After five police investigations, the latest of which has just ground to a halt, a case awash with clues and motives is no nearer being solved
A young, energetic private eye called Daniel Morgan was found with an axe embedded to the hilt in the side of his face in the car park of a south London pub on 10 March, 1987. Since then there have been no fewer than five police investigations into his death but no one has ever been convicted of his murder. The fifth of those inquiries juddered to a halt in court 14 of the Old Bailey on Friday morning when the judge accepted the admission of prosecution counsel, Nicholas Hilliard QC, that to proceed with the trial of the three men charged with the murder would be "oppressive" and "unfair." In the place where the jury normally sits were members of Morgan's family: his elderly mother, his widow, his daughter, his sister and his brother, Alastair. They watched in silence and in resignation as the judge, Mr Justice Maddison, listened to the formal discontinuation of the case.
Why was Daniel Morgan killed? The defence, had the case ever gone to trial, would have suggested that there were many people with a motive to bump off a busy private eye. But his brother believes very strongly that it was not because of anything Daniel Morgan had done, but because of something much more significant that he was about to do. "Daniel died because he had found out about, and was going to expose, an incident of serious police corruption," wrote Alastair in a letter to his MP back in the early 1990s as he grew increasingly angry at the way his efforts to keep the investigation alive were being swatted aside. He complained about the response he received to his requests for action: "The Metropolitan police were silent, evasive, dishonest, arrogant, nonchalant, patronising and insolent towards both myself and my mother as we expressed our profound alarm at what was becoming clear to us." His fears proved all too prescient. Why were they not taken seriously at the time?
Alastair Morgan went on snapping at the heels of the authorities and was rewarded, on some occasions, with an honourable response from politicians and police officers. Hope was kindled. Flick through the press cuttings over the years and you will see a dozen false dawns...read more