Investigative journalist Laurie Flynn spoke to Simon Basketter about how an investigation into police corruption he began in 1997 leads directly to the scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s media empire
Eight years ago Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard wrote The Untouchables. It exposed the police corruption at the heart of Scotland Yard—and the criminal links between cops, News International and politicians.
Today, as the hackgate scandal is engulfing the entire political establishment, the book has been republished. The story of how two journalists began uncovering the corruption years ago is extraordinary.
Laurie described how he and Michael stumbled upon sprawling networks of police corruption “almost by accident”.
“We’d been looking at an arms deal involving British equipment being supplied to unpleasant people in Sierra Leone,” he said.
“We were told that there was no such deal and we found this rather difficult to believe.”
Two police officers understood to have been involved in the deal were committed for trial at Bow Street Magistrates Court under the Official Secrets Act. Laurie and Michael went along.
“During the committal proceedings there was a tape that the prosecution were very anxious should not be played in court,” said Laurie. “So naturally we became interested in what was on this tape.
“We met the two officers. They told us that the tape was of a discussion they’d been having about going to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.
“They said they wanted to help his family understand the context of the failed and failing murder inquiries into the death of their son.
“That context involved corrupt policing in south east London. Naturally this interested us greatly and we thought, this is very important.”
It turned out that the corruption that destroyed investigations into Stephen Lawrence’s murder was only the tip of the iceberg of what was going on in south east London.
Laurie said, “We found two other highly problematic unsolved murders in the same policing district. One was of the private detective Daniel Morgan. That connects very strongly to what’s going on with the Leveson inquiry.”
Daniel Morgan was murdered on 10 March 1987. His body was found in a car park in south east London with an axe buried in his head. Daniel Morgan was a private investigator. His family believe that he was about to reveal corrupt links between cops and News International.
Five police investigations have failed to convict anyone of his murder. The police have admitted corruption in the initial investigation.
Laurie said, “Daniel Morgan’s firm was taken over by the man who was supposed to be heading the investigation into his murder, Detective Sergeant Sidney Fillery.
“Fillery leaves the Met sick and joins the private detective firm—which becomes the News of the World’s chosen vehicle for all sorts of investigations, legal and illegal.
“This is an extraordinary state of affairs.”
Laurie also pointed to the murder of police informant and gangster David Norris. “Uncannily it’s the same name as one of the men jailed for murdering Stephen Lawrence,” he said. “David Norris the informant is some sort of relative of the gangster father of David Norris, the now convicted murderer.
“David Norris ends up being murdered, quite possibly with police involvement, in order to shut him up.
“He knows too much about what’s going on in the South East Regional Crime Squad (Sercs).
“He’s been putting up the jobs that they’ve been most successful in clearing up.”
A cop who was part of the investigation into the murder married Norris’s widow. But that was the least of the coincidental links.
Norris lent thousands of pounds to cops. The money he got for informing he used to take Sercs out to dinner.
One group of cops was terrified after the Norris killing. Ten officers had divided up £200,000 that they had confiscated on a drugs raid inspired by a Norris tip off.
Laurie explained that corruption flows from the way police work: “Quite often the only way police officers can get information about gangsters is from other gangsters.
“This is leaving aside the huge failure to police corporate crime of course—which is perhaps the biggest police scandal of the last hundred years.
“But with gangsters relationships grow up over the years between individual officers and their criminal informants.
“The informants gain from their relationship with the police and the police gain from their relationships with the informants.
“The informants are allowed to carry on committing crimes in return for information about other criminals.”
Today media figures have fallen over themselves to denounce the hacking uncovered at News International. They denounce the corruption and proclaim that it must be cleaned up.
But Laurie said it wasn’t always like that. He worked on the Guardian under editor Alan Rusbridger. “The editor of the Guardian started putting all sorts of obstacles in our way,” he said. “He even tried to order us to cease all investigations of the Met or leave the paper.
Rusbridger denies this.
Laurie went on, “We found it completely incomprehensible and decided we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t work with him anymore. So we left and wrote the book.”
Today the police pledge to be properly investigating the corruption that has marked the force.
But only last week evidence of corruption emerged within the police anti-corruption unit.
And who will investigate that? The police of course.
For Laurie, this isn’t surprising. “There is a huge history of the covering up of corruption in Scotland Yard,” he said.
“The Met’s own high profile anti-corruption campaign was itself highly problematic. It involved all sorts of unorthodox and quite possibly illegal methods.
“It involved victimising a number of police officers, including the two who had talked about going to the Lawrence inquiry.
“They were put under the most extraordinary set of pressures in order to shut them up.
“Other, much more powerful, police officers who were proven to be deeply corrupt were never investigated by the anti-corruption command.
“We started off with a very narrow frame of reference and ended up with this huge illness at the heart of the Yard.”
Corruption in the Met is permanent—and it is a ticking bomb under the Tory government.