Michael Gillard: An Appreciation of an Indefatigable Investigative Journalist

Hello Michael wherever you are. You have a huge capacity for friendship as well as a huge capacity for hard work, for setting your own targets, for being autotelic, for not doing what you are told all of the time. And that is something we need to recover.

Journalism is an individual responsibility. Freedom of speech is an individual responsibility. Freedom of expression is an individual responsibility. And your courage is I hope contagious, very contagious.

Laurie Flynn delivered this tribute as he collected the Journalist of the Year Award in December 2013, at the British Journalism Awards, on behalf of his friend and colleague Michael Gillard. Gillard no longer appears in public in London. You’ll soon see why.

My previous post “Detective John Fordham and the Curse of Brinks Mat”, tales of murder, masonry and Met Police corruption, comprise the elements of a work of fiction. Grist to the mill of the conspiracy theorists. Unbelievable?

Aesthetics aside, a work of non-fiction stands or falls on its sources. And the main source for my story on the ghosts of Brinks Mat was Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn’s Untouchables, first published in 2004.

Of fine journalistic pedigree, Gillard’s father, also named Michael, has written under the byline “Slicker” for Private Eye since 1969. Management Today wrote of this column in 2000:

His column is read at every level in the City of London. It is a must-read for those who police the markets – the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, the Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington. It is read in City coffee shops and in executive dining rooms, where the movers and shakers either laugh or cringe, depending on who Slicker is roasting. The column has become an institution used today by many City professionals to pick up on gossip and to help them separate the good from the bad.

An ethic passed down from father to son. Described as a “Chip off the old block aspiring to the Woodward and Bernstein school of journalism.”

Back in 1999, both Gillard and Flynn, then respectively 32 and 52 years-of-age, and both with a background of working for the British investigative current affairs programme World in Action, won the Scoop of the Year title at the British Press Awards (1998). This accolade was the result of their work for the Guardian exposing how Carlton TV’s The Connection faked a documentary about drug trafficking. Carlton was fined £2 million for this offence.

Gillard and Flynn’s working relationship with the Guardian soon soured.

Following the publication of the Macpherson Report in 1999 into the Met’s, at best, mismanaged investigation into the the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, Gillard and Flynn began to take a closer look at Scotland Yard:

We were looking into the background to three murders in south-east London of private investigator Daniel Morgan [1987], police informant David Norris [1991] and budding architect Stephen Lawrence [1993]. At first blush, these savage killings by axe, gun and knife respectively seemed unconnected, and the Met was desperate to keep it that way. But the more we probed, the more it was apparent that a common denominator was the cover up of police corruption.

How did the Met respond? In August 2000 Commander Andy Hayman, the head of the Met’s Complaints Investigation Bureau, wrote to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger besmirching the reputations of Gillard and Flynn:

The Hayman letter and other behind-the-scenes lobbying led to an order to stop investigating the police, even in our own time – an instruction we declined because we found it both ludicrous and unethical. Unpublished stories piled up on the stench of corruption around the Morgan, Norris and Lawrence murders, so in March 2001 we resigned from what we then called the Yardian to write Untouchables.

Remember Andy “Dodgy Geezer” Hayman of phone-hacking fame? Promoted to assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police responsible for specialist operations in 2005, he was criticized by the Independent Police Complaints Commission “for failing to tell the Commissioner that [Jean Charles] de Menzes was not a suicide bomber, even though he had briefed reporters to that effect.” Hayman also supervised the original police inquiry into phone-hacking by the press.

Two years later, Hayman resigned from the Met after an investigation was launched into his expenses. £21,ooo had been spent over a two-year period on his corporate and ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) credit cards – more than the Met’s entire senior management team. He went on to write a column for The Times  on security and terrorism.

Hayman’s contract with News International was terminated in 2011 when the phone-hacking scandal erupted. Revelations of long lunches included a dinner with the editor and deputy of the News of the World during his inquiry into phone hacking. A Home Office Select Committee declared his conduct “both unprofessional and inappropriate”.

But back to Gillard and Flynn. When questioned during a court case in 2013 as to the reliability and verification of his sources, Gillard replied:

the sources that you have taken me through between 1999 and 2004 … were individuals … that clearly I’ve kept for a long period of time, and informed the book that I published that has now been passed up. The information in that book [Untouchables] came from those sources. They have repeatedly proved themselves to be correct and reliable. I’ve written a book in probably one of the most litigious areas in UK libel law, police corruption, without complaint. I’ve regarded them as reliable at the time, they have proved themselves to be reliable, the book is evidence of that. 

Why was Michael Gillard in court? In an article for the Sunday Times in 2010, Gillard alleged that David Hunt was the head of a “notorious crime syndicate” seeking to cash-in on a share of a £20 million government regeneration fund for the forthcoming Olympic Games. Hunt’s “criminal network is allegedly so vast that Scotland Yard regards him as ‘too big’ to take on. His involvement in the land triggered a violent turf war and a large-scale police corruption inquiry.”

Employing the services of Hugh Tomlinson QC, chairman of wannabee press-muzzlers Hacked Off, Hunt sued for libel.

And the Met? As Gillard’s contacts have for long included police officers wishing to blow the lid on corruption, both the Met and the now redundant Serious Organized Crime Agency sued the Sunday Times for breach of confidence. Our officers of the law fortunately lost their case.

And fortunately, both the Met and SOCA went on, at the eleventh hour, to assist the Sunday Times with their libel defence. Mr Justice Simon ruled:

On the basis of the information of Mr Gillard received from sources he was entitled to treat as reliable and knowledgeable, as well as the information contained in documents … I am satisfied that it was reasonable for him to describe the Claimant as a violent and dangerous criminal and the head of an organized crime group implicated in murder, drug trafficking and fraud.

For further corroboration, an article published by the Independent in early 2014 revealed a leaked police report written in 2002 identifying 42 serving and 19 former police officers with corrupt links to gangs such as Hunt’s.

Hunt, known as the “Long Fella” remains a free man. He appears still to be a man of influence. Three months after his libel defeat, Hunt received a million pound loan from a company owned by pornographer and West Ham boss David Sullivan.

Michael Gillard does’t make public appearances in London.

So if you think I may have been gilding the lily with my stories on police corruption, don’t take my word for it. But heed the words of Mr Justice Simon on Michael Gillard:

During the course of many hours of cross-examination about his journalistic methods, both generally and in relation to the writing of the Article, he came across as extremely self-confident, but also thoughtful about the role of investigative journalism, and clear and persuasive in his views about the proper treatment of the information he discovered. … His evidence was both lucid and entirely credible … I was left with the distinct impression that, if he said that information had come from a source, it had; and that he conscientiously evaluated its weight. I am also satisfied that he did not uncritically accept anything he was told by, or read, from a source: rather the contrary.

And have a drink with me and toast his hard-won words. You may be glad he’s not with you. Laurie Flynn should know:

Michael really has a tremendous capacity for hard work, tremendous empathy and social skills, a tremendous capacity to drink me under the table and to drink the table under the table.


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3 Responses to Michael Gillard: An Appreciation of an Indefatigable Investigative Journalist

  1. He is a brave man but can you explain this…Flynn quoted at an award “Derek Haslam, a brave man” yet Flynn & Gillard state that Haslam duped them in “The Untouchables”? Also, quoting Harper wins no plaudits, he was fooled by Haslam and Hurst (double whammy). The truth is emerging however and will be front page soon.


  2. Pingback: The Long Weekend: Reflections on the Hatton Garden Heist | Londonlowlife

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