Saturday, July 09, 2011

Power, corruption and lies

The scandal at News International took a local turn yesterday with the arrest at Lewisham Police Station of Andy Coulson, ex-News of the World editor, ex-Director of Communications for the Government and personal friend of the Prime Minister.

Actually the local angle goes a lot deeper, and perhaps a lot murkier. Coulson lives in Forest Hill near to the Horniman museum. Just over a mile away is the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham Road, SE26. In March 1987 Daniel Morgan, aged 37, was found murdered in the Golden Lion car park with an axe in his head. Morgan (pictured below with his children) was a private investigator who lived in Warminster Road, Norwood. He ran a company called Southern Investigations with an office in Thornton Heath High Street, along with his business partner Jonathan Rees. I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot about the latter over the next few weeks.

There have been several police investigations into the murder, the most recent one of which collapsed in pre-trial hearings in March 2011. The police have however officially acknowledged, at a Metropolitan Police Authority meeting in March, that 'police corruption was a debilitating factor' in the first investigation into Daniel’s murder. That investigation was run from Catford police station. According to the Guardian, one of the Catford officers assigned to the case was Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery. He failed 'to tell his bosses he moonlighted for Southern Investigations', and indeed after leaving the force he later took Morgan's place in the company.

Daniel's family have argued this from the start, and continue to 'invite members of the Metropolitan Police Authority to consider the implications of the evidence available to them from the earliest stages, i.e. that:

• Daniel was murdered because he was about to expose corrupt links between police officers and organised criminals in South East London.

• Daniel’s place in his private investigators company had been taken over by a member of the original murder inquiry, former Detective Sergeant Sidney Fillery'.

You can read more about this at Sydenham Town News. Exactly who killed Morgan has never been established. Various business associates, former and serving police officers have been arrested over the years, but none have been convicted. It is not being suggested that anybody named in this article was party to his murder.

Rees and the News of the World

So what's the connection between this and Coulson? There is of course no direct link between him and the terrible crime. But if the Guardian is to be believed he is isn't too far removed at all from that murky world where informers, criminals, corrupt police officers, private investigators and indeed journalists intersect and exchange cash and information. A world which may have done for Daniel Morgan, or at least prevented his killers being brought to justice.

The Guardian has established that the 'News of the World paid £150,000 a year to man [Jonathan Rees] who obtained information from corrupt police and illegal sources'. They suggest that his unorthodox career with the News of the World was put on hold when he was arrested in 1999 and later sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. According to the Guardian, Rees had been 'hired by a man who was getting divorced and wanted to stop his wife getting custody of their children. Rees came up with a plan. Aided and abetted by yet another corrupt police officer, DC Austin Warnes, he arranged to plant cocaine in the car of the unsuspecting woman, so that she could be charged, convicted and smeared as an unreliable parent'. Warnes was a Bexley Health police constable. Interestingly Plumstead 'celebrity gangster' Dave Courtney was also charged in relation to this plot but was acquitted, as discussed by none other than Frankie Fraser. For Dave Courtney's version of events, see here.

Meanwhile ex-Catford Detective Sergeant Fillery was arrested in 2003 and charged with charged with 15 counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possessing indecent images. He was later convicted.

Critically in 2005, when Coulson was at the News of the World, Rees - now out of prison - began to be paid by the paper once again to do some of its dirty work. What's more, the Guardian this week disclosed 'that it had passed to a senior Cameron aide information about the News of the World's links to the detective, Jonathan Rees'.

The News of the World and David Cook

The Guardian also reported this week that then News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was 'summoned to a meeting at Scotland Yard where she was told that one of her most senior journalists, Alex Marunchak, had apparently agreed to use photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on behalf of Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, two private investigators who were suspected of murdering another investigator, Daniel Morgan, when the latter was a partner of Rees's in the firm Southern Investigations. The Yard saw this as a possible attempt to pervert the course of justice. Brooks was also told of evidence that Marunchak had a corrupt relationship with Rees, who had been earning up to £150,000 a year selling confidential data to the News of the World. Police told her that a former employee of Rees had given them a statement alleging that some of these payments were diverted to Marunchak, who had been able to pay off his credit card and pay his child's private school'.

A Guardian investigation suggests that the focus of this surveillance was Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, who was subject to the 'News of the World physically following him and his young children, "blagging" his personal details from police databases, attempting to access his voicemail and that of his wife, and possibly sending a "Trojan horse" email in an attempt to steal information from his computer. The targeting of Cook began following his appearance on BBC Crimewatch on 26 June 2002, when he appealed for information to solve the murder of Morgan, who had been found dead in south London 15 years earlier. Rees and Fillery were among the suspects. The following day, Cook was warned by the Yard that they had picked up intelligence that Fillery had been in touch with Marunchak and that Marunchak agreed to "sort Cook out"' (Guardian, 6 July 2011). Fillery and Rees were later acquitted of all charges relating to Morgan's murder. Cook was actually heading the latest investigation into this murder, while apparently being targeted by the News of the World.

If it is officially established that Brooks and Coulson knew about Rees working for the NOTW, and that Cameron had been warned about this, then all are in deep trouble. At the very least it would mean that Cameron was only a couple of degrees of separation from a man convicted of being involved in a plot to frame a mother as a drug dealer.

Is the story that Brooks has hinted is still to come out related to this sordid affair? No doubt we will find out soon enough.

[Brooks should know all about Rees, Fillery and the Morgan murder - after all she was editor of The Sun when it carried an article by Mike Sullivan in 2006 which discussed much of the above and stated that 'Daniel, 37, is thought to have been silenced to stop him exposing a crime network involving corrupt police officers. The investigation into his murder was allegedly nobbled by bent cops and crucial evidence destroyed'] Updated 10 July 2011.

Update 19 July 2011 - as predicted in the original post, the Rees/Marunchak/Coulson triangle is gradually becoming central to the investigation, and by implication drawing in Cameron who seemingly hired Coulson despite being warned about this. With senior figures resigning at New International and the Metropolitan Police, Daniel Morgan's murder is becoming Banquo's ghost in this Shakespearean spectacle. Though to be more precise it is not Morgan's murder which is directly linked to this, so much as the News of the World's possible interference in its investigation through targeting the head of the police investigation, David Cook. In developments in the last week: 1. David Cook has announced he intends to sue News of the World; 2. Ed Miliband has raised the issue of Cameron being warned about Coulson's links with Jonathan Rees'; 3. Daniel Morgan's brother has described the News of the World actions as 'disturbing and sinister'; 4. The Independent has reported that police want to question Marunchak and Greg Miskiw, his former colleage at the News of the World and partner in a vodka import business; 5. The Guardian has queried the role of Dick Fedorcio, director of public affairs for the Metropolitan police, in the Marunchak/Cook affair; 6. Marunchak was apparently working for the Metropolitan police as an interpreter alongside his day job as a journalist (further details of all these below).

From the
Daily Telegraph, 13 July 2011: 'A former Scotland Yard detective plans to sue the publishers of the News of the World for allegedly hacking his phone while he was investigating a high-profile axe murder. David Cook is considering legal action against News Group Newspapers, a subsidiary of News International, for making him a target as he investigated the death of Daniel Morgan, who was found with an axe embedded in his head in a car park in south London in 1987'

The Guardian, 13 July 2011: 'In the Commons, the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, asked: "The information showed that while he was editing the News of the World Andy Coulson had hired Jonathan Rees, a man jailed for seven years for a criminal conspiracy and who made payments to police on behalf of the News of the World. Can you tell us what happened to that significant information that was given to your chief of staff?"

From the
Newsshopper, 14 July 2011: 'The brother of murdered private eye Daniel Morgan says the News of the World’s (NotW) alleged interference in the police investigation is “deeply disturbing”. NotW staff are accused of harassing detective David Cook in 2002, while he was investigating the murder of Mr Morgan, as a favour to one of the suspects, Jonathan Rees. Private eye Mr Rees, aged 57, worked as an investigator for NotW from 1993 to 2000, and was reportedly re-hired by Andy Coulson, the newspaper’s former editor, in 2007. Speaking to News Shopper, Mr Morgan’s brother Alistair said: “These claims the News of the World intervened in the investigation are deeply disturbing and sinister.”... Alistair Morgan, aged 62, from Islington, and his mother Isobel Hulsmann, aged 83, are calling for the government to launch a judicial enquiry into the investigation of Mr Morgan’s death'.

From the
Independent, 17 July 2011: 'Detectives investigating phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World are keen to question two former senior journalists at the newspaper. Scotland Yard officers have been told the two, former executive editor Alex Marunchak and deputy news editor Greg Miskiw, were both key figures linked to the use of private investigators to access confidential information... Mr Miskiw is known to be a close friend of Mr Marunchak, a former crime reporter and senior executive at the NOTW. The two reportedly had mutual business arrangements including the importation of vodka from Ukraine. Mr Marunchak, who left the newspaper in 2006, claims to have been appointed as a special adviser to Ukraine's UK embassy in 1999. Mr Marunchak is said to be a friend of a private investigator called Jonathan Rees who was employed by the NOTW to help provide reporters with illegally obtained confidential information'.

The Guardian 19 July 2011 - 'The search for the truth about the ties that bind Scotland Yard to News International is now likely to focus on the role of one man: Dick Fedorcio, director of public affairs for the Metropolitan police... MPs will want to know whether Fedorcio's close working link with Brooks influenced the Yard's decision to take no action when they discovered that a News of the World executive, Alex Marunchak, had apparently used the paper's resources to mount surveillance on a senior officer, DCS Dave Cook, acting on behalf of two men who were suspects in a murder investigation being led by Cook. Fedorcio was present at a meeting when DCS Cook and his commander, Andre Baker, confronted Brooks with details of the surveillance, which could have been regarded as an attempt to pervert the course of justice'.

Daily Telegraph, 19 July 2011: 'It also emerged last night that Alex Marunchak, a former executive editor at the paper, was employed by the Metropolitan Police for 20 years as a translator. Between 1980 and 2000 Mr Marunchak, a second generation Ukrainian, combined his day as job as a journalist with working as a part-time interpreter for Scotland Yard when they arrested suspects from Russia and Ukraine'.


Andy said...

Well can only push so much under the carpet befor it starts to come out the other side? good article.

. said...

All of the information in this article is already out there in The Guardian and elsewhere, but there's just so much about the News of the World story that sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees. So I thought it was worth trying to pull together some of the South London threads which are at the heart of the scandal.

If the Guardian is right, this goes way beyond the phone hacking scandal. They suggest that burglaries might also have happened. And if they are right that the resources of the News of the World, via Marunchak, were used to spy on a police officer in a murder investigation on behalf of a convicted criminal... well you couldn't make this up.

Some strange justice maybe that the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan should indirectly come back to haunt the establishment that failed to convict his killers.

Anonymous said...

The number of bent coppers caught up in this suggests that there must be a lot of 'grey area' people - those at the intersection of the worlds of the 100% straight and the pure villains; herbal enthusiasts, party promoters, pirate broadcasters etc - who may have had some contact with them in the 90s/early 00s around S London.

After all, there's little point in being bent if you're not earning, and earning opportunities always increase exposure. Shakedowns, 'offers', coercion, 'suggestions'...

So hopefully your blog post, whilst it is based around published newspaper articles, by collecting all this material together, may jog the memory of someone who came across these jokers, and who may be able to colour in some of the blank patches.

Laura said...

I have no words for the level of disgust and horror I feel....How can I help, we have to push for this to be investigated!

Anonymous said...

Would like to leave my Condolences for Daniel and his family,This whole thing stinks, but at least now You ,Sean and David are all out of it , and can watch down and see the Murdoch Empire torn Down...R.I.P x