Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Andy Coulson

The Mysterious Death of Daniel Morgan -Part Two

This article was published in Ceylon Today on June 25, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-mysterious-death

the criminal/ media/political nexus – Gordon Brown

 

Rees at the time of the murder.

Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson was the editor of the News of the World from 2003 until 2007.  Coulson got on well with David Cameron (who became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005) and his former Bullingdon Club buddy George Osborne (who became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Cameron became prime minister in 2010) despite publishing stories about them taking drugs. A PR man had said that one of Coulson’s most useful attributes was his ability to “screw you over and make you feel good about it”.

When current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was running for mayor of London in 2007, Coulson helped with the campaign but still wrote about Johnson: “for a posh bloke who went to Eton, he has an uncanny popular touch. He also has an uncanny habit of cheating on his wife.” Coulson cheated on his own wife with Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) when she was his editor at the News of the World.

Coulson resigned the editorship following the conviction of one of the News of the World’s reporters for phone-hacking. Despite this, David Cameron saw fit to give Coulson a £140,000 a year job as his communications director. Coulson did eventually lose that job when he was sent to prison. In June 2014 at the Old Bailey, Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails (phone-hacking).  One of the phones hacked was that of Milly Dowler, the thirteen-year-old girl who was brutally raped and murdered by Levi Bellfield. Coulson was sentenced on 4 July 2014 to 18 months in prison. He only served five months.

Rebekah Brooks

Brooks was born Rebekah Wade. She married actor Ross Kemp (who played the thuggish Grant Mitchell in the teledrama EastEnders) in June 2002 in Las Vegas, while she was editor of The Sun.

Brooks has something in common with our beloved CBK (former president of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumuratunga) – in her entry in Who’s Who, she claimed, to much amusement, that she had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Brooks joined the News of the World in 1989 as a secretary. She became a features writer and then deputy editor. In 2000, she became the UK’s youngest editor. She prepared for an interview with James Hewitt, a lover of Princess Diana, by bugging his hotel room.  She oversaw the News of the World’s campaign of “naming and shaming” suspected sex offenders launched in the wake of the murder of Sarah Payne. As part of the campaign the phone of Sarah’s mother was hacked. The campaign was described as “grossly irresponsible” journalism by the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Butler (whom I met on many occasions at the Home Office on a first-name basis). 

In March 2003, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, and Andy Coulson, editor of News of the World testified together before the Commons media select committee. Brooks responded to a question about payments to the police saying that the organization paid the police for information in the past. Asked if she would do so again in the future, her answer was pre-empted by Coulson who stated that, if there is a clear public interest, they would continue with that practice. It was pointed out to Coulson that it was always illegal to pay police officers, regardless of public interest.

In September 2015, Brooks was confirmed as CEO of News UK, the renamed News International, re-establishing the working relationship with News Corp founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch. Brooks and Murdoch’s daughter, Elizabeth, were frequent guests at David Cameron’s Chipping Norton home.

Phone Hacking

By 2002, British newspapers were making frequent use of an organised trade in confidential personal information acquired by Illegal means. The tabloid press routinely used information illicitly gained from hacking private voicemail accounts on mobile phones and hacking computers.

Employees of the News of the World were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories. It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though mobile phones as we know them did not exist then. (Morgan did have a car phone.) Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice.

Press Intimidation

During the fourth investigation into Daniel Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, David Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists.

Cook has been described as the only policeman the Morgan family trusted and has been described as a scapegoat by many commentators on the Morgan case, but the DMIP report is harshly critical of his actions and say they have information which makes a strong case for him being prosecuted.

According to the Guardian, two executives at the News of the World set up a business registered at Southern Investigations’ address. Former senior Met officers were given jobs writing columns in Murdoch’s papers. Lord Stevens, the former Met commissioner, went on to write for the News of the World after his retirement in 2005.

The Death of Daniel Morgan Part One

 

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 18, 2021

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-unsolved-murder

Daniel Morgan was found dead in the carpark of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe in his head. Three blows had been delivered with the blade of the axe to the back of the head followed by a final blow to the side. The murder weapon was a £45 Chinese-manufacture Diamond Brand chopping axe.

Morgan’s family have been waiting 34 years for some answers.  An independent inquiry chaired by Baroness O’Loan was set up eight years ago. The panel started work formally on 17 September 2013 and expected to report within a year of “the documentation being made available”. The final documents were not received from the Metropolitan Police until March 2021. Publication of the panel’s report, which was due on May 25, 2021, was further delayed, because the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, insisted that the report be handed to her for vetting before publication.

Southern Investigations

Daniel Morgan had an exceptional memory for small details, such as car registration numbers. In 1984, he set up a detective agency, Southern Investigations, in Thornton Heath, the Chav end of Surrey, southern Greater London near Croydon and ran it with his business partner Jonathan Rees. Morgan had some police contacts, and his work was mainly low-level. 

At the time of his murder, Morgan was having an affair with a woman named Margaret Harrison, an estate agent with two teenage daughters, and had met her at 6:30pm at Regan’s Wine Bar on Brigstock Road, in Thornton Heath shortly before the murder. A short walk from where I am sitting at this moment.

After Morgan’s body was found, the detective assigned to take the lead in the investigation was none other than Sid Fillery. Fillery failed to disclose that he was moonlighting for Southern Investigations or that he and Rees were close friends. A month later, Fillery and two other Catford officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Jonathan Rees

Rees was married to a divorcée called Sharon, with whom he had two children. Sharon Rees had two brothers called Garry and Glenn Vian, described in a Crown Prosecution Service document as “part of the criminal fraternity”. The Vian brothers were employed by Rees at Southern Investigations as “security guards”. Three weeks after the murder, Rees, Fillery, the Vian brothers, and two other CID officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, but all were later released without charge. Garry Vian was jailed for 14 years in 2005 for drugs smuggling. Former Met constable Dean Vian, nephew of Garry and Glenn, said on camera for a TV programme, “My mum told me that Glenn had killed him, and he was paid by Jonathan Rees to do that. … Jonathan Rees and Daniel Morgan had a falling out because they were both with the same woman.” Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, told the programme he absolutely didn’t believe the “love triangle”, Morgan/Harrison/Rees, had anything to do with the murder.

Police Corruption

It seems likely that Morgan was about to expose a case of extensive drug-related police corruption implicating Rees, Fillery and other South London Met officers. Understandably Morgan did not trust the police to investigate; he himself had influential press contacts (among them, at the Daily Mirror, Alastair Campbell, who later became Tony Blair’s press secretary) and might eventually have decided to sell his story.

Morgan was prepared to be “flexible” about the law while pursuing his routine trade of debt collection and snooping on errant spouses. However, Rees seems to have operated at a different level of sleaze. Morgan had a low opinion of the police. Rees loved to socialize with Met officers at Masonic gala events in Croydon.

Failed Investigations

In April 1987, Jonathan Rees was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Daniel Morgan but was released without charge. Between Morgan’s death in 1987 and 2008, five police inquiries were conducted. There were allegations of police corruption, drug trafficking and robbery. Later, police arrested Jonathan Rees and several others on suspicion of murder, along with a serving police officer suspected of leaking information. In 2009 the trial began at the Old Bailey. In March 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions abandoned the case, and the three accused were acquitted, including Jonathan Rees. The case involved some of the longest legal arguments submitted in a trial in the English criminal courts. Nicholas Hilliard QC, for the prosecution, said that defence lawyers might not be able to examine all the documents in the case (750,000 pages dating back over 24 years) in order to ensure a fair trial.

In 2017, four men sued the Met in the high court alleging malicious prosecution. Among them were Rees and his brothers-in-law, Glenn and Garry Vian. They denied charges of murder. Those three lost their case against the Met but won an appeal in 2018 and were awarded £414,000 between them. Sid Fillery worked on the first murder investigation. He had close ties to Rees, and he went on to replace Morgan at Southern Investigations.  A report by the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that used to oversee the Met, said: “In the following months there were rumours and allegations of high-level police corruption and masonic links surrounding the investigation, but no charges resulted.”

Corrupt Journalists

It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though smart phones did not exist then. Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice. When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005 and paid him £150,00 a year for dubious services. Rees had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Andy Coulson later became David Cameron’s press secretary.

During the fourth investigation into Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, Dave Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, when she was editor of the News of the World, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists. Cook’s wife, also a police officer, alleged that there was a campaign of intimidation against them. The staff involved were promoted not reprimanded. Brooks and her husband were frequent guests at prime minister David Cameron’s house.

David Cook

An independent panel chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan was tasked to look at “police involvement in Daniel Morgan’s murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder … and the failure to confront that corruption”. The panel also investigated “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”. Morgan’s killing might be connected to his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”. Rupert Murdoch acquired the News of the World way back in 1969. News UK, the company that owns Murdoch’s British newspapers, including the august Times, declined to comment.

Where Are They Now?

Current home secretary Priti Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger. Fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove was also an honoured guest.

Sid Fillery was subsequently convicted of child porn offences and now helps to run a pub in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Jonathan Rees lives with his mistress Margaret Harrison, yes that Margaret Harrison, in Weybridge, Surrey.

More on the “criminal/ media/political nexus” next week.

Careless People Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 2, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/category/print-edition/columns

“They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Indolent, Shambling Greed

I am not the only writer to have used the phrase “careless people” in relation to Tory politicians. The philosopher John Gray wrote a scathing article in the New Statesman in which he said that the Greensill scandal illuminates a larger truth about David Cameron’s character: “It is not so much the spectacle of indolent, shambling greed that is remarkable; it was only to be expected that a life of mere affluence would fail to satisfy Cameron’s mammoth sense of entitlement. Instead, it is the credulity he displayed.” New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, writes: “It was under Mr Cameron that the UK pursued destructive austerity, a doomed renegotiation with the EU, a botched reorganisation of the NHS, dysfunctional welfare reform, an unworkable net migration target and a delusionary ‘golden era’ with China. The bid to make Greensill Capital a virtual arm of the British state is but the latest fantasy that has unravelled.” Cameron was foolish enough to claim in a new foreword to the paperback edition of his memoirs that austerity left Britain better-prepared for the pandemic! As Cowley explains, “austerity enfeebled the state. Real-terms reserves for public health spending in England fell by 30 per cent from 2015 to 2019, while the prevalence of diabetes and obesity rose. Local authorities, which in less centralised countries were crucial to the pandemic response, lost an average of 60p in every pound of government grants from 2010 to 2020. Cuts to schools increased class sizes, making social distancing harder.”

Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian was also recently quoting the “careless people” passage from F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby, but he was onto this theme eight years ago. “The top 1% of Britons were taking 15% of all income received in the country. This cash is then turned into houses, shares and other assets so that now the top 1% hold over 50% of all Britain’s marketable wealth. And so, inequality is passed down the generations. Today’s headlines offer endless examples. The average London house now costs over half a million, or more than 19 times what the average British worker makes in a year.” 

Cameron Family Money

Cameron’s grandfather Donald was a director at the stockbroking house Panmure Gordon. When he died in 1958, he left £57,000, which would be worth a million today. David Cameron’s father, Ian, also worked at Panmure Gordon and was reported to have trousered £2m when the company was sold to an American firm. He set up Blairmore Holdings Inc in 1982. In 2009, his personal fortune was estimated by the Sunday Times as £ ten million. There have been credible allegations that he had large amounts buried in tax havens.

Cameron is now pleading hard times. “There isn’t really a roadmap for an ex-prime minister…particularly a young one …”   

Bullingdon Bullies

 

In 2012, The Daily Telegraph identified a number of people as being part of a “Chipping Norton Set”. The set included the Camerons, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of Murdoch’s News International and her husband, old-Etonian racehorse trainer and thriller writer Charlie Brooks. Stephen Glover, columnist with the Daily Mail, first coined the term ‘Chipping Norton set’ to describe a privileged bunch of residents and their elite habits. The main protagonists quickly became synonymous with the public view of an out-of-touch ruling class, pandering to their own whims while the nation suffered austerity. Scott Fitzgerald would have found much material here.

Elizabeth Murdoch and former husband Matthew Freud

Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch

Private investigator Daniel Morgan was found dead in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe embedded in his head. His killing is thought to have been motivated by his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”.

When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005. He had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Rees was a suspect in the Morgan investigation.

Current home secretary Priti Patel is insisting that the independent panel, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan, hand its report to her for vetting before publishing it.

 

Austerity and Hypocrisy

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 8 2012

 

There have recently been many references in the press, both in Sri Lanka and the UK, to Marie Antoinette. She was the wife of Louis XVI of France who was deposed by the revolting peasants in 1792. Nine months after the execution of Louis, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason and guillotined.

The French people had at first been charmed by her personality and beauty but  came to loathe  her, accusing “L’Autre-chienne” (“Autrichienne” meaning Austrian (woman) and “Autre-chienne” meaning Other Bitch) of being  a promiscuous, callous spendthrift, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.

Contemporary sources, such as Mary Wolstencraft and Thomas Jefferson, place the blame for the French Revolution and the subsequent reign of terror on Marie Antoinette. This view is summed up by the phrase “let them eat cake”. There is no evidence that she ever uttered this phrase; It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau’s putative autobiography, Les Confessions. “Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”When told the peasants had no bread the princess said ‘Why don’t they eat cake?’

Whenever I visit my local Sathosa, I see a framed photograph of Bandula Gunawardena. Judging from that picture, I would guess that he is not being compared to Marie Antoinette on grounds of charm, beauty or personality. It’s to do with the cake-eating thing. Minister Gunawardena apparently asserted that a family of three could live on  Rs. 7,500 a month. UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva responded: “Minister Bandula Gunawardene’s challenge for a debate on this matter is irrelevant, childish and a waste of time.  It is of no consequence to the people of this country that certain ministers and senior officials of this government have become the laughing stock, but what is unpardonable is that the unwise actions of such people bringing misery to the population.”

Over in the UK, The Sun newspaper, frothing for revenge over the Tories’ failure to protect Murdoch, described Chancellor George Osborne as the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century. Marie Antoinette has come to symbolise the indifference of the rulers to the sufferings of ordinary people.

 
Throughout the hard times of the 1970s, British citizens were exhorted by governments, both Labour and Conservative, to tighten belts and accept wages that did not keep up with inflation.

There was no evidence that the austerity was being shared across all classes. On 31 December 1973, Edward Heath’s Tory government enforced a three-day working week to preserve dwindling fuel supplies. Electricity was switched off on a rota basis between seven a.m. and midnight. Television companies switched off at 10.30pm. Energy Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, won notoriety for advising the nation to “clean our teeth in the dark”. His own house was photographed with all lights blazing.

In the UK currently, the question is not whether the masses should eat cake, but whether they can afford to eat Cornish pasties. The current coalition government have been savagely cutting public services to patch up the mess caused by greedy banksters who continue to draw large salaries and bonuses. In the recent budget, Osborne cut income tax rate for the 300,000 richest households, while 4.4 million pensioners are set to lose out by £84 a year. The strategy was to boost business and the rich by raising tax allowances – and forget about the unemployed and the lowest earners. That old ‘trickle down’ myth again.

Labour MP John Mann zeroed in on one particular aspect of the Budget and asked Osborne when he had last eaten a pasty at Greggs the bakers. Osborne was discombobulated by this and had probably forgotten that his Budget included a VAT increase on Cornish pasties. Greggs chief executive Ken McMeikan denounced Osborne as out of touch, and warned hundreds of jobs were at stake if pasty prices were raised by 20%.

 

One tweet suggested Osborne was then probably subjected to a Treasury presentation where he was told that pasties were “similar to mini boeufs en croute”.
The greasy spinmeisters went into action and Osborne’s fellow old-Etonian and Bullingdon member David Cameron was ready to fend off the pasty attacks from the press. “I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or one of their large ones. I have got a feeling I opted for the large one, and very good it was too.”

Indefatigable investigative reporters ferreted out the information that the West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet where he thought he enjoyed his last pasty closed two years ago. Gavin Williams, the boss of the West Cornwall Pasty Company, was not interested in Cameron’s endorsement of his product. He wanted ‘clarity and leadership’ from the prime minister.

One disaffected Tory MP reminded The Guardian that it was Osborne who brought in Andy Coulson to handle the media for Cameron. Coulson’s effectiveness was hampered by the fact that he was arrested (and has since been imprisoned) for criminal activities on behalf of the Murdoch empire.

Another said that Osborne misjudged the budget by failing to spot the significance of what has become known as the ‘granny tax’. It is not immediately obvious what is more depressing, the inane antics of the press, the ham-fisted attempts at populism by wealthy politicians or the total disregard of those in power for what ordinary people’s lives are actually like. Politicians insensitive to the suffering of ordinary people while they themselves enjoy a VVIP life-style should remember what happened to Marie Antoinette.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-viewpoint/item/4829-austerity-and-hypocrisy.html#sthash.UZnFOuOi.dpuf

 

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