Back in June 2002, when the fourth investigation into the Daniel Morgan murder was announced, the News of the World began following, photographing, hacking, and obtaining personal information on the chief investigating officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook, and his wife Jacqui Hames.
Not only was this a deadly serious attempt to subvert one of the most sensitive murder inquiries in the history of the Met, the surveillance placed on the couple and their young family at their private home was particularly traumatic for Hames. She had been a close friend and colleague of the BBC presenter Jill Dando, who was shot dead three years before on the doorstep of her London home.
The subversion of the Morgan murder inquiry began two days before Cook’s appearance on BBC’s Crimewatch when Sid Fillery, a former police officer and a suspect in the conspiracy, phoned Alex Marunchak, an executive editor of News of the World, with information about the new murder inquiry team.
Now Greg Miskiw, a former colleague of Marunchak’s, and the news desk editor who tasked Mulcaire and the surveillance, explicitly contradicts their version of the events.
What was the Real Motive for the Surveillance?
In an exclusive interview with Byline, Greg Miskiw explains he first worked with Alex Marunchak on the news desk at the News of the World in the late 1980s.
Because both their parents were from Ukraine, they were dubbed the “Rottweiler Twins” by Private Eye. However, newspaper archives suggest they only shared a byline twice in early 1988.
Miskiw says he knew Marunchak “had a close relationship with a private detective agency Southern Investigations who performed his dark arts”. He says he met Rees and Fillery “several times” but “always at the behest of Alex and always in his company.”
“I knew Rees had been a suspect in the murder of his former partner at Southern, Daniel Morgan, who was found in a pub car park with an axe in his head in 1987,” Miskiw continues. “It was suggested he was killed because he was about to expose corruption in The Met. police south of the river.”
This contradicts the evidence of Bryan Madagan – a former employer of both Rees and Morgan – who claims the murdered private detective was in contact with Marunchak trying to sell him the story of police corruption only weeks before he was killed.
From then on Southern Investigations’ close links with News of the World developed into what Nick Davies describes as an “empire of corruption” with police bribes, blagging, hacking and burglary providing Fleet Street with thousands of stories based on illegally gathered information for nearly 20 years.
When the fourth murder investigation was initiated in 2002, Miskiw remembers being approached by Marunchak to target the senior investigating officer and his family.
By that point Miskiw was in charge of the news desk while Marunchak was running the new Irish edition of News of the World.
“In 2002 Det. Chief Superintendent Dave Cook appeared on Crimewatch appealing for witnesses,” Miskiw recalls: “The show’s presenter Sergeant Jacqui Hames was his wife.”
“The following week Marunchak approached me and asked me to authorise surveillance on Cook and Hames,” Miskiw says: “because one of them was having an affair.”
Miskiw’s suspicions were already raised: in the competitive ethos of the Sunday tabloid it was “very unlike Alex to give away a story to the news department,” he says.
Neither Cook nor Hames were public figures or celebrities. Unlike Marunchak or Brooks, Miskiw recalls the pretext was one of them was having an extramarital affair, rather than the ludicrous allegation this married couple could be having an affair with each other.
But whatever the pretext, the timing of the newspaper’s inquiry into their private lives could only have one aim: to disrupt a major murder investigation. Despite being watched and photographed for three days, no photo of the couple was ever registered with News International.
“At the time it struck me why he didn’t use his team at Southern Investigations,” Miskiw adds: “Then in dawned on me. Cook is leading the Morgan murder inquiry, the boss of Southern Investigations was the prime suspect. It would have looked bad if Southern were found to be watching Cook and Hames.”
What Management Knew
If Greg Miskiw was aware of the real murky motives for the Cook Hames surveillance, what of his editor at the time, the now reinstalled CEO of News UK, Rebekah Brooks?
However, Brooks assumed the editorship within months of a 1999 probe into Southern Investigations, Operation Nigeria, which revealed two of her senior journalists being involved in large scale corruption with the private detectives. Commander Bob Quick had sent a file naming journalists requiring further investigation early in 2000.
The extent of illegal news-gathering couldn’t have been more stark and hard to miss than the Guardian’s double page spread.
Based on material gathered during Operation Nigeria, McLagan explained how Rees was caught on tape digging up confidential information on the Stephen Lawrence Murder Inquiry, the London Nailbomber David Copeland, and the murder of Jill Dando. He could be heard trying to sell information to the press about the murderers Kenneth Noye and Peter Sutcliffe, and the arrest of Pinochet, offering to check on vehicles, obtain credit details, even forging a warrant card.
More importantly for Brooks and the management of News International, one of her senior executives was named and approached for comment.
Given that these two articles formed a major spread in a national newspaper, it defies belief that News International and News of the World executives were unaware of the allegations against Marunchak, and the criminal nature of the activities of their favourite detective agency, Southern Investigations.
What Happened to the Investigation
Alerted to the involvement of News International by the registration of vehicles parked outside the Cook’s home, the Morgan murder inquiry team requested that the anti-corruption command led DAC Andy Hayman undertake a financial inquiry into Marunchak’s dealings with Southern Investigations in the late summer of 2002.
For some reason, this request was never acted upon. Daniel Morgan’s brother told Byline: “I find this extraordinary.”
In January 2003, DCS Cook arranged a meeting with Rebekah Brooks at Scotland Yard to show her the evidence that Marunchak had been dealing with Rees and Fillery since the late 80s. While expressing surprise and emphasising that Marunchak was a ‘good editor’, the outgoing editor of News of the World promised to make her own inquiries.
Brooks then went to talk to Commissioner John Stevens at a drinks function in New Scotland Yard. The next day, sources say, she conferred with the long term News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner about Marunchak. Notes of that meeting have never been disclosed.
There is no evidence Marunchak was reprimanded or warned after these revelations. He had just been promoted to an even more senior executive position, and would stay at the Sunday tabloid for another three years, even re-hiring Jonathan Rees on his release from prison for a separate offence of perverting the course of justice.
Most of this information remained concealed until the phone hacking scandal broke in July 2011, and the real origin of the dark arts – the Daniel Morgan murder and its aftermath – became a subject of public debate.
“A Member noted that the MPA had recently hosted the family of Daniel Morgan at a meeting and expressed concerns that the officer investigating their case was subject to surveillance. She asked if there would be an inquiry looking at officers whose phones were hacked and cases they were involved in to see if any information that was relevant at the time of investigation was leaked to the press and whether this prejudiced their cases. She noted that this is a matter of public confidence.
Tim Godwin reinforced that the MPS regret the Daniel Morgan case and subsequent investigation. In relation to Dave Cook, he noted that the MPS are exploring that case and as this is part of an ongoing investigation he could not answer any questions on it. He agreed to write to the family in due course and to answer the MPA’s questions in writing.
A Member asked what action had been taken by the MPS following Rebekah Brooks’ statement to the HASC in 2003 that police officers were being paid for stories, and asked for a response to allegations in the New York Times that the MPS had suppressed inquiries into bribery in order to protect their relationship with NI.
Another Member stated that Rebecca Brooks was approached at a press social event and questioned in a side-room by Andrew Baker and Dick Fedorcio regarding surveillance of DCS Cook and no further action was taken.”
Four Years on and Where Are We?
Back in 2011 Godwin said that because these matters were the “subject of ongoing investigation” he would have to respond in writing in due course. Since then there has been complete silence on the matter. Alastair Morgan, who has spent 28 years campaigning for justice over his brother’s murder, has heard nothing about this supposed inquiry
“After the collapse of the prosecution in March 2011, all of my energy went into trying to secure a judicial inquiry into this horrible murky mess,” Alastair told Byline. “I saw this as absolutely essential to upholding the integrity of our policing. I can confirm that I have heard nothing at all about the results of any inquiry into the surveillance of David Cook or Jacqui Hames.”
Extraordinarily, the main reaction of the Metropolitan police in 2011 to these stunning revelations was to arrest the victim of News of the World surveillance.
Cook was arrested on the day before he was due to become a core participant to the Leveson Inquiry, based on email disclosures to the police from News International that he was in discussion with Sun crime correspondent Mike Sullivan about writing a book.
Since there was no offer of money changing hands, Sullivan wasn’t even interviewed under caution. Cook, however, remains under investigation over fours years later, even though – according to Daniel’s brother Alastair Morgan “he was the only police officer we ever trusted” in his 28 year campaign to get justice.
Something is very wrong with the state of our police, let alone our media, when a senior murder officer remains under a cloud, when the newspaper and personnel who tried to derail his murder inquiry appear to act with impunity.
If you have corrections, queries or wish to comment in the piece itself, please contact me peter at byline dot com.