Botched investigations into the 1987 murder of a private investigator amounted to “institutional corruption” within Britain’s biggest police force after years of attempts to hide its failings, a damning report has found.
Daniel Morgan was found dead in a London pub car park with an axe embedded in his head 34 years ago but five police investigations failed to bring anyone to justice for the murder.
An independent panel commissioned eight years ago has found that the first thought of the police force was to protect itself, according to the final 1,256-page report published on Tuesday.
The murder of Mr Morgan, 37, a father-of-two, came amid suggestions that he was about to reveal corruption within London’s Metropolitan Police.
The report said that many opportunities to gather evidence were lost during the first investigation with the murder scene left unsearched and unguarded during the first hours. The forensic work in the second inquiry was described by a senior officer as "pathetic".
“We believe that concealing or denying failings for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit, and constitutes a form of institutional corruption,” said Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who headed a panel investigating the case.
The panel said that the force owed the family and wider public an apology. It also expressed concern that a culture still existed that meant that failures within the organisation were not properly addressed.
Former prime minister Theresa May ordered the investigation in 2013 after years of campaigning by Mr Morgan’s family and a series of botched prosecutions.
Tuesday’s finding echoes a conclusion from 1999 that the force was guilty of institutional racism following its failure to properly investigate the killing of a black London teenager who was killed by a white racist gang.
That finding, after a public inquiry into the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, sent shockwaves through British policing and led to major reforms of recruitment and policing practices.
Mr Morgan's family said on Tuesday they welcomed the recognition that they had been failed for decades by a "culture of corruption and cover up" that has permeated the force and beyond "to this day".
The dead man's brother Alastair said that the head of the force, Cressida Dick, should consider her own position after delaying access to police records before she took the top job.
The report also criticises the Home Secretary Priti Patel for further delaying the report last month, after insisting that she and her department have an opportunity to read the report first.
Ms Patel told parliament on Tuesday that the saga was one of the most "devastating episodes" in the history of London's main police force.
"The report accuses the Metropolitan Police of a form of institutional corruption", she told MPs.
"Police corruption is a betrayal of everything policing stands for in this country. It erodes public confidence in our entire criminal justice system. It undermines democracy and civilised society."
The force has already admitted that corruption hampered the original investigation. It apologised in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
"We deeply regret our failure to bring those who murdered Daniel Morgan to justice," it said. "We are considering today's report and will respond in more detail soon."