Jukes is talking about his new podcast Untold, which probes the brutal murder of private eye Daniel Morgan in the car park of a south London pub in 1987 – and the three decades of intrigue that followed it.
The serial is on its third episode, and is topping the iTunes charts. Morgan’s is the most investigated murder in British history, and yet you probably haven’t heard of it. This is believed to be because the case involves not only the Metropolitan police and private detectives, but also – crucially – the News of the World newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch that would later be at the centre of the phone hacking scandal. It has been described by an assistant commissioner of the Met as “one of the most disgraceful episodes in the entire history of the Metropolitan police service.” The media hasn’t touched it – but now, this crowdfunded podcast is tackling the murky, complex truth over 10 episodes.
Inevitably, everyone is looking for the next Serial – and with renewed appetite for true crime stories with the success of Making a Murderer and The People v OJ Simpson, plus a wave of new podcasts, Untold has already been dubbed the “British Serial”. It’s certainly on the right track: it’s already been downloaded more than 200,000 times in the UK – and over half a million in the US.
Morgan’s body was found in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham. He’d been struck three times with an axe in the back of the head. His Rolex had been stolen, but there were £1,000 in his jacket pocket. Southern Investigations, the company Morgan set up with his business partner Jonathan Rees, was known to be working with the police and News of the World journalists. It is thought that Morgan was ready to expose corruption in Scotland Yard by giving information to the News of the World. These are just some of the myriad details revealed in the opening episodes.
The case remains unsolved: five inquiries (costing £50m) have come to no conclusions, thousands of lines of inquiry have been pursued, over 750,000 documents inspected, and three men charged with the murder were cleared before their trial started. The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel is currently in place and is taking submissions, though it can’t summon witnesses to testify. Jukes and Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, hope their podcast will lead to a new judicial inquiry that will “look at the whole system,” says Jukes. “The bad guys can’t get away with it. This story will now be heard. It’s like Gladiator – Alastair now has the people on his side.”
Until three years ago, Jukes had not heard of the case. It was when he was working on the phone-hacking trials and getting to know “the dark arts of intrusion” that he came across it. “Usually, the media will expose police corruption,” says Jukes. “Here, the media was deeply involved in the story,” which is one of the reasons it hasn’t been told, he adds. Alastair Morgan has been doing his own investigation and demanding justice for 30 years. He is convinced that “we’re only scratching the surface,” and has shared his full findings about the case with Jukes.
Jukes is investigating “completely independently” thanks to the £10,000 they crowdfunded from the public (the only private donor that has come forward with their name is Hugh Grant). He sees the podcast format as a way to “bypass those media organisations”. The current season will culminate in the Leveson report. In episode six, there will be a shocking connection between Morgan’s murder and another, more recent violent death after which “the picture will become much clearer,” says Jukes. They haven’t completed the recording, but will “respond to events and to people coming forward”. Anyone with information can get in touch here. While they see the parallels with Serial, Jukes argues “I feel more like I’m a modern historian than an investigator.”
Years after the murder, Southern Investigations would become the “cradle of the dark arts”, as Guardian journalist Nick Davies has described them. Morgan is convinced that his brother’s murder “has had really bad consequences for this country,” and led to industrial scales of illegally obtained information. “The hacking scandal evolved from that relationship,” he believes.
Both men insist that the problem is not only the original murder, but the 30 years since. “It’s not so much about getting the case reopened,” says Jukes. “It’s about transparency and justice in the whole system, and making sure this never happens again. Eventually, I think the conspirators will break. There are so many who know, that we hope will come forward.”
Morgan is more concerned, he says, about “the British media as a whole, and oligarchs owning such a huge proportion. Anything that can expose the unlawful activities of the media is a good thing. I want the full extent of the News of the World and police’s relationship to be exposed by this.”
Listen/subscribe to Untold: the Daniel Morgan Murder here