Published by the Guardian
July 6 2011
As editor of the News of the World Rebekah Brooks was personally confronted with evidence that her paper’s resources had been used on behalf of two murder suspects to spy on the senior detective who was investigating their alleged crime.
Brooks was summoned to a meeting at Scotland Yard where she was told that one of her most senior journalists, Alex Marunchak, had apparently agreed to use photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on behalf of Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, two notorious private investigators who were suspected of murdering their former partner, Daniel Morgan. The Yard saw this as a possible attempt to pervert the course of justice.
Brooks was also told of evidence that Marunchak had a corrupt relationship with Jonathan Rees, who had been earning up to £150,000 a year selling confidential data to the News of the World. Police told her that a former employee of Rees had given them a statement alleging that some of these payments were diverted to Marunchak who had been able to pay off his credit card and pay for his child’s private school fees.
A Guardian investigation suggests that the surveillance of the senior murder squad officer, Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, involved the News of the World in physically following him and his young children, ‘blagging’ his personal details from confidential police databases, attempting to access his voicemail and that of his wife, and possibly sending a ‘Trojan horse’ email in an attempt to steal information from his computer.
The targeting of DCS Cook began following his appearance on BBC Crimewatch on June 26 2002, when he appealed for information to solve the murder of Daniel Morgan, who had been found dead in south London five years earlier. Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery were among the suspects.
The following day, Cook was warned by Scotland Yard that they had picked up intelligence that Fillery had been in touch with Alex Marunchak and that Marunchak had agreed to ’sort Cook out’.
A few days later, Cook was contacted by Surrey police, where he had worked as a senior detective from 1996 to 2001, and was told that somebody claiming to work for the Inland Revenue had contacted their finance department, asking for Cook’s home address so that they could send him a cheque with a tax refund. The finance department had been suspicious and refused to give out the information.
However, it is now known that at that time, the News of the World’s fulltime investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, succeeded in obtaining Cook’s home address, his internal payroll number at the Metropolitan police, his date of birth and figures for the amount that he and his wife were paying for their mortgage. All of this appears to have been ‘blagged’ by Mulcaire from various confidential databases, apparently including the Met’s own records.
In addition, Mulcaire obtained the mobile phone number for Cook’s wife and the password she used for her mobile phone account, strongly suggesting that he was intent on hacking her voicemail, the offence for which he was jailed in January 2007.
Paperwork in the possession of Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting is believed to show that Mulcaire did this on the instructions of Greg Miskiw, then the paper’s assistant editor for news and a close friend of Alex Marunchak.
About a week later, a van was seen parked outside Cook’s home. The following day, two vans were seen there. Both of them attempted to follow Cook as he took his two-year-old son to nursery. Cook alerted Scotland Yard, who sent a uniformed officer to stop one of the vans on the grounds that its rear break light was broken. The driver proved to be a photo journalist working for the News of the World. Both vans were leased to the paper. During the same week, there were signs of an attempt to open letters which had been left in Cook’s external postbox.
Confronted with evidence that their senior detective was being targeted by a newspaper acting on behalf of murder suspects, Scotland Yard chose not to mount a formal inquiry. Instead, the Guardian understands, a senior press officer contacted Rebekah Brooks to ask for an explanation. She is understood to have told them that they were investigating a report that Cook was having an affair with another officer, Jacqui Hames, the presenter of BBC Crimewatch. Yard sources say they rejected this explanation, because Cook had been married to Jacqui Hames for some years; the couple had two children, then aged two and five; and they had previously appeared together as a married couple in published stories. “The story was complete rubbish,” according to one source.
For four months, the Yard took no action, raising questions about whether they were willing to pursue what appeared to be an attempt to interfere with a murder inquiry. However, in November 2002, at a press social event at Scotland Yard, Rebekah Brooks was asked to come into a side room for a meeting.
There she was confronted by DCS Cook, his boss Commander Andre Baker and Dick Fedorcio, the head of media relations. According to a Yard source, Cook described to her in detail the surveillance on his home and the apparent involvement of Alex Marunchak, and also summarised the evidence of Marunchak’s suspect financial relationship with Jonathan Rees. Brooks is said to have defended Marunchak on the grounds that he did his job well.
Scotland Yard took no further action, apparently reflecting the desire of Dick Fedorcio, who has had a close working relationship with Brooks, to avoid unnecessary friction with the News of the World.
Cook subsequently suspected that ‘Trojan horse’ emails may have been sent to his computer and to that of Daniel Morgan’s brother, Alastair, although no confirmation was ever found. In March Alex Marunchak was named by BBC Panorama as the News of the World executive who hired a specialist to plan a Trojan on the computer of a former British intelligence officer, Ian Hurst.
Rees and Fillery were eventually arrested and charged in relation to the murder of Daniel Morgan. Charges against both men were later dropped, although Rees was convicted of plotting to plant cocaine on a woman so that her ex husband would get custody of their children; and Fillery was convicted of possessing indecent images of children.
DCS Cook and his wife are believed to be preparing a legal action against the News of the World, Alex Marunchek, Greg Miskiw and Glenn Mulcaire. Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting are also understood to be investigating.