26 years after private detective Daniel Morgan, was found murdered with an axe embedded in his head in a Sydenham car park, after an inquest, several police investigations and trials and no convictions, after allegations of police corruption and collusion with the now defunct News of the World newspaper, his family has been granted “an independent panel inquiry, chaired by Sir Stanley Burnton, a retired Court of Appeal judge.”
Home Secretary Theresa May announced “It will review how police corruption affected the handling of the murder inquiry and how Mr Morgan’s family were treated by the police and criminal justice system.”
Morgan was killed at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham Road on March 10 1987 but no one has been successfully prosecuted despite five police investigations.
Morgan, who lived in Warminster Road at the time of his death, ran his business Southern Investigations from Thornton Heath High Street.
Two years ago the Metropolitan Police acknowledged its “repeated failure” to tackle corruption within the force which helped protect those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice.
This is the first time that the concept of the successful Hillsborough independent panel has been extended to another long standing scandal in the criminal justice system where a grieving family says it has not only been denied justice, but the police authority itself, in this case the Metropolitan Police, has publicly apologised for failings and its inability to confront the involvement of corruption.
The panel will access the vast archive of documents collected by police and will pass its findings to Mr Morgan’s family before publishing a report.
Theresa May said there was no likelihood of any successful prosecutions being brought in the foreseeable future, but that the government hoped the panel would be able to “shine a light” on the circumstances of the murder and the handling of the case.
The Home Secretary said: “The horrific murder of Daniel Morgan and subsequent investigations were dogged by serious allegations of police corruption.
Several criminal investigations failed to bring those responsible to justice and this independent panel will leave no stone unturned to find out why.”
“I am delighted Sir Stanley Burnton has accepted the responsibility of chairing the panel. He brings an enormous amount of expertise from a long career at the top of the legal profession,” she added.
Sir Stanley said: “The family of Daniel Morgan, Daniel Morgan himself and the British public have been badly let down by the criminal justice system over 26 years.
“I am determined to do everything I can, as chair of the independent panel, to uncover the facts, the circumstances and the truth behind the previous failed investigations,” he added.
The terms of the independent panel’s inquiry included addressing “connections between police officers, private investigators and journalists at the News of the World and other media involved in the case.”
Daniel’s brother Alastair Morgan has been a tireless though frustrated campaigner. He was originally trained as a journalist and welcomed the Home Secretary’s announcement on behalf of of his mother Isobel, his sister Jane and himself.
He said the family had experienced mental torture for more than two and a half decades: “of public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians, and pleas to the media, we have found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again.”
The Hillsborough style panel structure has been chosen so that Daniel Morgan’s family can be kept at the centre of the process and this approach has the support of the MPS Commissioner and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”
In a letter to Daniel Morgan’s family, in March 2011, acting Police Commissioner Tim Godwin said; “I am deeply sorry that the Metropolitan Police Service [MPS] has failed to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Daniel. The MPS has accepted that police corruption in the original investigation was a significant factor in this failure.”
Alastair Morgan and his family said: ““We trust and hope that the Panel, through its examination and publication of all relevant material and information, will assist the authorities to confront and acknowledge this failure for once and for all, so that we may at last be able to get on with our lives.”
The Home Office says work is continuing to appoint other expert panel members.