James Murdoch resigned as the head of News International today, Wednesday. Police officers told the Leveson inquiry into press standards that they felt unable to continue a search at News International headquarters because they felt intimidated.
But the most significant event in the scandal today took place in a sparsely attended Westminster Hall.
Labour MP Tom Watson made a series of damning allegations about the News of the World’s involvement in the Daniel Morgan murder case in a brief parliamentary debate.
Using parliamentary privilege, the allegations confirm and repeat a number of charges made by Socialist Worker among others.
Watson said private detective Jonathan Rees and detective sergeant Sid Fillery were at the “corrupt nexus of private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World”.
Daniel Morgan was murdered with an axe in 1987. But despite five police investigations no one has ever been convicted of his murder.
Morgan’s former business partner, Jonathan Rees, was one of three men acquitted of his murder last year.
Rees and his company, Southern Investigations, were widely used by journalists to find out secret information.
The police have admitted that the first investigation into Daniel Morgan’s murder was corrupted by the presence of Sid Fillery on the investigating team.
Fillery interviewed Rees, but never disclosed to the investigation that the pair were close friends and business associates. Fillery became Rees’s partner after leaving the police.
Andy Coulson, when editing the News of the World, rehired Rees after Rees was released from prison in 2005 following a conviction for another crime. Coulson went on to become David Cameron’s spin doctor.
Watson said, “Through the hacking scandal, we now know Southern Investigations became the hub of a web of police and media contacts involving the illegal theft disclosure of information obtained through Rees and Fillery’s corrupted contacts.
“The main conduit at NI was Alex Marunchak, chief crime reporter for the News of the World and later the paper’s Irish editor.”
Watson said that Rees’s relationship with Marunchak was so close they both registered companies at the same address.
Daniel Morgan was about to sell a story of police corruption to the News of the World and his contact there was Alex Marunchak. Morgan was promised a payment of £40,000.
Notably at one point Southern Investigations paid off Marunchak’s debts.
As part of the one of the numerous failed investigations into Morgan’s death, anti-corruption officers bugged the offices of Southern Investigations.
Watson said that not all the tapes had been transcribed. “If they were to be they would yield more collusion perhaps criminal in nature between News International and Jonathan Rees.”
Police have had the tapes for 20 years.
Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, and her husband chief detective superintendent David Cook, were put under surveillance by the News of the World.
David Cook was heading up a police investigation into Morgan’s murder. Hames claimed that this surveillance was intended to “intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation” at the Leveson inquiry yesterday.
The surveillance was raised at a meeting between Metropolitan Police officers and then News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks in 2002.
Watson requested that government minister Nick Herbert release all the intelligence reports submitted about Alex Marunchak.
“I believe the Met are sitting on an intelligence report from late 2002 that claims a police contact overheard Marunchak claim he was paying the relatives of police officers in Cambridgeshire for information about the Soham murders.”
Watson added, “I think Rupert Murdoch owes the Morgan family an apology, and I don’t think he’s made his last apology to the grieving parents of murdered children.”
Relatives of Daniel Morgan are calling for a judicial inquiry into the murder because they have lost faith in the police.
Morgan’s brother Alastair, who was at the debate on Wednesday, said afterwards, “The seeds of the hacking scandal that is unravelling at the Leveson inquiry were planted a quarter of a century ago in a car park in south east London where my brother was murdered.”
In response, minister of state for policing and criminal justice Nick Herbert said a judicial inquiry had not been ruled out.
This is a shift from the previous position of the government.
But Herbert did warn that such an inquiry would take some time to complete and would not lead directly to prosecutions.
For more on the Daniel Morgan murder see these previous Socialist Worker articles: