THE PRIME SUSPECT
Private Eye Accused of Notorious Axe Murder Sues Nemesis
JONATHAN REES, once the prime suspect for the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan, has taken the first step towards suing the senior detective whose efforts to put him behind bars were branded corrupt by judges.
Rees has turned the tables on David Cook, the retired senior detective behind the failed murder prosecution.
The trial collapsed in 2011 amid judicial concern about Cook’s contact with supergrass witnesses and wider non-disclosure of police documents.
Rees was awarded £155,000 in punitive damages for malicious prosecution by the Metropolitan police in 2019 after six senior judges found that Cook’s conduct in prompting a key supergrass amounted to perverting the course of justice.
Nevertheless, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claimed it was not ‘in the public interest’ to prosecute him.
The former detective chief superintendent, who still has the support of the Morgan family, now faces private prosecution by lawyers acting for Rees.
Last month they wrote to Cook asking to interview him. The legal letter said:
“A person who is totally independent of the Morgan family, Rees and any of his co-defendants will conduct the interview. [It] will be recorded and under caution.”
Rees told The Upsetter:
“I nearly lost everything and would be dying in prison because of his corrupt tactics. He deserves to pay the price for trying to appease his bosses so they could bullshit the Morgan family. The police watchdog and the CPS said it wasn’t in the public interest to prosecute Cook, when it wasn’t in their interest to do so.”
Cook’s lawyers have asked for more information before submitting to an interview.
They also highlighted a serious complaint Cook has made against the Met in which he claims senior officers "deliberately" misled judges during the damages claim.
The response, dated 23 March, said:
“Our client has made a number of complaints against the Met, some of which are allegations of a criminal nature [which] call into question the reliability of the evidence presented by the Met.”
Cook has named former Met assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt in his complaint. Hewitt is now the most senior police officer in the country as chair of the National Police Chiefs Council.
Cook believes superiors made him a “scapegoat” and are covering up other problems within the Morgan investigation including corruption concerns around the preparation of supergrasses as prosecution witnesses.
Daniel Morgan, a 37-year-old private detective, was found dead in a south London pub car park with an axe in his head and £1000 in his pocket.
The married father of two was killed walking towards his car behind the Golden Lion pub after drinking with Rees, his business partner with whom he shared a lover.
There have been five failed investigations costing taxpayers in excess of £50m. The case is so mired in police corruption and incompetence that then home secretary Theresa May ordered an inquiry in 2013, which is due to report next month.
Cook declined to speak to The Upsetter, but a friend of the retired detective said the private prosecution was “a ruse by Rees to get the upper hand” before the inquiry panel publishes its report.
Both men are expecting to be criticised by the report, which will also put renewed heat on five previous Metropolitan police commissioners, three of whom sit in the House of Lords, and current commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.
Home secretary Priti Patel will have to decide if any senior officer, almost all of whom have sailed off into the private sector with gold-plated pensions and the Queen’s Police Medal, should face any sanction.
Cook became the public face of the Morgan inquiry in 2002 when he fronted a BBC Crimewatch appeal for witnesses. Shortly after, he was appointed the senior investigating officer - a job seen by many colleagues as a poisoned chalice.
Cook took on the role with gusto and soon earned the trust of the Morgan family, who had been routinely ignored and lied to by the Met at the highest level. One previous operation, for example, pretended to be about solving the murder when it was more intelligence gathering on Rees and his network of serving and retired detectives, criminals and journalists who routinely turned over high profile figures for tabloid newspapers.
Cook was nursing a major gripe against the Met while heading what would be the fifth and final Morgan murder inquiry. The Scottish detective felt the Met had failed to protect him and his family after The News of The World briefly put them under surveillance following his Crimewatch appearance.
Privately, Cook’s marriage to detective Jacqui Hames, a Crimewatch presenter, was falling apart since 1999 and triggered in the detective an acute mental health crisis, including several suicide attempts.
Nevertheless, Cook did not stand aside as the cop in charge of the Met’s longest unsolved murder. He was convinced of the guilt of Rees and four others in variously plotting, executing and covering up the crime.
The Met, remarkably, assigned him Mike Sullivan, crime editor of The Sun to secretly write a book about Cook’s efforts to solve the case and restore pride to the force.
Cook would later say the prospect of the book was the only thing at times that kept him alive.
A conviction would also guarantee sales. And it was not irrelevant that during the murder investigation Cook was in financial difficulties following his marital breakdown with two children to support and the Met having refused to buy the family home as a security measure.
Book or no book, solving the murder of Daniel Morgan was never going to be easy. All previous efforts had failed to produce forensic or other convincing evidence. Hints, hunches, hearsay, strange comments, bad character, but no evidence.
Even hours of bugged conversations and an undercover operative inside Rees’ company failed to produce clear admissions from the suspects.
Rees has always denied any involvement and says the Met were blinkered in its approach from the very beginning by refusing to examine Morgan’s knotty personal life and business connections.
Cook and the Morgan family though were convinced the right names were in the frame but the Met and CPS realised the case would not break open without witnesses coming forward.
With the help of planted stories in The Sun, two serious criminals emerged and were handed over to the murder squad.
Jimmy Ward, who faced a massive sentence for drug trafficking, and Gary Eaton, who was mentally unstable, were debriefed by detectives separate from Cook and his team to avoid claims of coaching, coercion and inducement at trial.
But Cook was found to have repeatedly breached the so-called sterile corridor, in particular through his contact with Eaton, who confessed to multiple crimes the police were unaware of, but equally had a desire to please and was a manipulative liar.
Rees and his co-defendants, brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian (alleged axe wielder and look out respectively) and Jimmy Cook (alleged getaway driver) mounted a full scale attack on the supergrass-based prosecution in a pre-trial hearing that went on for months at the Old Bailey in London.
One by one the supergrass evidence was excluded based on their own duplicity and appalling failings in the debriefing system, much of which was put at Cook’s door. The final straw was massive material non-disclosure of sensitive police documents.
The trial collapsed in March 2011 with the prosecution throwing in the towel on the 24th anniversary of the Morgan murder.
Cook went sick with ill health later that year and never returned to active police duty.
In 2012, however, he was arrested along with Sullivan as part of a spin off inquiry from the so-called ‘phone hacking’ scandal.
In a bid to save its senior executives and boss Rupert Murdoch, News International, owner of The News of The World and The Sun, gave all its journalists’ emails to the Met without concern for protecting legitimate sources.
The data dump of emails led to criminal probes into relationships between public officials and journalists to see if any had been paid. Ironically, the Met had authorised Cook’s relationship with Sullivan.
Both men were cleared by 2015 but the episode fed Cook’s view that the Met were throwing him under the bus as the fall guy for all that went wrong with the Morgan investigation. He also believed that the Met was doing this to protect the senior management team, whose cosy links to News International were becoming exposed by the hacking scandal.
Meanwhile, Rees was busy trying to get revenge on the system he felt had fitted him up. He brought a civil claim against the Met and Cook for malicious prosecution, which was initially heard by Mr Justice Mitting at the high court in 2017.
Behind the scenes, stinging judicial criticism from the murder trial judge had forced the Met to launch an internal investigation into whether Cook had perverted the course of justice.
But just before the damages hearing, Cook says the Met’s legal department told him that he had been cleared.
A source close to Cook said he had privately warned the Met that if he was criminally prosecuted the whole house of cards was coming down and all he knew about what had gone on during the many Morgan murder investigations would come out in his defence and elsewhere.
By now, Cook had a coterie of rival journalists and pretend ones allied to lawyers representing celebrities whose phone messages had been illegally accessed and were looking for an easy payday. The main target of this group was bringing down News International and its friends in the Met.
For many reasons, few palatable, it was in the Met’s interest that Cook was not prosecuted, if only to stand a chance of defending the damages claim brought by Rees and the Vian brothers.
In the end, Cook did not give evidence at the high court damages hearings. He now says he was willing to do so but accuses the Met of trying to “silence” him from giving the evidence he wanted, which would have shifted some of the blame elsewhere and upstairs.
Cook says the Met misled Mr Justice Mitting by first claiming it could not locate him and then by claiming that giving evidence would set back his mental health.
Mitting was furious over Cook’s non-appearance and while critical of the former lead detective over his handling of the supergrass Gary Eaton the high court judge did not find for Rees or the Vians.
They appealed and Mitting’s finding was overturned in 2018. Three court of appeal judges were excoriating of Cook. Such was the judicial condemnation that the Met re-opened its investigation of him for perverting the course of justice.
But once again he was cleared internally. And last year, another supposed check on police abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service, decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute Cook.
This despite the findings of the murder trial judge, Mitting, three appeal judges and a sixth judge who in July 2019 finally awarded Rees £155,000 in punitive damages. Glenn Vian got the same and his brother Garry £104,000.
By June 2020, Cook was free for the first time in eight years of the threat of criminal prosecution. It was time to strike back.
He made a complaint to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) against former Met assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, who oversaw the investigation of Cook and response to Rees’ damages claim, and Fiona McCormack, the detective who did the internal investigation before going on to help with the police response to the 2017 Grenfell Fire.
Cook also complained against Met solicitor Gurpreet Rai. The letter to the police watchdog said:
“I argue that the Met engaged in a cover up of the organisational failings and the true facts to protect their reputation and in doing so individuals have perjured themselves, misled the Court and withheld evidence.”
Cook was also making some startling allegations about how the Morgan murder was run. He denied acting corruptly but apologised for his “failings in the handling of witness Gary Eaton” claiming he was given no training in how to handle supergrasses.
Cook went on to describe the debriefing system as under-resourced and "chaotic" and then made this remarkable allegation. He said he was overruled about video recording key supergrass witness Eaton and told it -
“would be problematic should they need to straighten anything out.”
Cook was alleging a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the way supergrass evidence was obtained and presented at court contrary to a new law designed to prevent such abuses to secure convictions.
Cook’s complaint to the IOPC referred to questions over the integrity of three named detectives involved in the debriefing of supergrasses, which he said were not properly investigated by the anti-corruption squad.
One of these allegations relates to the prolific south London criminal Chris McCormack, whose story features in The Upsetter’s debut post ‘The Autistic Detective’, published on April 1.
McCormack was an associate of Garry Vian and had visited him in prison. Vian was doing time for the same drug conspiracy as Jimmy Ward, who turned supergrass and claimed Vian was involved in the Morgan murder.
Rees also knew McCormack. In the late Nineties he was instructed by defence solicitors to help McCormack who was facing trial for the torture of a man said to have owed a debt to the Adams crime family. McCormack was acquitted.
In his complaint to the IOPC, Cook said that in August 2005 he had been given intelligence (from supergrass Jimmy Ward) that McCormack was being “protected” by a named senior officer on the Flying Squad who was now working on the Morgan case.
Cook put the intelligence in an official form, disclosed here for the first time. It said:
I was contacted by telephone by the Source on or about the 8th August 2005. He stated that he has been involved or party to a discussion about the Bullion job in London from which some people are standing trial. He stated that McCormack, who was involved in it was being protected by a DCI.
The Bullion job was a reference to the February 2004 Johnson Matthey robbery of £1.4m of gold bars. Four men had just been sentenced in July 2005 after a controversial trial.
Part of their defence had been that McCormack was an agent provocateur who’d helped set up the robbery and then pulled out because he was working for the police. The Flying Squad had denied this to the judge.
In his complaint, Cook said he raised the potential corruption issue with Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the anti-corruption squad and the Flying Squad.
It wasn’t clear if Cook’s source was saying McCormack had a corrupt senior officer in his pocket or was being protected as a valuable informant allowed to commit crime with impunity.
Either way it screamed out to be independently investigated.
But, remarkably, the IOPC gave Cook’s complaint to the Met’s anti-corruption squad, aka the Untouchables, to investigate.
The supposed police watchdog was set up after the scandal around the Met’s bungling of the 1993 Stephen Lawrence murder. It was supposed to be an independent investigative force. But since its birth in 2004, the IOPC has been a creation and creature of the Untouchables.
The watchdog has had so many chances to bark, fetch or bare teeth that the clamour is now for putting it down.
On 9 July 2020, the Untouchables dismissed Cook’s complaint as old news without even a whimper from the IOPC.
In a letter to Cook, the Untouchables said:
Firstly I would like to bring to your attention that as you were employed by the Metropolitan police at the time of the allegations you have made you are not a complainant under the Police Reform Act 2002, therefore we have no obligation to record the matter as a compliant (sic).
I have conducted a review of the information you have sent to us, and can see no new allegations have been made. Everything within your letter and evidence was looked into in PC/1410/12 . All matters have been dealt with and actioned and we will be taking no further action with regards to your complaint.
However, days later when The Upsetter asked the Met for a comment it suddenly said the decision to kick Cook’s complaint into the long grass was under review.
Since then, Cook has been informed that detective superintendent Mark Broom is investigating.
Last night, the Met declined to say what had prompted the change, whether anyone named in Cook’s complaint had been interviewed yet and why the force felt it had the necessary independence to investigate in the first place.
The Upsetter has spoken to the now retired senior officer alleged to be ‘protecting’ McCormack. He denied even knowing the criminal or acting in a corrupt manner.
The retired officer accepted that Cook was duty bound to put the allegation into the system but questioned why the Met never properly investigated it at the time. He said he was never served with a formal notification and only discovered there had been an allegation about his integrity when the Daniel Morgan Inquiry Panel contacted him in late 2020.
Only now has he been disclosed a 2006 internal report by the anti-corruption squad saying the allegation was considered unfounded.
The retired officer also denied Cook’s other allegations about the debriefing of supergrass Gary Eaton. He believes Cook is “having afters” - in other words, trying to spread the blame after the juridical criticism of how he had handled Eaton.
According to the retired senior officer, Cook ignored an early warning from the debriefers that Eaton was not a witness of truth and continued to have undocumented contact with the supergrass.
The Daniel Morgan Inquiry Panel is about to publish its report after seven years and £14m. Sources say the delays are in part being blamed on the Met’s slow provision of documents.
Rees is not expecting an easy ride from the Panel. Nor is Cook.
If all goes to plan, Rees will summons Cook to a London magistrates court to give his account of what went on inside the Met after the report is public.
The prime suspect does not rule out one day becoming allies with his old nemesis. Stranger things have happened in this case.
And so it goes.