Evidence of police corruption relating to Britain’s most notorious unsolved murder mysteriously “disappeared” from Scotland Yard during the initial investigation, according to a leaked file. A police statement taken from an officer on the first inquiry into the brutal death of Daniel Morgan suggests the victim was about to blow the whistle on a case of “major police corruption” – but internal police documents detailing the claim were removed from the incident room.
Detective Constable Kinley Davies also claimed that he and two of his colleagues tried to investigate the emerging allegations of Metropolitan Police malpractice but were “suddenly removed from the squad” by senior officers.
The claims are contained in a witness statement submitted to Hampshire Police, an outside force brought in to investigate police corruption in the murder of Mr Morgan, who was found in a south London car park with an axe embedded in his skull in 1987.
They reveal for the first time how early the inquiry into the private investigator’s death appears to have been compromised and raise new questions over the extent of criminality in Scotland Yard.
The destruction of embarrassing evidence in the Daniel Morgan murder echoes the “mass-shredding” of Operation Othona, a top-secret anti-corruption inquiry during the Nineties, which was uncovered last month by a review of the Stephen Lawrence murder – another deeply uncomfortable chapter in the modern history of the Met. The statement by the anonymous officer from Hampshire Police details an interview he conducted with DC Kinley Davies.
DC Davies paid a visit to the home of one of the suspects – called Mr X for legal reasons – on the night of the murder.
He said: “When Mr X opened the front door his face was like wax and he was starting to get beads of sweat across his brow, even though it was a winter’s night. There was no doubt that he was expecting a visit from the police.”
The officer then cryptically says he would have arrested Mr X “then and there” had another detective inspector “not been in charge”.
When Mr X was finally arrested, the officer recalls him “dropping names of senior officers and solicitors” throughout his interview.
However, the most shocking disclosure is yet more claims of the destruction of embarrassing police corruption files. DC Davies told Hampshire Police that he had been to interview a witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons. The witness told them “Morgan had uncovered major police corruption and he was going to sell it to the national newspapers”.
“DC Davies had fed this into the incident room but the document had disappeared and was not actioned.”
The statement continues: “Nevertheless, DC Davies [and two other officers] continued to investigate the corruption allegations but were suddenly removed from the squad without any reason given by the SIO [senior investigating officer]. It concludes: “This was particularly strange.”
Mr Davies, 61, who spent 28 years as a Met detective on the anti-corruption, organised crime and terrorist financing divisions, refused to speak when contacted by The Independent. However, a friend said: “There were a number of things from that time that Kinley and his colleagues found unsavoury. There were other things going on that seemed to overlap with the Morgan murder.”
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I am concerned that in this important investigation vital evidence may have been lost. The Commissioner rightly promised a ruthless pursuit of truth in issues of corruption and ministers have always made it clear that they will have zero tolerance of it. The Committee will be questioning the Home Secretary on these issues when she comes before us on Tuesday.”
When Roy Clark, the police chief in charge of Operation Othona, was recently told about the disposal of the highly sensitive intelligence, he said: “There would be no good reason to get rid of it… It was gold dust stuff.”
Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother Alastair, who has led a 27-year campaign for justice, hit out last night at Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe after the Met Commissioner told MPs last week that he was considering reopening an investigation into the murder.
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Mr Morgan said: “I am very worried about this because the Met’s handling of this case has been so appalling. It needs public scrutiny; it does not need the Met to put its hands on this case.”
Asked if he thought that was a “device” by the Met to “take hold” of the case, Mr Morgan said: “It could be. We have written to him [Sir Bernard] and we have had no reply to our letters. We want independent scrutiny.”
Last May, the Home Secretary Theresa May granted the Morgan family an independent judge-led panel to investigate the Daniel Morgan case following years of pressure from the family. But progress has been painfully slow.
Sir Stanley Burnton, the judge appointed to lead the panel, stepped down for “personal reasons” in November and, five months on, has yet to be replaced.
The scale of its task was brought into sharp focus last week when Craig Mackey, the Deputy Commissioner of the Met, revealed there were one million pieces of paper relating to the Morgan case in Scotland Yard’s vaults.
Last month – almost one year since the Home Secretary announced the panel – ministers revealed it had obtained just 700 documents relating to its inquiries – 0.0007 per cent of the total.
The Daniel Morgan Panel is modelled on the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the inquiry into the deaths of 96 football fans at Sheffield Wednesday stadium in 1989.
The Hillsborough inquiry was appointed in 2010 and reported in 2012. Asked whether some in the Met were still trying to cover up the corruption from 27 years ago, Mr Morgan said: “I believe that is the case… I believe certain aspects of what happened to do with my brother’s murder are still being covered up… They will put their reputation before the public interest.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The panel continues to carry out its work and the Home Secretary is planning to appoint a new chairman as soon as possible.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “The MPS continues to review this case and is currently co-operating fully with the independent panel established by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to review the Met’s handling of the Daniel Morgan murder investigation.”
In evidence: Investigating officer’s statement
Statement taken from DC Kinley Davies by Hampshire Police, 23 June 1989
On confronting the murder suspect: “When Mr X opened the front door his face was like wax and he was starting to get beads of sweat across his brow, even though it was a winter’s night.
“There was no doubt that he was expecting a visit from the police.”
On peculiarities that emerged during the original murder investigation: “Morgan had uncovered major police corruption and he was going to sell it to the national newspapers. DC Davies had fed this into the incident room but the document had disappeared and was not actioned.
Nevertheless, DC Davies (and two other officers) continued to investigate the corruption allegations but were suddenly removed from the squad without any reason given by the SIO (senior investigating officer). This was particularly strange.”
Daniel Morgan: A case dogged by claims of police corruption
Scotland Yard has spent more than £50m on its four investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who was killed in 1987.
The unsolved case has been plagued from the outset with devastating claims of police corruption – and repeated alleged attempts to cover-up historic malpractice by a Metropolitan Police force too embarrassed to admit to its own failings.
Suspects have been charged with the murder twice but prosecutions have collapsed before the trial and evidence have been heard in open court.
Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service blame their failures on incompetence.
The family claim they were ignored by several police commissioners and successive Labour Home Secretaries.
The acute sensitivities around the case emerged again last month when a review of the Stephen Lawrence murder – which happened a few miles from where Daniel Morgan was found with an axe in his head – found evidence that allegedly corrupt police officers bridge both cases.
The Met continued to deny this to Mark Ellison QC despite its own intelligence. The review also found that a “lorry-load” of sensitive material from Operation Othona – that may have been relevant to both cases – had been inexplicably destroyed in 2001 when Lord Stevens was Commissioner.
In his conclusions, Mark Ellison QC, who led the inquiry on behalf of Home Secretary Theresa May, also cast doubt on current Met assurances that the Lawrence and Morgan cases were not linked, raising fresh questions over whether Scotland Yard can ever be trusted in investigations over either murder.