Tuesday, September 02, 2014

British cop heading a murder investigation arrived drunk at the scene

And none of the other police there knew what they were doing either

It is one of the most notorious unsolved murders in recent memory and, with the bill for five police investigations and other inquiries now nearing £100 million, one of the most expensive too.

On March 10, 1987, at just after 9.30pm, Daniel Morgan, a small-time private eye, was found slumped next to his BMW outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, South London. An axe was embedded in his head.

One of his suit trouser pockets was ripped, but in the other an envelope containing £1,100 in cash was untouched.

These facts are undisputed; other aspects of the murder are far less clear-cut.

Despite the resources thrown at the case, no one has ever been brought before a jury and Morgan's family doubt whether justice will ever be done – yet the murder's residual impact reverberates in both Scotland Yard and Whitehall to this day.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that police are fighting a £4 million compensation claim brought by five key suspects – among them Morgan's former business partner, Jonathan Rees – who were all cleared of involvement.

It can also be disclosed that the Yard has launched a criminal inquiry, Operation Megan, into their failed prosecution, which collapsed at the Old Bailey in 2011 amid allegations that officers perjured themselves, withheld 18 crates of evidence and coached a supergrass witness described as having a 'constellation of personality disorders'.

With the case in disarray, Home Secretary Theresa May has instructed an independent panel to 'shine a light' on the circumstances. Its findings are not expected for another year.

Now, drawing on dozens of statements and previously unseen material being scrutinised by the panel, this newspaper can reveal that:

A secret police review of the original inquiry called the forensic investigation 'pathetic'

The detective in charge turned up at the crime scene drunk and 'ordered a bottle of scotch', according to one of his team

Defence lawyers identified 32 'plausible' suspects they insist were never properly investigated because police were 'obsessed' with Rees

Morgan was threatened many times in the months before he was killed

On the night of the murder, Morgan spent more than an hour with Rees in the Golden Lion in what appeared, according to witnesses who included three BBC sound engineers, to be a 'perfectly normal meeting'.

At 8.55pm Rees waved goodbye to his partner and left the pub. Morgan remained and bought two packets of ready salted crisps from the bar. No one knows what happened between then and his body being found.

Two police officers arrived at the scene at 9.52pm, with others following later. They found Morgan's body in the car park behind the pub. He was clutching the crisp packets in his left hand and his car keys in the other.

Detective Superintendent Douglas Campbell, turned up at 11.12pm, and, according to one of his junior officers, 'ordered a bottle of scotch'. Detective Constable Noel Cosgrave said in his witness statement that he approached Campbell at the bar and noticed 'he was already inebriated'. He added: 'I suggested he hand the case over to another senior officer. He didn't take kindly to my words and told me to leave.'

The incident at the bar is mentioned in court documents submitted during the abandoned 2011 trial. In them, lawyers for Rees and his co-accused said Campbell's behaviour 'defies belief'. Other witnesses said no one appeared to prevent customers leaving the pub and police failed to remove all the glasses and ashtrays for forensic examination, which would have established if anyone with a criminal record was – or had been – on the premises.

Rees's legal team claim 'none of the officers really knew what they should be doing, and there is even a report of a discussion about whether they should draw a chalk mark around the body, since they had seen this in films'.

Two officers – Cosgrave and Leonard Flint – reported seeing Morgan's silver oyster Rolex watch on his wrist as he lay in the car park. But it had disappeared when his body arrived at the morgue. It has never been found.

As judge, Mr Justice Maddison, would observe many years later, this was 'a case in which frankly nothing seems to be straightforward'.

The Mail on Sunday has seen a secret 1989 Hampshire Police report into the handling of the original inquiry, which was submitted to the 2011 trial but never published.

It says: 'Forensically, the case was not handled at all professionally' and says there was neglect, ignorance or incompetence and fragmented involvement.

'There was an obvious lack of direction, co-ordination, management and supervision. The initial effort must be described as pathetic.'

Precious early hours were wasted in the 'grossly flawed' first inquiry and, because of this, Rees's lawyers argue that all subsequent investigations were affected and that now 'the truth can never be securely known'.

Campbell became convinced that Rees was involved in the murder and suspected he lured his partner to the pub knowing his fate.

He was suspicious about Rees's account of how, a year before the murder, he had been attacked and robbed of £18,000 – a car auction company's takings that he'd been asked to put in the bank.

It has been suggested that Morgan was furious when Rees said the money should be paid back out of their company's own account and this created bad feeling between the two men. But Campbell could never make his case stick.

Rees's lawyers believe Campbell's obsession with Rees left him blinded to 'other obvious possibilities'.

Some of Morgan's friends and colleagues said, for instance, that his womanising might hold the clue to his killing. David Bray, who worked at Morgan's detective agency Southern Investigations as a bailiff, recalled how he and Morgan were driving past a house in Sydenham when Morgan remarked that 'he had been seeing a woman that lived there'. Bray added that the 'husband had found out about them and had phoned Danny at home and threatened to kill him'.

Morgan was no heroic gumshoe in the mould of, say, Philip Marlowe. He was at the seedy end of his trade, a bailiff who worked the streets of South London and was described as 'volatile' by his wife Iris.

Often he would repossess cars and there was plenty of work serving legal papers on bullying husbands.

Shortly before the murder, Morgan had an affair with a woman who had a violent husband. It is thought the man suspected Morgan, having seen them in a car together.

One night he returned home drunk with his brother and tried to attack his wife. An officer reviewing the case in December 1988 noted that the man 'should not be forgotten, he is a good suspect'. Other documents indicate Morgan had a 'lengthy relationship' with a woman whose husband was bugging her bedroom. Morgan had a row with the man and the woman told police she thought her husband 'may have had something to do with the Daniel Morgan murder'.

The nature of his work meant that Morgan encountered a number of undesirable characters. Few caused him more anxiety than a gangster he came up against in Malta during a car repossession. Morgan told a friend the job was 'a bit heavy' and had caused him a lot of problems. He had been threatened, he said.

The axe wound to Morgan's head left a tremendous amount of blood at the scene.

One witness spoke of speculation that the Range Rover that Morgan repossessed 'may have contained Maltese Mafia drugs and they were not impressed when their drugs disappeared together with the car'.

Another witness said Morgan received a phone call 'saying that he should hand over the packets that were in the vehicle, or else. Daniel Morgan told the caller to go the police.' Perhaps significantly, on the night of the murder, a witness in the Golden Lion reported seeing an 'Italian-looking' man peer through the saloon bar window three times.

Another repossession job in West London in the weeks leading up to the murder also ended messily, according to other statements. Afterwards, Morgan was warned in a phone call: 'Living on borrowed time. You're a dead man.'

It was against this complicated background, with turbulence at home and at work, that Morgan was murdered.

By the time of the inquest in April 1988, Rees and five others, including three Met officers who were murder suspects in the first investigation, had been arrested but then released without charge.

It was at this hearing that one witness appeared to provide damning evidence of Rees's guilt. Kevin Lennon, an accountant at Southern Investigations, claimed he watched Rees's relationship with Morgan deteriorate. He told the inquest that six months before the murder, Rees told him he had found the perfect solution to the problem. 'My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it. For £1,000. Those officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange it.'

At the time, Lennon was in a desperate position: his wife had left him and he was in Brixton prison on remand, facing the possibility of jail for a £1 million tax fraud unrelated to his work at Southern.

Five months after the inquest, Hampshire Police, which was by then examining the Morgan case, concluded that Lennon's credibility and integrity as a witness was 'diminishing'.

At this stage Lennon was a free man, having been given an 18 months suspended sentence. Lennon refused to discuss his involvement in the case last week.

Another accountant, Bill Newton, who worked for Rees and Morgan in the six weeks leading up to the murder, recalled a chance meeting between Rees and Lennon in a pub in Croydon. He told The Mail on Sunday: 'Lennon was shaking a bit, and he [Lennon] said to him [Rees], 'Look I'm sorry. They put a lot of pressure on me. I had to do it for my children'.'

As the years passed, Rees remained a key suspect in subsequent inquiries as a new intriguing theory emerged.

Morgan's family believe he was murdered because he was about to expose a web of police corruption allegedly involving Rees. But while the Met has said corruption was a 'debilitating factor' in the original inquiry, the Hampshire report concluded this was not the case. Either way, because of the serious flaws in the first investigation and the probe that led to the failed 2011 court case, the Morgan family are unlikely now to see their theories tested in court.

Yesterday Scotland Yard declined to discuss the writ alleging malicious prosecution and false imprisonment received from Rees and the other acquitted defendants. 'We have been served with the claims. We are not prepared to comment outside this legal process.'

In his own witness statement, Campbell makes no reference to the bottle of whisky when describing his arrival at the crime scene. Nor does he say he had been drinking.

When The Mail on Sunday put the allegation that the detective was drunk to the Yard it declined to comment. It also refused to respond to the damning conclusions of the Hampshire report.

Original report here



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