Posts Tagged ‘Paddy French’

CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

♦♦♦

THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

♦♦♦

EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

♦♦♦
Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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ROGUE JOURNALISTS & BENT COPPERS

February 19, 2015

corrupt_header_02

IN JULY last year, Home Secretary Theresa May set up an independent panel to investigate the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan.

She appointed Baroness Nuala O’Loan, former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman from 2000 to 2007, to head the inquiry.

The Home Secretary said:

“The remit of the Panel is to shine a light on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan’s murder, its background and the handling of the case over the period since 1987.”

“Serious allegations of police corruption have surrounded the investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan.”

THE STORY SO FAR ... JONATHAN REES (left) the partner of the murdered Daniel Morgan — found with an axe buried in his face in a pub car park in 1987 —has long been a suspect in the case. The previous article, An Axe To Grind, told of the dispute between the two men over Rees' claim that he had been mugged of £18,000. One of the first police officers on the murder investigation was detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right) who did not tell his superiors he was a personal friend of Rees. At the inquest, a witness sensationally claimed Rees told him he was looking for someone to murder his partner. It was also revealed that Sid Fillery had retired from Scotland Yard — and stepped into the dead Daniel Morgan's shoes as Rees' new partner. In 2008 Rees and three other men were charged with the murder and Fillery with perverting the course of justice but the case never reached a jury, finally collapsing in March 2011. Although the judge, Mr Justice Maddison, noted that police had "ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the accused", all five defendants have launched a £4 million compensation case against the Metropolitan Police Service. Photos: PA

THE STORY SO FAR …
JONATHAN REES (left) the partner of the murdered Daniel Morgan — found with an axe buried in his face in a pub car park in 1987 — has long been a suspect in the case. The previous article, An Axe To Grind, told of the dispute between the two men over Rees’ claim that he had been mugged of £18,000. One of the first police officers on the murder investigation was detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right) who did not tell his superiors he was a personal friend of Rees. At the inquest, a witness sensationally claimed Rees told him he was looking for someone to murder his partner. It was also revealed that Sid Fillery had retired from Scotland Yard — and stepped into the dead Daniel Morgan’s shoes as Rees’ new partner. In 2008 Rees and three other men were charged with the murder and Fillery with perverting the course of justice but the case never reached a jury, finally collapsing in March 2011. Although the judge, Mr Justice Maddison, noted that police had “ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the accused”, all five defendants have since launched a £4 million compensation case against the Metropolitan Police Service.
Photos: PA

“I have made it clear that the Independent Panel should leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of the truth.”

This was, in fact, Theresa May’s second attempt to get the process under way.

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THIS 3,800 word article is the second instalment of an investigation that started more than a decade ago.
For 30 years the Daniel Morgan murder was largely ignored by the UK newspapers and broadcasters.
In part, this was because the News of the World was in a commercial relationship with Southern Investigations.
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She’d originally set up the inquiry in May 2013 but the judge she chose to head it — Sir Stanley Burnton — controversially stepped down six months later for what were described as “personal reasons”.

In fact, he lost the confidence of some of his fellow panel members because he took decisions without consulting them.

One of the areas Baroness O’Loan will be examining is the relationship between tabloid journalists and police detectives.

In this second part of The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency, Press Gang charts the rise of Southern Investigations as one of the market leaders in the illegal sale of valuable confidential Scotland Yard information.

Some of this story is already in the public domain.

But Press Gang has also obtained dramatic new material from police sources.

These contacts received no payment.

♦♦

AFTER THE sensational events surrounding Daniel Morgan’s murder died away, Southern Investigations began to expand a profitable part of the business.

The dead man’s former partner Jonathan Rees and retired police detective sergeant Sid Fillery became one of the major clearing houses of confidential information provided by corrupt police officers.

They sold the information to Britain’s tabloid press, especially the News of the World.

DANIEL MORGAN THE UNSOLVED murder of Daniel Morgan has cast a long shadow on the reputation of Scotland Yard. As Tory MP Tracey Crouch has said: "There is something about the Daniel Morgan murder that makes the Establishment very nervous ... it is important we find out what it is and get justice for Daniel and his family." Photo: Morgan Family

DANIEL MORGAN
THE UNSOLVED murder of Daniel Morgan casts a dark shadow on the reputation of Scotland Yard. As Tory MP Tracey Crouch has said: “There is something about the Daniel Morgan murder that makes the Establishment very nervous … it is important we find out what it is and get justice for Daniel and his family.”
Photo: Morgan Family

Guardian reporter Nick Davies, in his book Hack Attack, stated:

“In a single year, 1996-97, the News of the World paid Southern a total of more than £160,000.”

Fillery later gave a revealing interview about the agency’s activities for the 2004 book Untouchables.

“Sid Fillery,” wrote authors Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn, “is a big jovial, Toby jug of a man.”

“With sad spaniel’s eyes and a laugh as large as the London Palladium, he seems on first impressions as if he could have stepped out of an episode of Dixon of Dock Green.”

Fillery said one of the agency’s key contacts was News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak.

In 1989, two years after the murder of Daniel Morgan, Marunchak came to the Victory pub in Thornton Heath to talk to the partners about doing business with the paper.

Rees and Fillery quickly built up a profitable business selling information to News of the World reporters.

They were even involved with the paper’s now-disgraced investigative reporter Mahzer Mahmood.

On one occasion, Fillery dressed up as an English private secretary while Mahmood played his role of the ‘fake sheik’.

They were also involved in the story about Paddy Ashdown’s affair with a House of Commons secretary.

Documents stolen from the office of the Liberal politician’s solicitor were being touted around Fleet Street.

Southern Investigations were asked by Alex Marunchak to meet the man who was trying to sell them.

But a corrupt Scotland Yard detective, Duncan Hanrahan, who was in the Southern Investigations office at the time, sabotaged the meeting.

Hanrahan had been one of the detectives who “investigated” the robbery of Jonathan Rees back in 1986 when muggers allegedly took £18,000 off him.

(See Part One: An Axe To Grind for more on this.)

CORRUPT COPPER DUNCAN HANRAHAN came to grief when he was caught red-handed trying to corrupt a member of Scotland Yard's anti-corruption team. In 1999 he was gaoled for eight years and four months after pleading guilty to 11 offences, including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Photo: PA

CORRUPT COPPER
DUNCAN HANRAHAN came to grief when he was caught red-handed trying to corrupt a member of Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption team. In 1999 he was gaoled for eight years and four months after pleading guilty to 11 offences, including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Photo: PA

Authors Gillard and Flynn say Hanrahan told them he had a grudge against Marunchak after he gave him information which turned up in another newspaper.

Hanrahan believed Marunchak, instead of using the story in the News of the World and paying him, had given the information to a rival newspaper and pocketed the proceeds himself.

In retaliation, Hanrahan tipped off the City of London police who got to the rendezvous with the man selling the Ashdown documents before Southern Investigation’s man could get there.

♦♦♦

IN THE 1990s, Southern Investigations were asked to investigate allegations that some Murdoch journalists were moonlighting and selling information to rivals.

At the same time, the News of the World had spies on its main tabloid rivals.

In 1994, for example, Piers Morgan was News of the World editor.

In his book The Insider, Morgan wrote:

“… we have one of the Sunday Mirror’s journalists on our pay roll, bunging him £250 a week for a rundown of their stories, and more if he gives us a big one.”

“It’s a disgrace, of course, and totally unethical.”

“But very handy.”

“To make it even more amusing, he’s their crime correspondent.”

“We also, unbelievably, have a similar source on the Sunday People, a secretary who does the same for a bit less money.”

“So for under £500 a week we always know what our competitors are doing.”

In November 1995, when Piers Morgan became editor of the Daily Mirror, he moved against the spies.

“The Sunday Mirror journalist and the Sunday People secretary have been fired.”

“I’d given them a month to stop and incredibly they had just carried on.”

“So I fired them.”

TABLOID SPIES PIERS MORGAN was editor of the News of the World when the paper was paying spies on rival Mirror group papers.  Photo: PA

TABLOID SPIES
PIERS MORGAN was editor of the News of the World when the paper was spying on rival Mirror group papers.
Photo: PA

As the 1990s progressed, the links between the News of the World reporters and Southern Investigations deepened.

In 1996, Alex Marunchak and Greg Miskiw, another News of the World reporter, became directors of an import / export company called Abbeycover.

Abbeycover, which apparently imported alcohol from eastern Europe, had its registered address at Southern Investigations’ Thornton Heath offices.

(In July 2014 Greg Miskiw was given a six months prison sentence after pleading guilty to phone hacking in the same trial that saw the conviction of Andy Coulson.)

And the money wasn’t just flowing from the News of the World — Southern Investigations were also paying Marunchak for what it called “consultancy services”.

In 1998, for example, the News of the World reporter was allegedly paid hundreds of pounds.

No-one is prepared to say what the reporter did in return for these “consultancy services”.

There have also been allegations that his children’s school fees were occasionally paid by the agency and that his credit card was cleared by Rees and Fillery.

Marunchak denies all these allegations (see note 4).

♦♦♦

IN THE late 1990s Scotland Yard made a determined bid to stop tabloid reporters corrupting serving officers to get their hands on confidential police information.

Its secret anti-corruption team, CIB3, targeted Southern Investigations in Operation Two Bridges (originally called Operation Nigeria).

There was evidence that a group of corrupt serving and retired police officers were passing valuable information from inside Scotland Yard to the agency.

BUGGED JONATHAN REES caught by secret police cameras outside the offices of Southern Investigations. The premises had also been broken into and bugs planted ...  Photo: PA

BUGGED
JONATHAN REES caught by secret police cameras outside the offices of Southern Investigations. The premises had also been broken into and bugged …
Photo: PA

At the same time, the murder of Daniel Morgan remained unsolved and the family’s campaign against the Metropolitan Police was embarrassing the force.

“I find it incredible that it took ten years for the Met to install a bug in their offices — why wasn’t it done years earlier?” asks Alastair Morgan.

In his book, Bent Coppers, former BBC reporter Graeme McLagan noted:

“Southern [Investigations] were also starting to try and undermine the Yard’s crackdown on corruption by spreading stories and rumours about some of those involved with it…”

In June 1999 CIB3, the Met’s anti-corruption unit, launched Operation Two Bridges.

They installed a bug in the offices of Southern Investigations in the south London suburb of Thornton Heath.

Documents written by anti-corruption detectives were later leaked to McLagan.

One of these stated:

“For a considerable period of time, there has been much spoken about DS Sid Fillery and his business partner … Rees being involved in corrupt activities involving serving police officers.”

Another stated:

” … the intelligence indicates that Fillery and Rees are corrupters of police officers and participants in organised crime.”

Rees and Fillery, the report went on:

“… are alert, cunning and devious individuals who have current knowledge of investigative methods and techniques which may be used against them.”

“They use some of the techniques in their own daily activities.”

Between June and September 1999, anti-corruption detectives monitored the day-to-day business of the detective agency.

Officers listened as Southern Investigations obtained information about the royal family from police officers to sell to newspapers.

Transcripts revealed that News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak was one of the agency’s major clients.

In one phone conversation, in July, Rees said the paper owed Southern Investigations £7,555.

In this period the agency sent 66 invoices to the News of the World — worth £13,000 — all but one of them addressed to Alex Marunchak.

ALEX MARUNCHAK A KEY News of the World executive for several decades, Marunchak was an important customer for Southern Investigations.  Photo: BBC

ALEX MARUNCHAK
A KEY News of the World executive for several decades, Marunchak was an important customer for Southern Investigations. Marunchak comes from a Ukrainian family and for many years acted as an interpreter for Scotland Yard.
Photo: BBC

In September 2002, Graeme McLagan wrote an article for the Guardian.

He revealed that Rees had sold information to News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak about the criminal Kenneth Noye, convicted of the M25 road rage murder.

When McLagan asked Marunchak if he disputed that he had bought information from Rees, Marunchak said:

“You haven’t heard me admit it.”

♦♦♦

ONE OF the corrupt police officers who was bugged talking to Southern Investigations was a detective constable called Tom Kingston.

He was later gaoled for three and a half years for stealing and selling amphetamines.

The bugs revealed Kingston had a police contact who was prepared to sell information.

“It took anti-corruption detectives little effort,” wrote McLagan in his book Bent Coppers, “to work out that Kingston’s contact was one of his best friends, and that he was passing, through the suspended detective, sensitive information from a confidential police publication called the Police Gazette.”

“Kingston was then selling it to a reporter with a Sunday tabloid newspaper, a regular visitor to Southern Investigations.”

McLagan did not name this journalist but Press Gang has established it was Doug Kempster, then a reporter on the Mirror-owned Sunday Mirror.

Before joining the Mirror stable in 1996, Kempster had worked for the News of the World.

McLagan did not name the police officer but Press Gang understands it was Paul Valentine, at the time attached to the Special Escort Group based in Barnes.

In 2002 McLagan asked Kempster, who was working as a government press officer by then, about his links with Southern.

Kempster told him:

“It’s something we just don’t comment on.”

Some of the information obtained by Kempster also found its way to another journalist, Gary Jones on the Daily Mirror.

Jones also bought information directly from the agency.

(Jones will be familiar to Press Gang readers from the Whodunnit? article in the series about Piers Morgan, A Pretty Despicable Man.

Jones was the News of the World crime reporter whose contacts gave him access to a confidential Scotland Yard report in 1994.

This sensationally revealed that Princess Diana had been making anonymous phone calls to London art dealer Oliver Hoare.

GARY JONES A FORMER News of the World crime reporter, Jones followed Piers Morgan to the Daily Mirror. Today, he's a senior executive editor at the Mirror Group. He's always declined to talk to Press Gang.  Photo: Rebecca Television

GARY JONES
A FORMER News of the World crime reporter, Jones followed Piers Morgan to the Daily Mirror. He was one of the most important customers of Southern Investigations. Currently a senior executive editor at the Mirror Group, he’s always declined to talk to Press Gang
Photo: Rebecca Television

It is not known if Southern Investigations were involved in this tale.)

In July 1999 Rees and Kingston were overheard discussing an officer in the diplomatic protection squad whose firearms certificate was withdrawn because he was taking steroids.

The information led to an article written by Gary Jones.

In March 2011 the BBC Panorama programme uncovered another extract from the transcripts generated in the bugging operation at Southern Investigations.

The programme revealed that, in July 1999, there was an angry exchange between Rees and Gary Jones of the Daily Mirror.

The reporter was under pressure from his accounts department to give more details about the payments he was authorising to Southern Investigations.

Rees insisted that he wasn’t going to provide any more details:

“What we’re doing is illegal, isn’t it?” he said.

“You know I don’t want people coming in and nicking us for criminal offences.”

♦♦♦

JONATHAN REES was given the codename “Avon” during the bugging operation of Southern Investigations.

The transcripts show the relationship between Alex Marunchak of the News of the World and the agency was deep but troubled.

On one occasion, in 1999, Marunchak demanded to know what information the agency were selling to his rival, Doug Kempster of the Sunday Mirror.

In a conversation with Sid Fillery, Rees said he told the News of the World reporter it was none of his business.

When Marunchak hinted that if Southern were engaged in illegal activity, the firm risked being raided by the police, Rees took this as a threat.

He told Fillery that, if Southern or any of its contacts were raided by the police, he would tell the News of the World the names of its reporters who were taking backhanders from Southern Investigations:

“I’ll say your fucking paper will get fucking tipped off about who gets backhanders.”

♦♦♦

AS OPERATION Two Bridges unfolded, anti-corruption detectives felt a successful prosecution against Rees and some of his sources would send a powerful shot across the bows of the tabloids.

One report noted:

“It is likely that journalists and private investigators who actively corrupt serving officers would receive a long custodial sentence if convicted.”

“There will be a high level of media interest in this particular investigation, especially when involving journalists.”

“The Metropolitan Police will undoubtedly benefit if a journalist is convicted of corrupting serving police officers.”

“This will send a clear message to members of the media to consider their own ethical and illegal involvement with employees of the Met in the future.”

Operation Two Bridges came to a dramatic but early close because detectives were forced to deal with Jonathan Rees’ attempts to plant drugs on an innocent woman. 

Even so, detectives still felt they had enough to question four suspects about the illegal sale of confidential Scotland Yard information.

Doug Kempster was arrested at his parents’ home, where a page from the Police Gazette was found.

During the later search of Kempster’s own home:

” … the postman delivered a letter in a large brown envelope addressed to Douglas Kempster … containing a short letter from JR [Jonathan Rees] … also containing an original issue of the copy of the Police Gazette …”

Kempster’s response to all questions put to him was:

“No comment”.

Rees was arrested.

RAIDS ANTI-CORRUPTION DETECTIVES from the Met arrested two serving police officers  suspected of selling confidential information to Jonathan Rees and Mirror group journalist Doug Kempster. Photo: Rebecca Television

RAIDS
ANTI-CORRUPTION DETECTIVES from the Met arrested two serving police officers suspected of selling confidential information to Jonathan Rees and Mirror group journalist Doug Kempster.
Photo: Rebecca Television

Rees claimed that the bug in Southern Investigations violated his human rights.

Kingston was arrested at his home.

He later read out a prepared statement denying his involvement in any illegal activity.

The Met officer, Paul Valentine from the Special Escort Group, was also arrested.

He had no comment to make when he was questioned about the corruption allegations.

♦♦♦

IN 2000, the anti-corruption team submitted an advice file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The report sought advice about whether there was enough evidence to charge the four men — Jonathan Rees, Doug Kempster and serving police officers Tom Kingston and Paul Valentine — with offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The evidence was based mainly on the bugs installed in Southern Investigations in 1999 as part of Operation Two bridges.

In the transcripts, all four suspects were given codenames based on rivers:

Rees is “Avon”

Kempster: “Dart”

Kingston: “Ganges” 

Valentine: “Severn”.

One of the incidents highlighted was the loss of a copy of the Police Gazette in July 1999.

Southern Investigations had given it to Doug Kempster who then gave it to a senior executive on the paper who’d taken it home to read.

Kempster rang Rees to say:

"AVON" CALLING JONATHAN REES: when police searched his his home and office, they found copies of a confidential internal police magazine ... Rees claimed his human rights had been violated. Photo: PA

“AVON” CALLING
JONATHAN REES: when police searched his home and office, they found copies of a confidential internal police magazine. Rees claimed the search violated his human rights …
Photo: PA

“I can’t believe it— he’s fucking thrown it out — the fucking wanker — why did he take it home?”

For legal reasons Press Gang can’t name this executive.

Detective constable Tom Kingston, who was in the office, told Rees that Kempster had to get it back:

” … or else he won’t get any more.”

A couple of hours later, Kempster himself arrived at Southern Investigations.

He agreed to pay £200 to make up for the lost edition of the Police Gazette.

Rees and Kingston then moved on to discuss an identity parade where the M25 road rage murderer Kenneth Noye was due to appear.

They had given this information to Kempster who had published an article in the Sunday Mirror about it.

The price for the information, allegedly, was £400 split £100 for an unnamed police officer with the remaining £300 to be shared between Kingston and Rees.

Other transcripts indicate that the police officer Paul Valentine may have been receiving a monthly retainer of £150 from Southern Investigations.

On another occasion, Kempster visited Southern Investigations and he and Rees discussed the contents of an edition of Police Gazette.

Kempster responds to one article by saying:

“Asians look a lot better dead” and he and Rees joke about a “one-legged nigger.”

The report from the anti-corruption team concludes:

“sensitive police documents have been obtained without authority and passed to journalists for a financial consideration by Rees and Kingston.”

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.

♦♦♦
Published: 19 February 2015
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

 

NOTES
1
There have been recent developments in this affair — see Daniel Morgan page here 
for more details.
2
This article is part two of a series first published on the Rebecca Television website in September 2011.
To view part one, click on An Axe To Grind.
Back in 2011, Rees and Fillery were sent letters outlining the article and asking for their comments. 

Fillery never replied but Rees’ solicitor said:
“Mr Rees has not the spare time to reply to the many questions that have been raised, often on the basis of ill-informed or malicious allegations.”
“Defamation claims are being pursued … in respect of some past publications; and the police have been asked to investigate any use by journalists or others of confidential or forged material improperly released by police officers or other.”
No legal action was taken.
Jonathan Rees’ position has been explored in a Mail on Sunday article which can be read here.
3

This article draws on material provided by the Morgan family as well as by other journalists, including Nick Davies of the Guardian. Former BBC journalist Graeme McLagan devoted a detailed chapter on the murder as early as 2003 in his book Bent Coppers.  It also featured in Laurie Flynn & Michael Gillard’s Untouchables. Several books on the phone hacking scandal have highlighted the key role the murder plays in the saga: Nick Davies’ Hack Attack, Tom Watson MP & Martin Hickman’s Dial M For Murdoch and Peter Jukes’ The Fall Of The House Of Murdoch.
4
Alex Marunchak gave a detailed rebuttal of the allegations made against him in an interview with the Press Gazette website. Read it here.
5
The current Daniel Morgan Independent Panel comprises Baroness Nuala O’Loan (chair), Professor Rodney Morgan (ex HM Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales) and Samuel Pollock OBE (chief executive of the Northern Ireland Policing Board).
6

Press Gang editor Paddy French made several programmes on the murder while a current affairs producer at ITV Wales. 

 ♦♦♦

NEXT
THE NO 1 Corrupt Detective Agency continues with Porridge. Jonathan Rees was acquitted of murder and Sid Fillery of attempting to pervert the course of justice. But the Daniel Morgan murder investigation brought them to book for other crimes — Rees for conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent mother and Fillery of making indecent images of children being sexually abused.

♦♦♦

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LYING TO LEVESON

November 10, 2014

LYING TO LEVESON

THE LEVESON Inquiry refused to hear serious allegations against Mazher Mahmood.

The claims were made in a Press Gang statement which presented evidence 

 — that Mahmood committed perjury in some of the criminal cases he generated.

—  lied about his connections to a notorious firm of private detectives

— employed a convicted criminal as a key member of his team.

The Leveson Inquiry wouldn’t accept the evidence because there wasn’t time to consider it properly.

Even so, the Inquiry was a bruising experience for Mahmood.

Decades of telling lies suddenly caught up with “Fake Sheik”.

When he told Leveson he left the Sunday Times in 1988 because of a “disagreement”, it wasn’t true.

He was about to be sacked.

And when he claimed his News of the World articles had secured 253 convictions, he was exposed again.

A Press Gang investigation forced him to concede lawyers could only find 94.

But it could have been much, much worse …

♦♦♦

AFTER THE closure of the News of the World in July 2011, Mazher Mahmood enjoyed the protection and patronage of Rupert Murdoch.

While hundreds of people lost their jobs, Mahmood was kept on the payroll.

He was destined to join the planned Sun on Sunday.

But when Murdoch decided to delay the launch until the hacking scandal cooled down, Mahmood was assigned to the Sunday Times.

The paper’s editor was John Witherow.

This meant that the “Fake Sheik” was a Sunday Times reporter when he gave evidence to Leveson in December 2011.

When the Press Gang investigation concluded that Mahmood had lied about the number of convictions he’d secured at the News of the World, we wrote to John Witherow.

Initially, he didn’t answer.

It wasn’t until after Channel 4 News took an interest in the story that Witherow finally replied:

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THE EDITOR of the Sunday Times on his way to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in January 2012. He was happy to answer questions at the Inquiry but reluctant to discuss Press Gang allegations about Mazher Mahmood. Today, he’s editor of The Times.
Photo: PA

“We are indeed doing a thorough investigation into the number that Mazher supplied,” he told us.

“I will examine the results and decide what to do when I know the outcome.”

Channel 4 News didn’t pursue the story and Witherow never came back to us.

However, by that time Press Gang had submitted a statement to Leveson about Mahmood’s fake convictions.

The Inquiry asked Mahmood to respond.

His employers commissioned the law-firm Linklaters to carry out an independent investigation. 

Their report has never been made public.

Instead, Mahmood was allowed to summarise it in a further statement to the Inquiry.

He said Linklaters “verified” only 94 of the 253 people he claimed had been convicted.

He then came up with three reasons to explain the discrepancy.

First, he claimed that he was counting the number of offences rather individual defendants.

Second, he included “over 140” illegal immigrants in the total who he claimed were deported.

But Linklaters wouldn’t accept these as criminal convictions.

“I apologise for my error in including these individuals …” Mahmood told the Inquiry.

Third, he included 13 people disciplined by their professional body.

“Again, I understand from Linklaters that such actions do not amount to prosecutions or convictions and so I apologise to the Inquiry …”

He insisted, though, that:

“I am personally confident that my work as a journalist has led to substantially more convictions than the 94 individuals …”

Press Gang submitted a second statement pointing out that the News of the World always talked of Mahmood’s score in terms of individuals.

SIR JOHN STEVENS THE FAKE SHEIK enjoyed exceptionally good relations with Scotland Yard. In 2003 he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to the Commissioner's offices at New Photo: PA OF the Metropolitan Police invited Mazher Mahmood and Andy Coulson to his office in Scotland Yard following the CPS decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair Photo: PA

SIR JOHN STEVENS
 METROPOLITAN POLICE Commissioner from 2000 to 2005, Sir John Stevens— now Lord Stevens — was on good terms with the “Fake Sheik”. In his 2008 autobiography, Mahmood tells the story of how he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to have drinks with Stevens at New Scotland Yard in 2003. It was shortly after the Crown Prosecution Service decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair because one of Mahmood’s informants was considered an unreliable witness …
Photo: PA

For example, in March 1996, the paper reported that the conviction of a solicitor

“brings the total number of victims successfully prosecuted after being exposed by Mazher to a staggering EIGHTY in four years.”

This part of our statement was accepted — and can be found in the evidence section of the official record of the Leveson Inquiry.

(See the Notes for details.)

But Press Gang also submitted new, equally damaging allegations.

It was this new material which the Inquiry declined to accept.

One of its legal team told us the material:

“is not amenable to written evidence: it relates to matters which the Inquiry is not taking detailed evidence … and/or cannot now be fairly examined at this stage in the Inquiry’s proceedings.” 

♦♦♦

THE NEW material suggested Mahmood’s lie to Leveson wasn’t an isolated incident.

There were other occasions where it was also possible he’d lied in the witness-box.

Press Gang cited the case of the actor John Alford, a star of the TV series London’s Burning.

He was gaoled for nine months in 1999 after supplying cocaine to Mahmood during a “sting” operation.

At his appeal, the judgment noted that Mahmood:

“described himself … as an investigative reporter with 89 successful criminal prosecutions to his name.”

That figure could not possibly be true.

By that time, our assessment was just 28.

Mahmood had been inflating the figure to increase his credibility as a witness and strengthen the prosecution case.

In September 2012 Press Gang wrote to John Witherow.

We asked him to arrange for Linklaters to:

“carry out a survey of Mazher Mahmood’s witness statements in the many criminal cases where he has given evidence” because of concerns “that he may have committed perjury …”

Witherow did not reply.

The rest, of course, is history.

When the Sun on Sunday was launched in February 2012, Mahmood was its star reporter.

In July 2014 he was caught red-handed lying to the judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER"S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath.  Photo: PA                                                              THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box ...    Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mahmood was caught lying in the witness-box …
Photo: PA

(See The Sting in the Singer’s Tale for the full story.)

News UK  — owners of the Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday — announced a full investigation into the allegation that Mahmood had committed perjury.

This was nearly two years after we warned them Mahmood was potentially a serial perjuror … 

♦♦♦

BUT ALLEGATIONS of serial perjury weren’t the only revelation in the Press Gang statement. 

We also returned to the question of Mahmood’s bodyguard “Jaws”.

“Jaws” is Mahmood’s second cousin Mahmood Quereshi who, until a serious accident in 2006, acted as his bodyguard.

He gets the nickname from his diamond-studded gold teeth.

In the first Press Gang statement, we pointed out that one of the villains in a Mahmood exposé in 1996 bore a remarkable similarity to “Jaws”.

In his response, Mahmood admits the villain is, indeed, his second cousin.

He says Quereshi was the source of the story — Mahmod exaggerated his role in the gang in order to protect him …

By the time of the second Press Gang statement we also pointed out there was a possibility that “Jaws” was, in fact, an active criminal during the period he was employed by Mahmood.

"JAWS" Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

“JAWS”
MAHMOOD QUERESHI  — known as “Jaws” — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood. 

In 2005, during a libel action against the News of the World, lawyer David Price produced a list of convictions against Quereshi dating from a theft case at Bradford Crown Court to a case in Leeds in 1999.

In other words, when “Jaws” was acting as the source of one of Mahmood’s stories in 1996, his criminal career was still in progress.

Another of Mahmood’s paid informants, Florim Gashi, claims Quereshi had “been in prison a number of times … “

He also acted as an informant in many of Mahmood’s stories, including the alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

♦♦♦

THERE WAS one final piece of information Leveson was not prepared to consider.

This involved Mahmood’s links with a firm of private detectives called Southern Investigations.

One of the partners was a former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant, Sid Fillery.

Fillery had retired and joined Southern Investigations, taking the place of Daniel Morgan, a private detective brutally murdered in 1987.

The other partner was Jonathan Rees, who was arrested several times on suspicion of being involved in the murder.

He was never convicted.

SID FILLERY A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indcent images of children. Photo: PA

SID FILLERY
A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indecent images of children.
Photo: PA

However, Rees was gaoled for 7 years in 2000 after he was caught planning a conspiracy with corrupt police detectives to plant drugs on an innocent woman to prove she was an unfit mother.

Fillery was convicted in 2003 of making fifteen indecent images of children.

His computer included photographs of two naked boys engaged in oral sex and another showing the anal penetration of a young girl.

Southern Investigations acted as brokers between corrupt police officers who wanted to sell sensitive information to newspapers, including the News of the World.

In his evidence to Leveson, Mahmood doesn’t name the firm but it appears to be Southern Investigations.

He told the Inquiry:

” … I stopped working with them at the end of 1992 or early 1993 …”

However, in our statement we told the Leveson Inquiry we had seen documents seized during anti-corruption inquiries which suggested this also wasn’t true.

These documents revealed that in 1999 Rees and Fillery carried out “confidential inquiries” into “illegal immigration” after receiving a “request” from “Maz Mahmood”.

The invoice for this work, submitted in July 1999, was for £1,488.72 — one of the largest the firm raised in that year.

Again, we told the Inquiry we had written to Sunday Times editor John Witherow and asked him to investigate.

He never replied.

For this article, we once again contacted Witherow — now editor of The Times.

He didn’t respond.

We also asked Mahmood for a comment.

There was no reply.

♦♦♦

NOTES
1  The Press Gang statements to Leveson were originally submitted by editor Paddy French in the name of Rebecca Television. In October all national media-related material from this site was transferred to Press Gang. The first statement is here: the second here.
2  Mazher Mahmood made four statements to the Leveson Inquiry. Two are relevant to this article: the first which includes his claim to have secured 253 successful prosecutions and the fourth where he admits that the figure is false.
3  See also the other articles in this series: Fake Convictions and The Sting In The Singer’s Tale.

♦♦♦

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♦♦♦

COMING UP
“A PRETTY DESPICABLE MAN”
PART TWO: ASSAULT ON THE BANK OF ENGLAND

THE “DARK ARTS” were practised on an industrial scale at the Daily Mirror when Piers Morgan was  editor. An extraordinary example took place in 1998 when the paper ordered private eyes to break into the mortgage accounts of every member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. A Pretty Despicable Man continues with a revealing analysis of the paper’s cynical bank jobs…

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

TWEETING FOR JUSTICE

October 25, 2014
 
BEYOND CONTEMPT:
THE INSIDE STORY OF THE PHONE HACKING TRIAL

Peter Jukes
(Canbury Press, £15.99)

THIS BOOK is that rare beast — a ground-breaking volume that’s also entertaining and informative.

A writer’s eye view of what went on during the 130 day Old Bailey trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, it’s based on Jukes’ experiences as he reported live via Twitter.

Note the word writer in that last sentence.

PETER JUKES PHOTOGRAPHED OUTSIDE the Old Bailey — his workplace for nearly four months — Peter Jukes covered the trial in thousands of live tweets.  Photo: Olivia Beasley / oliviabeasley.com

PETER JUKES
PHOTOGRAPHED OUTSIDE the Old Bailey — his workplace for nearly four months — Peter Jukes covered the trial in thousands of live tweets.
Photo: Olivia Beasley / oliviabeasley.com

Jukes isn’t a professional journalist, he’s a dramatist and novelist.

He follows Peter Burden, the writer and entrepreneur whose 2008 book News of the World? was the first to expose the dark heart of the News of the World.

But Jukes’ tweets were only made possible by an enlightened judge.

Sir John Saunders is another rare breed — a judge concerned that justice in this country isn’t being reported as it used to be.

As newspapers decline, press reporting of court proceedings is fading away.

By permitting Jukes to live tweet, Saunders was allowing a fascinating experiment to take place.

Generally speaking, it’s been accepted as a valuable addition to the proceedings.

Jukes also pioneered crowd-funding — where followers underwrite the cost of the reporting — in British court reporting.

BROOKS & BROOKS THE LOVELETTER that revealed  of Rebekah Brooks' long-standing affair was one of the

MR & MRS BROOKS
THE SENSATIONAL love letter that revealed Rebekah Brooks’ long-standing affair with Andy Coulson was one of the battlegrounds of the trial.   Photo: PA

And, by adding this book to the tweets, he’s brought another dimension to his coverage of the trial.

The book doesn’t repeat (retweet) the tweets.

Instead, it goes behind the scenes and shows what, normally, only court reporters get to experience.

There’s a little of Dickens’ sharp observational eye in his accounts of the David v Goliath battle that took place in Court 12.

Naturally, this being the underlings of billionaire Rupert Murdoch versus The Crown, the normal rules were suspended.

In this trial, it’s the Crown that’s David.

The formidably talented and fantastically expensive battery of QCs acting for the defendants is Goliath.

The Crown’s two QCs were outgunned by the magnificent seven of the defence.

Jukes’ account of their battle over the love letter Rebekah Brooks wrote in 2004 — but never sent — to her lover Andy Coulson is fascinating.

Initially, although it’s hard to believe, the defence tried to argue that bringing it into the trial would infringe Rebekah Brooks’ … privacy.

Then they tried to keep it out of the prosecution opening because it would generate adverse publicity …

Both attempts failed but many reporters felt the defence overwhelmed the prosecution.

The book isn’t perfect — in the haste to get it out, there are typos and the index is spartan and sometimes unhelpful.

But these are small quibbles.

The book is a triumph and begins to show the internet, as well as hammering the viability of newspapers and magazines, is starting to throw up new forms of writing and journalism.

Paddy French