Sudden death of News of the World whistleblower shocks colleagues
He would have been called to appear at criminal proceedings brought by police against senior editors and executives at News International.
by Alex Ralph
THE sudden death of Sean Hoare, the former News of the World reporter who blew the whistle on phone hacking at the paper, has stunned former colleagues and those connected with the investigations into the scandal.
As the first former News of the World reporter to claim publicly that his old friend and boss Andy Coulson had “actively encouraged” him to hack into voicemail messages, Mr Hoare, who was thought to be in his forties, was likely to have been a key witness in the judicial inquiry into hacking. He would probably also have been called to appear at any criminal proceedings brought by police against senior editors and executives at News International.
Friends of the pair said that Mr Coulson, who is holidaying in Cornwall, was shocked by the latest development.
Officers were called to a first-floor flat at a modern block in Watford yesterday morning after concerns for Mr Hoare’s welfare were raised by a family member. His body was found and he was pronounced dead shortly after ambulance and police arrived.
Details surrounding Mr Hoare’s death were unclear last night, with the police yet to inform family members or formally to identify the body. Two officers were on duty outside the entrance last night and the curtains were drawn.
In a statement, Hertfordshire Constabulary said the “death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious”.
Inspector Rod Reeves said that a family member had become concerned when Mr Hoare had not returned calls. He would not comment on where Mr Hoare’s body was found in the flat, but said he was alone.
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He is understood to have lived in the block with his partner, Jo.
A neighbour said: “I feared the worst a couple of months ago. He wasn’t looking in great shape physically. He was not his usual, bubbly, friendly self.”
Another neighbour said Mr Hoare was “paranoid” about people seeing him and spoke of a “conspiracy” and that he was afraid of the police and the Government. “He talked about all sorts of problems that he had in his life. A lot of it was alcohol-related. His passage through life has not been an easy one.” The neighbour added: “He said he was in trouble and he was worried about people coming to get him.”
Tributes were paid to Mr Hoare on Twitter last night with David Yelland, a former Editor of The Sun, writing: “Sean Hoare was trying to be honest, struggling with addiction. But he was a good man. My God.”
Mr Hoare was sacked from the News of the World by Mr Coulson because of the effects his drink and drug problems were having on his health. Mr Hoare, who had previously worked with Mr Coulson on The Sun’s Bizarre showbiz section and later at the Sunday People under Neil Wallis, was notorious on Fleet Street for his destructive lifestyle.
He told a fellow journalist of his “rock star’s breakfast” – Jack Daniels and a line of cocaine. He said he took three grams of cocaine a day, which cost him about $1500 a week.
“Everyone got overconfident. We thought we could do coke, go to Brown’s, sit in the Red Room with Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence. Everyone got a bit carried away,” he once told The Guardian.
Former colleagues said that his dismissal had left him bitter and resentful. In an interview with the New York Times he claimed that Mr Coulson not only knew of phone hacking at the News of the World but he had “actively encouraged” it. He said he had played tape recordings of hacked messages for Mr Coulson. His allegations were heavily rejected by his former boss, who had become David Cameron’s Director of Communications in May last year.
He made stronger allegations in a subsequent interview with the BBC, claiming Mr Coulson had personally asked him to hack phones and that the practice was “endemic”.
In September last year he was interviewed by police about his claims but would not make a further comment, according to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was understood to be affronted when John Yates, then the Met’s Assistant Commissioner, instructed officers to interview him as a suspect, rather than as a witness.
Then, a week before his death, he made separate allegations again to the New York Times that reporters at the News of the World had paid police to use technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, a technique called “pinging”.
Although he was known to be in ill health and smoked and drank, he was still active. He recently attended a weekend children’s party and had been injured taking down the marquee. He told The Guardian that he had broken his nose and injured his foot when he was struck by the pole.
One neighbour said last night: “He was physically going down hill. He was yellow in colour and wasn’t looking well for the last month and was off sorts and I was really worrying about him.
“He had a constant struggle with alcohol and talked to me about how much he had put his wife through. He was talking about how he was in trouble and that he thought someone was going to come and get him, but I didn’t known whether to believe half the stuff he was saying. He did say something about phone hacking and I think that was his main worry.”