Peter Jukes explains how he came to be involved in reporting the Daniel Morgan murder and why you should care
Daniel Morgan was a private investigator who was murdered in South East London in 1987. So what? I hear you think. Why should I care about this murder more than any other? The list of reasons is exhaustive, but those who have listened to the entirety of Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder Story will give almost always give the following two. The first is that Daniel Morgan’s murder is the most investigated in British history. That’s a fact. The second is that for a case that has come under such intense scrutiny, it is likely to be one that is least likely to have been reported upon by any form of media.
Having been murdered so callously in South London, Daniel Morgan’s character and his case has since been subject to conspiracy and police cover-up of the most insidious nature. The case itself has also acted as a gateway in exposing the widespread nature of collusion between law enforcement and newspapers and is intimately linked to the relatively recent phone hacking scandal. As you might expect, this rabbit hole is far too deep to report upon in this article, but even the aforementioned reasons might leave you questioning why such a case has seemingly been erased in mainstream media. As the Podcast asks prior to each episode, ‘If you haven’t heard this story, ask yourself, why?’
Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder is presented via podcast by Peter Jukes who has also produced each episode with Deeivya Meir. Over 10 episodes, Jukes meticulously examines all aspects of Daniel Morgan’s murder, drawing upon evidence from the key protagonists, suspects and observers in the case to paint a vivid picture of the murder of an innocent private investigator and the subsequent layers of deceit and coverup that have drawn public awareness away from the case. Such was the success of the podcast that it topped Apple’s iTunes charts and since its release, Jukes has written a book in conjunction with Daniel Morgan’s brother Alistair, presenting further evidence in the case. Furthermore, a second podcast series is planned, reporting upon the most recent developments in the inquiry.
Those who have listened to Untold are often struck by how rife corruption was in the upper echelons of British policing. Here in Britain, many would prefer to believe that corruption is something confined to developing nations and Banana republics and that British and English institutions and law enforcement are above and exempt from such bribery and deceit. The events in this case, however, are more sinister and gripping than any piece of fiction could hope to be but Jukes seems to have become immune to the level of corruption. ’I suppose I’ve accustomed myself to the corruption. In some sense, I expected this from the state. Police officers have so much power that, if corrupt, can run amok. They can frame you. Arrest you. Deprive you of your liberty. They can use informants or criminal to target you, or hurt you in return for dropping charges. All this is shocking, but not unknown and unexpected. What really surprised me, and continues to appal, is the corruption in the media around this crime and its consequences.’
If Daniel Morgan’s body lies in the middle of a maze of police corruption, bribery, conspiracy, hacking and political cover up then Peter Jukes is the man spearheading the search for justice, although this seems far too bland a description for a man who has spent most of his life first in theatre, then as an author and most recently in television. ‘If there’s any consistent thread in my haphazard and eclectic career it’s that I hate being defined and pigeon holed.’
Whilst writing about the phone hacking scandal in 2012, Jukes encountered Daniel Morgan’s story after speaking with Daniel’s brother, Alistair and immediately sensed that ‘that this was a black hole which, through its gravitational pull, was connected to something very big and hidden.’
Jukes’ early life set him firmly on the pathway to distrust hierarchy. ‘My father was bipolar, and an unpredictable maverick, getting himself bankrupt several times. Back in the 70s, to protect me, my mother told me he had lost his money through the collapse of secondary banks, and so I began to distrust the whole system of money and hierarchy.’
If his early life set him on the pathway to distrust hierarchy, then there’s no doubt that his professional life has further cemented his cynicism toward authority. As eclectic as his career may have been, Jukes has always faced the same problem. ‘It seems that almost everywhere I go I encounter the same problem: hierarchy and monopoly power. I noticed this first with the central role of the National Theatre and the ridiculous power given to artist directors in the 80’s. People who didn’t act, sing, write or perform were given more powers than anyone else – artistic and employment powers. It was very chilling to have non-artists deciding who did or didn’t get commissions.’
Jukes also witnessed first-hand the concentration of commissioning power throughout the 90’s in television. ‘TV was relatively freer, especially when ITV and BBC had lots of regional commissioning. But I saw that centralise and concentrate until, by the mid noughties, one person commissioned 70% of all UK domestic drama.’ Unlike others, Jukes addressed the issue brazenly in a piece entitled Why Britain Can’t Do The Wire. The piece was published in Prospect Magazine in 2009 and Jukes describes it as the ‘longest career suicide notes in TV drama.’
As suicidal as it may have seemed, the article was Jukes’ ticket to pursue a career in more unrestricted journalism. ‘I’m proud I told the truth and it gave me the platform of honest reporting, which led me to the phone hacking scandal, live coverage of the phone hacking trial, the Byline crowd funded journalism site, and then the Daniel Morgan Murder podcast.’
Whilst the success of Untold could not be tempered and has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in drawing public attention to the case, Jukes has witnessed first-hand the press tactics employed to divert attention from the failings of the investigation. ‘This has happened too many times to mention. You can see the media campaign started by (Jonathan) Rees in 1987. It continued 25 years later, when the Evening Standard released the ridiculous story about Rebekah Brooks and the police horse just before Jacqui Hames gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. It carried on through the hacking trial with the same journalist, who subsequently got a job at the Sunday Times, concocting a story about lawyers and corporations involved in ‘Blue Chip Hacking’ which was actually a spinoff of the Daniel Morgan third murder investigation. Rebekah Brooks relied on this ruse in court, and with 70% of our media reliant on companies who collaborated with Southern Investigations, this spin will take years to die.’
Within this system, Jukes also refers to a construct of ‘corruption by proxy’ which only served to further stifle the public exposure to Untold. ‘I’ve seen senior journalists tell Alastair that his brother’s murder is a “fantastic story” but he couldn’t cover it “for political reasons”. I’ve had photographers refuse to get involved in the podcast because they don’t ‘want to put my head above the parapet’. I’ve seen many broadcasters and papers back off through fear of both the police and the Murdoch empire.’
Whilst Jukes is unrepentantly cynical and critical of newspapers, he also appears to be more positive on some of the successes bought about as a consequence of the Leveson enquiry. ‘On the free press issue – things are tough now, because our narrowly owned press, dominated by billionaires who do not pay most their taxes in the UK, are so vocal and vituperative. But they can no longer hack your phones, bug your apartment, burgle your house, or bribe cops to pass on your records, or phone companies to pass on your intimate contacts. In that sense, we the public are freer from some of their intrusion and bullying. All they have left is propaganda.’
In today’s vernacular, Fake News is used as a synonym for propaganda. For many the idea that Fake News and manipulation of facts is a new phenomenon is wrong, particularly since all newspapers and media outlets serve an agenda. Jukes is in agreement with this. ‘Fake news or alternative facts has always been the reason that rich men bought newspapers. For 150 years there was an alternative model – independent newspapers funded by advertising – but ultimately the battle over what is true and what is propaganda has been at the heart of modern politics in the secular era.’
Given his unrelenting criticism of mainstream media, it may surprise some that Jukes does indeed have journalists that he trusts as sources. However, his decision to place trust in journalists is not made without further criticism of the system and a mindful approach to the qualities he values in his sources. ‘Too many British so called journalists are actually op-ed columnists, pushing a particular line. But you can tell very quickly if a journalist is good by the number of sources, the detail in their writing, and letting the facts speak for themselves rather than hectoring.’
In spite of this, there is an element of empathy for those who work in the same restrictive system that Jukes wrote about in his Prospect Magazine piece. ‘The problem is not them, but the tyrannical nature of newsroom management, cost cutting due to failing ad revenues and of course the overwhelming self-interest of the handful of tax shy billionaires who own the press. These are a real threat to free speech and, internally, I think British print journalists must be one of the most censored, or self-censored, groups in the country.’
Jukes’ image as an unbiased, truth-searching writer is further cemented by his approach towards those journalists that he does trust. Instead of working with those who share a particular ideology or mindset, Jukes is far more interested in the search for facts. ‘I try to curate my new sources from journalists I trust. By trusting them as journalists I don’t mean I share their political agenda or ideology: I mean I trust them to ‘follow the story’ wherever it leads, to tell the truth as accurately as possible even if it goes against their ideology. That’s the point of journalism. It’s an empirical truth finding quest, not partisan polemic.’
Jukes is not the first and likely not the last to point out the shortcomings of the traditional media but is almost dismissive in the future of the traditional means by which we receive news. ‘Trust in print journalism in Britain is the lowest in the EU – something like minus 50 in last year’s European Broadcasting Union report. Sales continue to plummet. Though these papers can still terrify politicians, I think historically this is the death throes of that model.’
This last point is echoed by the means in which many individuals now gain access to news stories, whether via social media, smartphone apps or internet blogs. For many, the advent of the internet and the opportunity of more widespread, faster communication was a panacea for freer communication and greater freedom of expression. Once again however, Jukes is more pessimistic. ‘The internet is perhaps the biggest ever concentration of monopoly power conceivable, with Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon creating global corporations which make Standard Oil a century ago look like small sideshow.’
Whilst traditional media may have encouraged apathy and a ack of self-awareness of news stories, Jukes identifies the growing developments in technology as requiring individuals to be more dynamic and engaged. ‘I think the economics of the internet will force us all to be much more active as individuals, if not as citizen journalists then at least as citizen editors as the traditional mastheads of authority decline further and we have to make our own decisions which sources and journalists we trust. It’s already happening to a certain extent on Facebook and Twitter. We’re all becoming editors of our own news sites.’ He’s also keen to endorse open source information sharing websites such as Bellingcat, for which he takes the credit for naming, as platforms upon which to source evidence rather than opinion.
Public apathy and a lack of awareness are central to the Daniel Morgan case and as in many cases public opinion can be a powerful force in eliciting systemic change. Jukes highlights the closure of the News of the World as a case in point. ‘There is so much misinformation around in the Mail, the Express and the Sun, I don’t think the public can be expected to know how mendacious their main stream press it. When they do discover, for example, how News of the World really obtained its salacious weekend stories, through phone hacking and bribing cops, the public rebelled, boycotted, and the paper was closed.’ Furthermore, he does see signs of progression amongst the mainstream media. Not only have there been significant restrictions in the way in which the journalists can obtain information but ‘both the Washington Post and the New York Times have stepped up in the race to investigate Donald Trump and his business interests. And it was heartening to see proper journalists across the world teaming up with Center of Investigative journalism to analyse the Panama Papers, and the hidden global economy of off shore money.’ In a wider context, these are small victories for those seeking a more open and freer press but nonetheless such progress should not be dismissed.
After three decades of investigation, the lines between justice for Daniel Morgan, justice for his family and justice for the public have become blurred and are open to interpretation based on the viewpoint of each individual involved within the case. Jukes acknowledges this point. ‘I think the family would agree that ‘justice for Daniel’ is not about criminal convictions now. Indeed, they were deeply sceptical of the criminal justice system decades ago, and were reluctant at first about the fourth and fifth murder investigations. Alistair (Morgan) has fought for 30 years for transparency and daylight over what happened. He wants us all to know so it can’t happen again. That’s a longer idea and more principled idea of justice, that Daniel’s murder can somehow reform the police, the media and criminal justice system, to stop this corruption ever repeating itself.’
Unsurprisingly, Daniel Morgan’s case remains under investigation and for those who have subscribed to Untold or are familiar with the case, Peter Jukes outlines where the case currently stands:
‘The Daniel Morgan case is currently the subject of an official report – the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel which is like the Hillsborough panel – an exercise in research requesting documents from all concerned parties, in this case mainly to the police and News UK, Murdoch’s British publishing subsidiary. Unlike a public inquiry, however, the panel has not powers of subpoena or forcing disclosure. So, it relies on cooperation. The Morgan family agreed to this route on the assumption that, if there were gaps in the panel, the promised second part of the Leveson Inquiry in the police and the press would examine matters more forcefully and compelling witnesses through the powers open to a full public inquiry. The government seem to be wavering over Leveson Part 2, which is of great concern to everyone who knows the level of coverup and complicity between police and press over the Daniel Morgan murder.’
Peter Jukes is the epitome of a journalist in the purest sense – searching for facts amongst the howls and cackles of tabloid headlines. We’ve yet to find out if the outcome of the Daniel Morgan murder enquiry will yield justice for all those involved, but Peter Jukes’ relentless pursuit for the facts of the case and his detailed analysis of all aspects in Untold: The Daniel Morgan murder enquiry will have undoubtedly played a huge role in drawing the attention to a case to all those who consider a free and open press of paramount importance.
You can download Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder on the Apple iTunes store
Alternatively, visit the website at untoldmurder.com
or follow the links
Daniel Morgan Murder : 10-part Podcast on the most investigated murder in British History
Our thanks go to Peter Jukes for his time in making this interview happen