in the back
The cops shopped
Daniel Morgan Murder , Issue 1550
daniel-morgan.jpg POLICE and prosecutors investigating the axe murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan rejected a deal that would have led to at least one conviction, when one of the five prime suspects offered to confess to being the get-away driver.

The Eye has learnt that in 2009, James "Jimmy" Cook was willing to enter a plea deal over the murder in a south London pub car park in 1987. But his offer was turned down before the start of the murder trial of Cook, Jonathan Rees – Morgan's business partner – plus brothers Glenn and Garry Vian, and former police officer Sid Fillery.

The case proceeded on the evidence from three mentally unstable and mendacious supergrass witnesses. It collapsed spectacularly in March 2011 because of police misconduct, large scale non-disclosure and incompetence on an epic scale (see Eyes passim) – all laid bare in last week's withering independent report into the scandal.

'Institutionally corrupt'
The eight-year inquiry, headed by Baroness Nuala O'Loan, branded the Met "institutionally corrupt" and has left commissioner Dame Cressida Dick fighting for her job, amid criticism that she hampered the panel's access to crucial evidence. O'Loan said: "The Metropolitan Police placed the reputation of the organisation above the need for accountability and transparency. In so doing it compounded the suffering and trauma of the family."

The trial was meant to finally bring justice for Morgan's long-suffering family, ever since the initial botched murder investigation, when vital forensic and other evidence was lost forever, and which the Met belatedly admitted was down to bent officers protecting suspects. At Rees' and Morgan's detective agency, Southern Investigations, brown paper envelopes were regularly exchanged with crooked cops and newspaper hacks for information.

The inquiry confirmed Eye reports that DCS David Cook, the man running the last murder investigation, from 2002-2011, had coached, prompted or pressured supergrass witnesses, while at the same time hoping to profit from writing a blockbuster book about the case. It also revealed that the senior detective was simultaneously leaking to his co-author, a Sun journalist, vast amounts of highly confidential material from the Morgan and other investigations which could "jeopardise investigative work… endanger named individuals and significantly damage public trust".

Unauthorised contacts
Unaware of the leaks, police colleagues and prosecutors were aware, however, of the unreliability of the supergrass witnesses and of DCS David Cook's unauthorised contacts.

Gary Eaton was a minor criminal with major mental health issues, matched by a propensity to lie. James Ward was a convicted drug dealer hoping to reduce a lengthy sentence. Sally Ann Wood was a vulnerable woman escaping an abusive relationship who had been Jimmy Cook's lover from 1991 to 1998. Nevertheless, their testimony was preferred to the deal offered by Jimmy Cook, who was willing to admit that he drove to the Golden Lion pub expecting Morgan would be seriously hurt, but not murdered. He was prepared to plead to a serious but lesser offence. But lawyers told the family that would be letting Cook off too lightly.

During protracted pre-trial arguments, the trial judge ruled Eaton's prompted evidence inadmissible; Ward was dropped for lying about his violent history, and Wood was also withdrawn after it emerged that she had used the internet to falsely accuse Jimmy Cook of more than 30 other murders.

Plea deal
After the trial imploded, Morgan's sister Jane berated Nick Hilliard QC, the lead prosecutor, for not accepting the plea deal with Jimmy Cook. The family said Hilliard told them he could have got it "wrong". Both Hilliard, who is now a high court judge, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have declined to respond to questions about the offer of a plea deal – which is only mentioned in passing in the inquiry report.

The inquiry does, however, criticise the CPS for claiming it was not in the public interest to prosecute DCS David Cook for misconduct in public office. His claim to be protecting the reputation of the police and acting in the public interest by publishing a book could be seen as "self-serving both in terms of seeking to clear his name and benefiting financially", said the report.

It also slams Met chiefs for a lack of candour and supervision, particularly the then assistant commissioner John Yates. "The way in which the investigation was run resulted in massive unnecessary costs, both human and financial," it said. The final bill is in the tens of millions. All the suspects except Jimmy Cook sued the Met for malicious prosecution and were awarded £500,000 in damages. Jimmy Cook aside, the others have always denied any involvement. The report concluded that Daniel Morgan's family had "suffered grievously", not only because of the Met's failure to bring his killers to justice, but because of the misinformation and denial of incompetence and venal behaviour. "Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation's public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit and constitutes a form of institutional corruption."

Dick's denial
The panel made clear there was now little chance of ever bringing anyone to justice for the murder.

Baroness O'Loan was particularly scathing of commissioner Dick for obfuscation and delay in allowing the panel, which had not been given statutory powers, access to all the evidence. "At times our contact with the Met resembled police contact with litigants rather than with a body established by the Home Secretary to enquire into a case," the report said.

Dick's immediate denial that the force was institutionally corrupt has meanwhile dismayed the Morgan family, who believe they may have to sue the Met to obtain damages.

In 2014 Boris Johnson, then London mayor, agreed a £50,000 payment to the family in recognition of "the general social benefit brought about by their efforts in bringing to light the failings of the Met". Curious, then, that as prime minister, and after such a devastating indictment of Britain's biggest police force, Johnson now insists Dick retains his full confidence.

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