the surveillance from 1999, which reveals that Southern Investigations plied a lucrative trade in unlawful news-gathering for Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World at the time, and for the Mirror Group while Piers Morgan was its editor in chief. 

But it’s the connections with another infamous murder in southeast London 30 years ago, that plunge us back into an even deeper pit of criminality and corruption.

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence

Six years after Daniel Morgan’s murder in Sydenham in 1987, on 22 April 1993, 18-year-old student Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death by a racist gang in Eltham, a few miles away.

As Who Killed Daniel Morgan? explains in some detail, there were always strong connections between the two deaths, as the same nexus of corrupt police officers and criminal informants was involved in both murder investigations.

In both cases, there was now officially admitted police corruption and cover-up. But, until now, there has been no firm evidence about unlawful press involvement in the second murder. 

Haslam’s new witness statement brings explosive new allegations that Southern Investigations itself was heavily involved in the tarnished Lawrence murder inquiry.   

“Rees was obsessed with the Stephen Lawrence murder,” Haslam claims “and the police investigation into it throughout the entire time I was undercover, and he spoke about it frequently.”

Haslam claims the Mail titles “wanted information about it and about Doreen Lawrence herself” and that Jonathan Rees used his “research services” to find out if Doreen Lawrence “had been infiltrated by left-wing groups”.

According to Haslam, Rees “discussed his targeting of Doreen Lawrence, her family, and the murder investigation with me many times in face-to-face meetings in his office in Croydon”.

Rees has proved himself over the years to be an unreliable witness. However, Haslam had other sources of intelligence and information from other “corrupt ex-cops” in the Southern Investigations network “who had either worked on the Lawrence case or who could get to the officers who did at various points in the investigation”. 

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He names the former detective John ‘Obnoxious Jock’ Davidson and the former Commander Ray Adams. 

Haslam’s claims are also supported by the witness statement of Doreen Lawrence. She claims she was a victim of “unlawful acts” from 1993 to “at least 2007”.

“My landlines had been tapped,” she testifies, “my voicemails hacked, my phone bills illegally extracted using deception which I now understand is called blagging, covert electronic surveillance was put on me including at a café that I used to go to when I wanted to talk to people privately, and corrupt payments had been made to police officers.”

It is this crossover between the ‘dark arts’ of surveillance and payments to police officers and officials which is the most overlooked part of unlawful news-gathering. The high-profile trials of journalists after the phone-hacking scandal closed the News of the World a decade ago are well known. But often forgotten are the dozens of convictions of public officials for selling their stories to the press. 

Doreen Lawrence claims that money was funnelled via the Mail to Ray Adams and John Davidson. “They were officers that had been involved in the first investigation into Stephen’s murder in 1993,” she claims “and where we had suspected corruption and links with Clifford Norris, a powerful criminal and the father of David Norris, one of the boys who we knew had murdered Stephen.” 

“We had always suspected that the police had been involved in corruption because of everything that happened that seemed to make sure Stephen’s killers were not found and put in jail,” Doreen Lawrence concludes.

“But we believed that was Clifford Norris pulling the strings and the racist agenda of the police force… it had never once occurred to me that a newspaper might be involved, that they had links and relationships with such men, that they were spying on me and stealing my information, accessing my bank accounts, invading my privacy, that they were seeking information about Stephen to sell and not because they cared.”

Associated News Limited completely deny these allegations and seek to strike out Baroness Lawrence’s claim, arguing that she had brought the case too late and that her submissions relied on documents that were restricted and confidential. We will not know for a few weeks if these claims will be struck out or go to trial.  

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