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The Daniel Morgan case and Hackgate: anatomy of a scandal

This article is over 9 years, 10 months old
An unholy alliance of the police, the media and the establishment lies at the heart of the phone hacking scandal. But so does the murder 25 years ago of Daniel Morgan. Simon Basketter reports
Issue 2293
Members of the Force Research Unit pictured posing on an army base in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. Ian Hurst is circled on the left and Philip Campbell Smith on the right
Members of the Force Research Unit pictured posing on an army base in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. Ian Hurst is circled on the left and Philip Campbell Smith on the right

Force Research Unit | David Cameron | Daniel Morgan | Metropolitan Police | David Cook | Rebekah Brooks | Jonathan Rees | Sid Fillery | Chipping Norton set | Alex Marunchak | Andy Coulson

The Leveson inquiry into press standards finally made reference to Daniel Morgan murder case last week.

Morgan was killed on 10 March 1987. Despite five police investigations, no one has ever been convicted of his murder. The police have admitted corruption in the initial investigation.

As his brother Alastair put it, “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.”

Labour MP Tom Watson spoke about the case during a brief parliamentary debate in a sparsely attended Westminster Hall last week. He made a series of damning allegations linking the News of the World (NotW) to Morgan’s murder.

Watson said that private investigator Jonathan Rees and sergeant Sid Fillery were at the “corrupt nexus of private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World”.

Rees is Daniel Morgan’s former business partner. Rees was one of three men acquitted of Morgan’s murder last year.

Newspapers, including those published by News International (NI), widely used Rees and his company, Southern Investigations, to find out secret information. Andy Coulson, when editing the NotW, repeatedly hired Rees. Coulson went on to become David Cameron’s spin doctor.


Watson said, “Southern Investigations became the hub of a web of police and media contacts involving the illegal theft and disclosure of information obtained through Rees and Fillery’s corrupted contacts.

“The main conduit at NI was Alex Marunchak, chief crime reporter for the NotW and later the paper’s Irish editor.”

Watson said that Rees’s relationship with Marunchak was so close that they both registered companies at the same address.

As part of one of the numerous failed investigations into Morgan’s death, anti-corruption officers bugged the offices of Southern Investigations. Police have had the tapes for 20 years—but they still haven’t transcribed them all.

Alastair Morgan said, “This murder is only technically unsolved. The police have a very good idea who the killers were and five investigations have not resulted in a single conviction. The only way forward we can see now is a judicial inquiry.”

The hacking scandal has exposed a world where journalists hand over wads of cash to police officers in return for information.

There is a clandestine network of conmen, bent coppers, corrupt civil servants, impersonators and computer experts sub-contracted by private detectives. In the shadows are the people who do the dirty work for the establishment.

Top cops knew about it. So did senior politicians in all major political parties.


The cops’ systematic use of bribery—to leak information to frame some people and cover up the corruption of others—is yet to be revealed.

The former spies involved are thugs that ran sectarian murder squads in Northern Ireland. These ex-cops don’t solve murders from clues—they cover them up for money.

There have been a series of police investigations into the phone hacking scandal. Like the investigations into Daniel Morgan’s death, all have concealed more information than they revealed.

Senior anti-terrorist police officers told the Leveson inquiry last week that they felt too intimidated to continue a search at NI headquarters.

But despite the lack of investigation by the cops, the networks of corruption at the very top of British society are starting to unravel.

Rupert Murdoch’s huge empire is in crisis. NI shareholders are getting jittery. That’s why James Murdoch was put in the corporate equivalent of a witness protection programme by resigning as head of NI last week.

It’s why Rupert Murdoch came to Britain to launch a new newspaper within months of closing the NotW. All of this comes from a position of weakness not strength.

Cameron isn’t some peripheral figure in all this. He and the Tories are at its centre. The ones under the spotlight at the Leveson inquiry are some of Cameron’s closest friends.

Cameron hired Coulson as his chief spin doctor—despite knowing that Coulson was implicated in phone hacking.

Crises expose the relations between politics, business and the state. They also expose the complacency of the people at the top who like to think that they can get away with anything.

Force Research Unit

Philip Campbell Smith is alleged to have hacked into the computer of former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst on behalf of the News of the World (NotW).

Smith and Hurst both served in the Force Research Unit (FRU), a secret unit of the British army in Northern Ireland. The unit armed and organised Loyalist death squads. They are pictured above on at a military barracks in the 1980s.

Jonathan Rees employed Smith as an investigator. Smith was jailed last week for stealing secret information from the Police National Computer.

Hurst recorded Smith saying he was in contact with Andy Coulson. It is alleged that Alex Marunchak, a NotW executive and Metropolitan Police employee, requested the hacking of Smith’s computer.

Smith and Hurst both ­published tenuous accounts of their role in Northern Ireland.

Smith’s was sanctioned by the government. But Hurst’s wasn’t—and his former colleagues turned on him. Smith sent out 100 emails revealing Hurst’s real identity. He was charged with intimidating a witness to an inquiry into British collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries.

Hurst was involved in exposing former IRA interrogator Freddie Scappaticci as a British spy. Smith co-founded the security firm Brookmans International in 2006. The company provided security advice to celebrities.

They also run Elite Maritime Protection Services, which provides security services and mercenaries.

David Cameron

David Cameron hired Andy Coulson as his spin doctor, despite being warned about Coulson’s involvement in phone hacking. Cameron ignored Coulson’s murky past because they are part of the same network of rich friends.

Cameron admitted to sharing 26 dinners and other engagements with News International executives in just over a year. This is a window into how the ruling class operates.

And this was an underestimate—because Cameron failed to mention all the meetings.

In 2008, David Cameron accepted free flights from Murdoch to hold private talks and parties on his yacht. The travel, in Murdoch’s son-in-law’s private plane, was valued at around £30,000.

Daniel Morgan

Daniel Morgan was murdered beside his car at the back of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south east London, in 1987. He had met his business partner Jonathan Rees for a drink.

The attacker dealt a single blow to Morgan with an axe, which he left embedded in his victim’s skull.

Morgan was murdered a week after he revealed that he was taking allegations of police corruption to the NotW.

Morgan was going to sell a story to Alex Marunchak—then the paper’s crime editor. It appears that Morgan was offered £40,000 for the story.

Metropolitan Police

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson hired former NotW executive Neil Wallis as a £1,000-a-day “adviser”—just after police refused to reopen the investigation into hacking at the paper.

Stephenson resigned after the news emerged. He then enjoyed a £12,000 luxury Champneys Spa break for free—while Wallis worked as a PR consultant for the firm.

Assistant police commissioner John Yates quit over his failure to properly investigate hacking and his links to Wallis. He now advises the police force in Bahrain, where the state is viciously repressing a revolt.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Andy Hayman ran two investigations into hacking. This is the same officer who “chose to mislead the public” over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, according to the Independent Police Complaints Committee.

Hayman went on to be a columnist for News International. He never made a secret of private dinners with senior members of News International. But he said that any suggestions that these were cosy candlelit dinners “where state secrets were shared” were absolute rubbish.

At one he spent £566. He then went to meet a NotW journalist where he bought a £47 bottle of champagne. He couldn’t remember which journalist.

David Cook

Superintendent David Cook headed up one police investigation into Morgan’s murder. The NotW put Cook and his wife Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, under surveillance.

Hames told the Leveson inquiry that this surveillance was intended to “intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation”.

Police told Brooks that Marunchak had agreed to use photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on behalf of Rees and Fillery.

Rebekah Brooks

Rebekah Brooks is at the centre of the scandal.

She has been close friends with the last three prime ministers and their families. She is a former editor of both the NotW and The Sun.

Rupert Murdoch made her chief executive of News International in 2009. He sent a designer outfit to the police station when she was arrested for allegedly attacking her then husband, actor Ross Kemp.

Scotland Yard informed her in 2006 that some of her most senior journalists were up to their eyes in hacking.

At that point the NotW got their other investigator Glenn Mulcaire—who was later jailed for hacking the royals’ phones—to investigate the cop running the inquiry.

Jonathan Rees

Daniel Morgan’s business partner at Southern Investigations at the time of his murder was also one of five suspects in his killing. Jonathan Rees was acquitted when a trial collapsed last year.

Rees was jailed for seven years in 2000 for planting cocaine on a woman in order to discredit her during divorce proceedings. The NotW rehired him after his release.

Rees was the point man for running a network of corrupt police officers. The NotW paid him over £150,000 to obtain information.

Rees made no secret of his criminality. He once told a Daily Mirror journalist to be careful what they wrote down “because what we’re doing is illegal, isn’t it?”.

Sid Fillery

A former south London police sergeant, Sid Fillery was Jonathon Rees’s right-hand man at Southern Investigations and helped recruit corrupt police officers.

Fillery was convicted of possession of child pornography. He now runs a Norfolk pub.

Fillery was also one of the police officers investigating Morgan’s murder. He interviewed Rees about the case—but never disclosed that the pair were close friends and business associates.

Chipping Norton set

The “Chipping Norton set” is an intricate web of connections between the people who rule Britain. This media and political elite, with their homes in and around Cameron’s leafy Witney constituency in Oxfordshire, work together, dine together and party together.

David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks went horse riding together. “I know,” admitted former NotW journalist Paul McMullan, “because I’ve door stepped my ex-boss by hiding in the bushes, waiting for her to come past with Cameron on a horse.”

Cameron rode Raisa, the horse given to Brooks by the Metropolitan Police. Brooks was Rebekah Wade until 2009 when she married Charlie Brooks.

Charlie Brooks is an old chum of Cameron’s from Eton. The prime minister was a guest at their wedding. There, he was seen giving “exuberant high-fives” to PR mogul Matthew Freud.

Freud Communications has pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds from the coalition. Freud happens to be married to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth.

Alex Marunchak

The Metropolitan Police employed Alex Marunchak as a Ukrainian interpreter. He had access to highly sensitive police data between 1980 and 2000.

Marunchak was chief crime reporter for the NotW in 1987. He left News International in 2006 after 25 years. Marunchak, who was the editor of the Irish edition of the NotW between 1996 and 2006, is alleged to have paid a private investigator to conduct hacking.

Panorama named him as the NotW executive who hired a former spy to plant spying software on the computer of military intelligence agent Ian Hurst.

Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson resigned as NotW editor in 2007 and went on to become chief spin doctor for Tory prime minister David Cameron.

In January 2007 Clive Goodman, former NotW royal editor, was convicted in relation to illegal phone hacking. Coulson has repeatedly argued that he knew nothing about the case.

Coulson rehired Rees in 2005—despite Rees having served a seven-year sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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