A Winter's Tale: The Ghosts of Scotland Yard
Peter Jukes introduces the first part of the January print edition of Byline Times - which investigates the unresolved true crime stories that haunt Britain's biggest police force
From the forthcoming edition of Byline Times
It’s no coincidence that two of the most notorious murders of the last half-century occurred within a few miles of each other in south-east London: the assassination of private investigator Daniel Morgan in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987, and the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence in Eltham in 1993.
In both cases, the murderers got away with it only because of what former Prime Minister Gordon Brown once called the “criminal media nexus” of corrupt police officers, career criminals, and their press contacts.
Back in the 1980s and 90s, the proximity between those corrupt police officers and the national press was so extensive the area was known as the ‘News of the World Regional Crime Squad’. The senior luminary to come out of the area, Commander Ray Adams, was described at the time as Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Yard Man’ (he went on to become deputy head of security for NDS – the global security arm for Murdoch’s News Corp).
In the meantime, over the past three decades, the murders of Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence were subject to a dozen or more partial and problematic police investigations.
The 1998 Macpherson Inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder concluded that the Metropolitan Police was guilty of “institutional racism”. An independent review by Mark Ellison KC in 2014 – around the phone-hacking scandal – established police corruption was a factor too.
Similarly, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Inquiry led by Baroness O’Loan concluded in 2021 that the UK’s largest police force suffered from “institutional corruption”.
Nothing is yet resolved. New information, not considered by either of the inquiries, comes to light all the time.
Meanwhile, little has been done to advance the ‘duty of candour’ owed by the police, recommended by Baroness O’Loan. Instead, the civil courts and independent journalists are left to do the needed due diligence and truth-seeking.
In the forthcoming trials over unlawful newsgathering against the Mail group and Murdoch’s publications – brought by several claimants including Prince Harry, Elton John and Hugh Grant – one of the key witnesses will be Derek Haslam, a former Met detective who was at the centre of the sprawling internal investigation into Ray Adams from 1987 to 1990. He was then tasked to go undercover in 1997 for the Met’s internal ‘Ghost Squad’ inquiry into police corruption.
Haslam’s target was Daniel Morgan’s old private detective agency, Southern Investigations, and the two men there originally arrested on suspicion of involvement in his murder: the firm’s co-founder Jonathan Rees and a former Met Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery.
For nine years, Haslam reported back to his ‘handlers’ about the array of unlawful information gathering services available to Rees and Fillery: moonlighting police covert entry teams for break-ins, a BT engineer to tap phone lines, a bank employee to access confidential financial statements. “We can get the Queen’s medical records,” Haslam recalls Rees once boasting. But most disturbing of all was the ready access to former or serving Met officers who could be bought off for unlawful information.
Some of this unlawful information was useful to criminals trying to avoid prosecution, most of it was sold onto the press. In particular, Haslam says the Lawrence case was a “lucrative obsession” for Rees and Fillery, who said the Mail titles were interested in finding out if Doreen Lawrence and her campaign for justice had been “infiltrated by left-wing groups”.
Among the dozens of officers in regular communication during the heyday of Southern Investigations were two men who played an important role in the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation: Commander Ray Adams and his bagman DC John (OJ) Davidson. Having left the force both became, in Haslam’s words, “security consultants and important sub-contractors for Southern [Investigations]”
Over the next few pages, Jake Arnott puts together some of the new evidence linking Davidson and Adams to both the Morgan and Lawrence cases. And former Guardian crime reporter Duncan Campbell and investigative journalist and whistleblower Dan Evans recollect the former Flying Squad detective – John Ross – who also “specialised in selling information to the Mail and other newspapers from corrupt, serving officers” and was also targeting Doreen Lawrence, according to Haslam.
Haslam has already been the subject of spurious attacks by Fleet Street journalists because his evidence doesn’t suit their industry or agenda. As the Mail and The Sun are in the dock, we can expect more low-level character assassinations and hatchet jobs against key witnesses. This is a disservice to the present as well as recent history.
As the Casey Review into the Met showed earlier this year – documenting systematic racism, misogyny and homophobia – the shadows of unpunished crimes encourage current impunity and corruption.
Sometimes we have to look back in order to move forward: to exorcise the past to stop it haunting our future.
Peter Jukes is the co-author of ‘Who Killed Daniel Morgan?’ with Alastair Morgan, and the host of ‘Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder’ Podcast
CATCH UP IN ON THIS IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION BY: Peter Jukes, Jake Arnott, Duncan Campbell, Dan Evans, Tom Latchem, Hardeep Matharu, Iain Overton, Andrew Kersley, Jamie Klingler, Morag Livingstone and Michal Grant