Behind the scenes

Daniel Morgan murder report: the ‘devastating’ verdict for Scotland Yard

Panel investigated claims of corruption, freemasons and systemic failings

The Metropolitan Police probe into the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan was hampered by “institutional corruption”, a newly published independent review has concluded. 

The 37-year-old married father-of-two was killed with an axe in a pub car park in Sydenham, southeast London, in 1987.

The “devastating” verdict of an eight-year inquiry into Scotland Yard’s handling of the unsolved crime “said that for three decades, the Met placed greater emphasis on protecting its reputation than solving the murder”, The Times reports.

Who killed Daniel Morgan?

Despite five criminal investigations into the murder, no one has been successfully prosecuted. In response to pressure from his family for a formal inquiry, the government set up the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (DMIP) in 2013 to review police handling of the murder probe over the years.

The DMIP was tasked with looking at any connections between “private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”.

“His family has always maintained he was on the cusp of exposing police corruption,” reports the BBC. “Although he had not been stripped of his valuables, notes he was earlier seen writing in the pub had been ripped from his trouser pocket.”

What did the panel find?

The DMIP, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, said Scotland Yard owed both the public and Morgan’s relatives “an apology for not confronting its systemic failings, for the failings of individual officers and for its lack of candour to the members of the family”. The panel has accused the force of putting its reputation “above the need for accountability and transparency”, which “compounded the suffering and trauma” of the victim’s family.

The inquiry report also points to historic examples of officers drinking in pubs with suspects; a “blue wall” of hostility towards fellow officers investigating corruption; and the sale of information to criminals.

And the current Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, is “personally censured” for hampering the inquiry by reportedly delaying the panel’s access to documents and a database needed to complete its inquiries, says The Guardian.

While the DMIP found no evidence to back up previous claims that Masonic channels were corruptly used by police officers, it has recommended that all officers and staff should be forced to register their membership of any organisation, including the Freemasons, that might call their impartiality into question. 

Further recommendations include ensuring that appropriate protection is in place for any whistleblowers who want to reveal alleged wrongdoing, and that a statutory duty of candour is created.

In a statement, the Met said: “We deeply regret that no one has been convicted of Daniel’s murder. We have not stopped pursuing justice.

“We accept corruption was a major factor in the failure of the 1987 investigation. This compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family and for this we apologise.”

Why was the report delayed?

The panel’s findings were due to be tabled in Parliament on 24 May, having already been delayed by a week as a result of a backlog following the death of Prince Philip and the local elections. But the Home Office then said that the report had to be reviewed, to ensure it complied with “human rights and national security considerations”, before the new date for publication was agreed.

However, DMIP chair O’Loan has repeatedly stated that experts had already checked the report. In a statement today, the panel added that they had been adding “disappointed” that Home Secretary Priti Patel delayed the publication. “We are unaware of any such intervention previously,” the panel said.

Meanwhile, Patel described the report findings as “deeply alarming” and said the case was “one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan Police”.

The victim’s brother Alastair Morgan said that his “biggest hope” was that the report leads to “massive change in the way that police misconduct is investigated”.

He added: “As things stand I have no confidence in the way police handle corruption. They’re better at hiding it than investigating it.”

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