London's Metropolitan Police engaged in "a form of institutional corruption" by denying and even concealing failings in its handling of the unsolved murder of a private investigator, an independent panel said Tuesday.
The first objective of Britain's biggest police force was to "protect itself" in its refusal to acknowledge the many failures in the probe into Daniel Morgan's murder in 1987 in southeast London, it concluded.
In a brief statement Tuesday, the force accepted that corruption has been a major factor in the failed investigation, but British Home Secretary Priti Patel – who has been fiercely criticised by Morgan's family – has called for a more detailed response to the report.
The long-awaited and damning verdict has echoes of the 1998 Macpherson inquiry into the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence – also in southeast London, in 1993 – which condemned the Met for "institutional racism."
Private investigator Morgan died of multiple head wounds after being repeatedly struck by an axe in a pub car park. The axe was found embedded in his skull, with tape on its handle to prevent fingerprints from being taken from it.
Despite five police inquiries and a coroner's inquest, no-one has been brought to justice for the father-of-two's death.
There have been persistent allegations that corrupt officers may have been involved.
Corruption at 'highest ranks'
"We believe that the Metropolitan Police's first objective was to protect itself," said panel chairman and peer Nuala O'Loan, a lawyer and former police ombudsman.
"[They] were not honest in their dealings with Daniel Morgan's family or the public. That lack of candour over so many years has been a barrier to proper accountability."
The Met had concealed "serious failings" in its initial murder investigation," including the role of corrupt officers, she added.
Morgan's family welcomed the report, which they said "has finally addressed the sickness that needs to be addressed... [the] complicity and worse of the British state in all its guises, the police corruption and criminality".
Corruption went "to the highest ranks", they said, but despite their decades of campaigning, there had been "repeated refusals" at the force and the Home Office to address the issues publicly.
Boris Johnson's spokesman said the prime minister still had confidence in Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, who was criticised in the report.
Home Secretary Patel called the more than 1,200-page report "deeply alarming."
It was, she said, "one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan Police.
"Police corruption is a betrayal of everything policing stands for in this country, that erodes public confidence in our entire criminal justice system, that undermines democracy and civilised society," she told lawmakers. "We cannot ignore the findings of this report."
Patel said she had written to Dick requesting a detailed response to the panel's recommendations.
The Met said in a short statement: "We deeply regret our failure to bring those who murdered Daniel Morgan to justice. We have not stopped pursuing justice. We accept corruption was a major factor in the failure of the 1987 investigation. This compounded the pain suffered by Daniel's family and for this we apologise."