‘Corrupt’ London police hid failings of murder inquiry, report finds

Forensic work around private investigator’s killing with axe in 1987 was ‘pathetic’

Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who was killed with an axe in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, southeast London on March 10th, 1987. File photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who was killed with an axe in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, southeast London on March 10th, 1987. File photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

 

London’s Metropolitan Police corruptly meddled in shoddy investigations into the brutal 1987 murder of a private investigator and then concealed their repeated failings, often by sowing disinformation in the media, an inquiry into the case has found.

Daniel Morgan was found murdered in a car park behind a pub in southeast London on March 10th, 1987. He was killed with an axe which was found stuck in the back of his head. Nobody has been brought to justice for the killing.

After looking at the evidence, an independent panel painted a grim picture of a police force riddled with corruption: some officers had links to organised crime, some sought to sell information or stolen goods, and investigations were often suspiciously poor or partial.

In damning verdicts, the panel’s chair, Nuala O’Loan – former police ombudsman of Northern Ireland – said the police had displayed “institutional corruption”, while home secretary Priti Patel described it as one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the London force.

While the report found no fresh evidence of long-standing suspicions of police involvement in the murder itself, the panel was careful to say that such a conclusion rested on the available documentary evidence.

Chair of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, Baroness Nuala O’Loan said the police had displayed ‘institutional corruption’. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Chair of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, Baroness Nuala O’Loan said the police had displayed ‘institutional corruption’. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Baroness O’Loan was scathing about how the case had been handled – and about the various mistakes, poor police work and avarice of many officers concerned.

She said opportunities to gather evidence were irretrievably lost during the first investigation, while forensic work in a second investigation was described by a senior officer as “pathetic”.

“The family of Daniel Morgan has suffered grievously as a consequence of the failure to bring his murderer or murderers to justice: The unwarranted assurances which they were given, the misinformation which was put into the public domain, and the denial of failings in the investigation,” Baroness O’Loan said at a news conference.

“We believe that concealing or denying failings, for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty, on the part of the organisation, for reputational benefit. This constitutes a form of institutional corruption.”

Ms Patel said she had asked the head of the Metropolitan Police to provide a detailed response to the panel’s findings, and she would provide an update when she had received it.

“Police corruption is a betrayal of everything policing stands for in this country,” Ms Patel said. “This is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan Police.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick apologised for failings in the case and said it was a “matter of great regret that no one has been brought to justice and that our mistakes have compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family”.

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.”

London’s Metropolitan Police has more than 43,000 officers and staff and is the United Kingdom’s largest police service with 25 per cent of the total police budget for England and Wales. – Reuters