How Much Did Rebekah Brooks know about the Daniel Morgan Murder
We can all make mistakes.
In my last piece I erroneously said there was only one mention of the Daniel Morgan murder in the News of the World. In 1989, soon after the CPS dropped charges against him in a second murder investigation, the Sunday tabloid published an interview with Jonathan Rees, Daniel’s former partner.
The interviewer, News of the World’s crime editor Alex Marunchak, failed to mention that he had by then formed a successful business relationship with Rees and his private detective agency, Southern Investigations.
Fast forward eleven years, and there’s one more mention of Daniel on April 16 2000 .
Daniel is named as the second alleged victim of the infamous gangster Kenneth Noye. The first victim is Daniel’s friend DC Alan ‘Taffy’ Holmes who was found dead with gunshot wounds in July 1989, only months after Daniel’s murder in March.
The article claims Holmes’ death was a murder, not the suicide decided by the inquest. Though there are still lingering questions about the likelihood of ‘assisted suicide’ or murder, the description of Holmes’ death is inaccurate. The gunshot wound was not to the head but the chest, which is unusual in a police suicide because officers would know that the chances of fatality are lower.
But the paragraphs on Daniel Morgan are even more tendentious. The piece goes on to say:
“Police believe he was killed because he was on the verge of exposing corruption within the police force that would have implicated Noye and senior officers at the time”
There is no evidence that Noye was involved in either death, but there is plenty of evidence that Daniel Morgan was trying to sell his story of police corruption to a national newspaper. Two witnesses from the 1980s alleged Daniel was selling his story to Alex Marunchak at News of the World. Marunchak has denied this several times.
An officer close to the murder investigation in the late 90s even claims that Morgan and Holmes visited a newspaper office together .
Though Marunchak does not appear on the byline of this April 2000 article he was still a senior editor at News of the World with a specialist knowledge of crime and policing. On 20 April 2000 he co-wrote a crime story with reporter Robert Kellaway quoting a ‘flying squad commander’ who thanked the News of the World “for their assistance.” He presumably edited, approved or saw the article above.
But there’s something much more important about this date 16 April 2000….
By then Rebekah Brooks was editor of Britain’s best selling newspaper.
The News of the World Regional Crime Squad
Rebekah Brooks joined News of the World in 1989 and rose rapidly from the magazine to deputy features editor, features editor and then deputy editor before transferring to the sister daily the Sun for a two year stint from 1998 to January 2000, when she was appointed the youngest ever editor of Rupert Murdoch’s famous Sunday tabloid.
A few months prior to this promotion, in September 1999, as a result of Operation Two Bridges, the third investigation into Daniel Morgan’s murder, Jonathan Rees was arrested again (not for murder but fitting up a mother with drugs in custody battle). This terminated – only temporarily it seems – a long and lucrative relationship between News of the World and Rees’ firm Southern Investigations.
The company’s book keeper from 1987-1990 claims the relationship between the News of the World and Southern Investigations goes back to soon after Daniel’s murder. There are various snapshots of their joint activities throughout the nineties.
Mazher Mahmood explains the role of Marunchak in the bugging of Culture Minister David Mellor during his affair with Antonia de Sancha in his autobiography Confessions of a Fake Sheikh. InThe Untouchables by Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard, there are more examples of Rees and former police officer Sid Fillery working with Marunchak and Mahmood. Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack goes into even more detail about an extensive network of private investigators and corrupt police officers Marunchak had access to through the Thornton Heath detective firm. The area was so famed for press/police collusion that it was dubbed “the News of the World Regional Crime Squad.”
It was a very well remunerated business, and a source of many News of the World scoops. By 1997, Southern Investigations was billing the newspaper £166,000 per annum. But even before Rees’ arrest, there were problems with the newspaper over costs.
The area was so famed for press/police collusion that it was dubbed “the News of the World Regional Crime Squad.”
By 1999 Rees was in dispute with News of the World’s veteran managing editor Stuart Kuttner (who joined the paper a few years before Brooks).
A civil claim was launched by Southern Investigations for over £18,000 in January 1998. Stuart Kuttner settled it, with Marunchak acting as intermediary. Within a couple of months, Marunchak and his fellow desk editor Greg Miskiw formed a new ‘import/export company’, with Southern Investigations accountant Barry Beardall, and registered at the same address of Southern House, Thornton Heath.
In the year before Brooks returned to take the helm of the News of the World, according to evidence in the phone hacking trial, Kuttner was trying to cut down the £167,000 spent on private detectives (the vast bulk of it on Southern Investigations it seems). The month after Rees was arrested Kuttner wrote to news editor Greg Miskiw ruing the amounts being spent on “outside research and surveillance” and urging “staff to make more inquiries themselves.”
The following year Miskiw would put Glenn Mulcaire on an annual contract for over £100k per annum.
The jury at the phone hacking trial accepted that Mulcaire’s role and employment could well have been hidden from Brooks during her two years as editor.
But is it really credible she did not know anything of Southern Investigations, which had been a major source of stories in the eleven years since she joined the paper? Or that she could not have heard of the allegations about the Morgan murder?
First Buried Call for a Investigation into the Paper
According to his autobiography, Lord Stevens, soon to be elevated to Commissioner for the Met, took an active interest in overseeing Rees’ arrest in 1999. But this was not the only result of the Two Bridges probe.
Promoted to overall command of anti-corruption at the Met in February 2000, Commander Bob Quick submitted a report to the Department of Professional Standards (DPS) urging further investigation of journalists associated with Southern Investigations according to his Leveson Statement
The redacted name is Alex Marunchak. In the intelligence reports two other prominent journalists were former News of the World Crime reporter Gary Jones, who had since moved over to the Mirror Group, and the paper’s famous Fake Sheikh reporter Mazher Mahmood.
However, again thanks to Leveson evidence, we know that the incoming Commissioner John Stevens attended a high level meeting with News of the World executives at this time.
The Met’s former head of public affairs, Dick Fedorcio, doesn’t give a precise date for this meeting but since Stevens’ evidence records a meeting with Phil Hall who had left the editorship at this time, it could well have been be on 23 March 2000.
Whenever it took place this meeting is still extraordinary, for it not only included Stevens, Fedorcio and Brooks but also Alex Marunchak – a major person of interest in Two Bridges, and named in Quick’s report for further investigation.
What happened after this 2000 report was sent to the DPS urging a proper inquiry of News of the World’s potential criminal associations with Southern Investigations?
There is no record of any reprimand of Marunchak – indeed he was promoted to executive editor.
Brooks Revamps News of the World’s Investigations
While Jonathan Rees was tried and eventually sentenced to seven years imprisonment for the cocaine-planting scam in 2000, Brooks set about revamping News of the World‘s investigations . In June that year she recalled Greg Miskiw from New York (where he’d set up a NOTW office) to head up a ‘Special Investigations Unit’.
There are very few surviving emails from this time of Brooks’ editorship. But emails cited at the Old Bailey suggest that from September 2000 she was asking Kuttner and NGN’s finance drector Colin Milner for a pay rise and promotion for Neville Thurlbeck . Brooks wrote they “must do this” because Thurlbeck had “battled through a trial” that August in which he was acquitted of bribing an National Criminal Intelligence Squad officer for stories.
Twelve days later Brooks writes to Andy Coulson, now appointed as her deputy, and Kuttner: “I want Neville to have that promotion ASAP.”
Thurlbeck was made chief reporter in the new ‘Special Investigations Unit’ alongside Greg Miskiw. By October Mazher Mahmood, according to his byline, part of this investigations unit, presumably joined with his specialist surveillance expert Conrad Brown, and photographer Bradley Page. (Glenn Mulcaire, known as “Greg’s man” was regularly invoicing Miskiw at this point, but his company Euro Research doesn’t go onto an annual contract until February 2001.)
One of the teams biggest scoops involved a Mazher Mahmood sting on Sophie Countess Wessex, during which the Fake Sheikh recorded the Queens’ daughter-in-law making indiscreet comments about senior politicians and other members of the Royal Family.
In an email from 18 April Brooks warned Miskiw “we have to be so careful and make sure everything we do was inside the law.”
The Special Investigations Unit was broken up by early June 2001 when Brooks made Miskiw deputy head of an amalgamated department of News and Investigations. However, news of this might not have filtered though to other journalists at the paper. In August the following year sports reporter Geoff Sweet described Mulcaire, coming on to play for Wimbledon AFC, as “part of our special investigations team.”
(In evidence at the Old Bailey, both Brooks and Coulson testified they had never seen this article, since it was on page 88 during a hectic edition covering the Soham murders).
2002 Another Buried Call for an Investigation
Brooks’ second year of editorship of News of the World was a very busy one. Surviving emails show her supervising and updating stories on Sven Goran Eriksson, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, and Harold Shipman. By this point Mahmood was calling himself ‘Investigations Editor’.
Brooks’ famous campaign to name and shame paedophiles, Sarah’s Law, had reached a culmination with the sentencing of Sarah Payne’s murderer Roy Whiting But the disappearance of Milly Dowler in March 2002 would re-ignite the campaign.
However there is no mention of the opening of a fourth investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan anywhere in the paper, even though there’s no doubt the News of the World knew about it.
On 26 June 2002 Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook appeared on BBC Crimewatch to to appeal for new information as the public face of a new murder inquiry, Operation Abelard
Unknown to Cook, Sid Fillery had called Alex Marunchak at the News of the World with information about Cook. Marunchak does not deny passing a ‘tip off’ on. His colleague Greg Miskiw then tasked Glenn Mulcaire to hack the phones of Cook and his wife, Jacqui Hames, and to do other financial and credit searches which must have quickly debunked any ludicrous suggestion the married couple with two children could have been having an affair.
By mid July the Cook family found themselves under surveillance at their Surrey home and while taking their children to school. When the registration of one of the vans was checked, it was discovered to have been leased to News International, and Mahmood’s photographer Bradley Page.
As a result of this surveillance, the Abelard team re-examined the allegations Daniel Morgan had planned to sell his story of police corruption to a Sunday paper and wrote to the DPS urging an immediate investigation into the relationship between Alex Marunchak and Jonathan Rees.
What happened after this 2002 report was sent to the DPS urging a proper inquiry of News of the World’s potential criminal associations with Southern Investigations?
However, the day after the request was submitted in late August, Rebekah Brooks and her then husband Ross Kemp had a long dinner at the Ivy Club with Commissioner John Stevens and his wife. Two weeks later the two couples return for a second dinner at the club, accompanied by Dick Fedorcio.
There is no record of any reprimand of Marunchak – indeed he is promoted to Irish editor of News of the World.
Brooks Confronted Over Interference with a Murder Inquiry
It wasn’t till the following January that Cook had amassed enough information to confront the editor of News of the World at Scotland Yard with evidence about the long standing financial relationship between Marunchak and Rees. On 9 January 2003 Brooks was called to a meeting with Cook, Commander Andre Baker and Dick Fedorcio and shown a witness statement. As Vanity Fair reported three years ago:
Faced with these allegations, Brooks told Cook she “would look into it.” According to the Leveson testimony of Dick Fedorcio, Brooks went straight from this meeting to a drinks reception where she talked again with Commissioner Stevens.
Byline understands Brooks also consulted with managing editor Stuart Kuttner the following day, Friday 10 January.
Kuttner’s notebooks, used as evidence in the phone hacking trial, are believed to still be in the possession of the Metropolitan police.
Over the weekend, Brooks was told she was appointed editor of the Sun, and by Monday 13 January 2003, Andy Coulson was appointed her replacement.
How Brooks Can Help the Panel Inquiry
The evidence of Jacqui Hames, Bob Quick and others at the Leveson Inquiry about the strange and often nefarious connections between private investigators, police and the press, would have been dramatically supported by statements from Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook who was due to become a core participant.
However, the day before that happened, Cook was arrested by officers tipped off by News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee (MSC) revealing emails between Cook and the Sun crime correspondent Mike Sullivan over a potential book. All charges were dropped against Sullivan and there’s no suggestion money changed hands. A file was sent to the CPS last year but Cook has yet to be charged.
In the circumstances, it looks suspiciously like Cook was targeted by the MSC to silence him at a crucial time.
Understandably, Brooks’ lawyers were very critical of Jacqui Hames’ evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, given that she still faced trial in 2012. But now that risk has gone.
Brooks was found not guilty last June after an 8 month trial of conspiring to phone hack, pay public officials or pervert the course of justice. She is in the clear in regard to any criminal accusations.
But she could do a lot to restore her reputation if she co-operated with Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Inquiry.
Not only is the three decades long turmoil and disappointment of the Morgan family at issue, but the crucial relationship between the media, private investigators and the police is at stake.
Back in 2011, as she faced hostile News of the World journalists after closure of the paper in the wake of the Milly Dowler scandal, Brooks explained the company had ‘visiblity’ on what other scandals ahead. She said:
“I think, in a year’s time, every single one of you in this room might come up and say, ‘OK, well I see what you saw now'”
Roy Greenslade at the Guardian has asked “So, Rebekah Brooks, what was the reason for the News of the World’s closure?“
What could be worse than hacking the phone of a murdered teenager? Perhaps perverting another murder inquiry, or somehow colluding in its cover-up?
For her own peace of mind, and the Morgan family’s, I believe Brooks needs to come clean about what she meant by this, and what she really knew about Marunchak and Southern Investigations.
If you have corrections, queries or wish to comment in the piece itself, please contact me peter at byline dot com.
Meanwhile, if you have information that could be relevant to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, you can contact them here.