THREE men who spent two years in jail after being accused of a the axe murder of a Cwmbran man have taken a multi-million pound damages bid to the High Court.

The trio were arrested and charged with the savage killing of private investigator Daniel Morgan in a south London pub car park in 1987.

Mr Morgan, 37, of Croesyceiliog, was found with an axe embedded in his head after a brutal attack outside the Golden Lion, in Sydenham.

The cases against the trio - and a fourth man accused of perverting the course of justice - eventually collapsed and they were released.

But now, amid accusations of staggering police corruption, the men are suing the capital's Metropolitan Police (MPS) for massive damages.

Lawyers for the trio - Jonathan Rees, 62, and brothers Glenn, 58, and Garry Vian, 56, - say they should never have been prosecuted over the killing.

They say Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook was only interested in securing convictions and did not care about the risk of a miscarriage of justice.

His coaching and manipulation of "dodgy" witnesses had resulted in them being arrested and spending two years in jail awaiting a trial.

But the case "never got near a jury" after the crucial witness' evidence was thrown out and the three were released.

"The single-minded determination of the MPS to pursue and convict them has blighted their lives for the last 29 years," said barrister Nicholas Bowen QC.

The court heard the three men, plus then police officer Sidney Fillery, 70, had all been arrested shortly after the killing on suspicion of murder.

However, the case was not proceeded with and charges were only made in 2008 after further evidence came to light.

Mr Fillery was only charged with perverting the course of justice and all of the cases were ultimately dropped.

The men now claim the Met had taken a "blinkered" approach to the case, having decided long ago that they were guilty.

All of the investigations and reviews which took place - resulting in 500,000 pages of documents - were aimed at securing their convictions.

That was despite there being no credible evidence against them, other than from "dodgy, desperate criminals" seeking to strike deals for shorter sentences.

Their arrests in 2008 followed the emergence of evidence from two criminals, Gary Eaton and James Ward, who implicated them in the murder.

But Mr Bowen said the evidence had been "coached" out of the "unreliable" witnesses by DCS Cook in his desperation to see the case solved.

"Between 2005 and 2006, he coached and manipulated the two main witnesses, failed to investigate exculpatory lines of inquiry, suppressed documents, misled his colleagues, and lied to the trial judge," claimed the QC.

Eaton's evidence was central to the prosecution's case, but was excluded by the trial judge, Mr Justice Maddison, who cited "gross abuses of power and police misconduct by DCS Cook", said Mr Bowen.

Without the "concocted and obviously unreliable" account, there would have been no evidence to justify the prosecution, said the QC.

He continued: "It is our case that these claimants should not have been prosecuted at all in April 2008 and that the prosecution was brought without reasonable cause and maliciously."

DCS David Cook had broken many of the rules designed to protect the integrity of the justice system.

He had been warned that Eaton was "extremely unreliable" and had mental health problems.

He had since "gone into hiding in Scotland" and refused to give evidence in the compensation battle, which started today and is due to last six weeks.

"The prosecution ended in embarrassing and ignominious failure," Mr Bowen continued.

"It is an understatement to describe this as 'unfortunate' for the Morgan family, for the suspects, for the reputation of the MPS and the public purse and court and judicial resources.

He added: "They have been doggedly pursued for a murder that they have consistently protested was nothing to do with them and which should never have been the subject of yet further criminal process in 2008."

The men had "finally had enough", he said.

For the Met, Jeremy Johnson QC said investigation of the killing had exposed an "invidious web of corrupt police officers" in south London in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, the High Court compensation battle was about events that had happened in the course of the new investigation many years later.

He accepted the criticisms made by Mr Justice Maddison of DCS Cook, but said the prosecution had not ended with the exclusion of the evidence the detective had gathered from Eaton.

It was problems with the disclosure of evidence that meant the prosecution did not go ahead, he said.

"There was a proper basis to arrest and prosecute each of the claimants," he continued.

"The evidence that was gathered included multiple accounts from various of the claimants' associates to the effect that Mr Rees had wanted Mr Morgan dead," he said.

The prosecution case had been that Mr Rees, of Weybridge, paid his brothers in law - Glenn and Garry Vian, from Croydon, - to carry out the murder and that Mr Fillery knew about the planned killing.

There had been "considerable suspicion" about Mr Rees' involvement from the very beginning, Mr Johnson added.

And covert recordings later revealed an associate many years later talking of him wanting Mr Morgan dead.

The High Court hearing continues.