Category Archives: Big Media

Police cover-up of phone hacking revealed to Leveson inquiry

John Prescott (left) and Brian Paddick revealed the full extent of the police cover-up of phone hacking in written statements to the Leveson inquiry. Photograph: PA

Detailed allegations presented by John Prescott and Brian Paddick suggest victims, politicians and judges were misled | Feb 27, 2012

by David Leigh

Documents revealing the full extent of the Metropolitan police cover-up over phone hacking have been unearthed after legal discovery battles by News of the World victims.

The files’ contents were detailed on Monday to the Leveson inquiry in sworn written statements from the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, who was himself a hacking victim.

Paddick used his insider knowledge to depict the existence of a widespread fear of the tabloids among senior police officers and what he called a general “culture of cover-up” at the Met.

But the detailed allegations he and Prescott make about the hacking affair are even more startling. According to the evidence, lies appear to have been told not only to individual victims, but to government ministers, parliament, the judges and the public.

Police attempts to undermine the Guardian’s reporting when it first disclosed the scandal in 2009 are shown to have been wrong. There had been a “conspiracy of silence”, Prescott said.

According to the evidence presented on Monday:

• Police knew from the outset that Prescott was a hacking victim, but told him the opposite.

• Police immediately identified hundreds of hacking targets in the seized files of the private detective Glenn Mulcaire, but later claimed they were unaware of them.

• Police never received key financial evidence or computers from News International (NI).

• Police “tipped off” Rebekah Brooks, the then editor of the Sun, about the scope of their investigation.

• Police discovered in Mulcaire’s files highly sensitive leaks from within their own ranks that could have endangered those with new identities.

• An unknown police officer reversed a recorded decision to inform key victims, ensuring a cover-up.

Some of the most senior officers who handled the case have already testified to MPs on the Commons media committee. They are being recalled under oath by Lord Justice Leveson later this week.

These include the former assistant commissioner John Yates, who has resigned and is currently employed as a consultant by the ruling family in Bahrain; the former deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke; and the former assistant commissioner Andy Hayman.

Police investigations were “thorough and appropriate” to start with, said Paddick. The NoW’s royal reporter Clive Goodman was targeted in 2006 after members of the monarchy complained that their phones were being interfered with.

The documents reveal, however, that police realised from the outset that phone hacking was a potentially huge issue.

On 4 April 2006, Detective Superintendent Philip Williams wrote that the ability to intercept voicemails was “highly unlikely to be limited to Goodman alone” and could be too expensive to investigate by the royal security squad.

In May, after Mulcaire had been linked to the case, the case officer Mark Maberley wrote of “sophisticated and organised interception of voice messages”.

His senior investigating officer, Keith Surtees, proposed that “given the large number of non-royal victims” a better-equipped squad should take over. Paddick said he did not understand why this never happened.

The team then discovered that the then Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell was being hacked. When Mulcaire’s property was raided on 8 August 2006 they found that Prescott was also being targeted.

A transcript of Mulcaire’s interrogation on the following day was revealed on Monday. Prescott said he found the transcript “quite staggering” when it was eventually disclosed to him five years later.

The interrogator, DC Gallagher, was recorded saying: “Another page here has got the name John Prescott. There’s another name underneath, first of all it says adviser and then the name Joan Hammell. You’ve got her telephone numbers and DI numbers, password numbers and Vodafone passwords … and an address.”

Police regarded the Prescott allegation as so significant in 2006 that they included his name in a draft application for a search warrant for the NoW, which was never executed.

The draft said Mulcaire had been receiving extra payments of £250 a time “which appear to be linked to assistance given in relation to specific stories”. It added: “The details contained in these invoices demonstrate these stories involve individuals in the public eye such as … ‘Prescott’.”

The evidence police already held included two £250 bills Mulcaire presented to NI dated 7 May 2006 and 21 May 2006. One said: “Story – other Prescott assist – TXT” and the other: “Story: Other Prescott assist – TXT: Urgent”.

Other damning evidence which later came to light, and would have been discovered had police pursued inquiries at the time, included an internal NI email dated 28 April 2006. It was headed “Joan Hammell: adviser to Prescott”, gave instructions on how to access her voicemail box and said there were 45 messages to be listened to.

But police did not push ahead. There was a “tense standoff” at the News of the World offices when police arrived, according to the case officer. Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor, and the Farrers solicitor Julian Pike met police and allegedly “obstructed” them. The accounts department was not searched as intended, nor were Goodman’s safe and computer taken away.

Full Story

British police reveal close rapport with Murdoch’s phone-hacking tabloid

AP Photo | Jan 23, 2012  

by Janet Stobart

REPORTING FROM LONDON — Journalists from the defunct British tabloid News of the World lied about their relationship with police as well as having hacked into cellphone messages in order to gather information about a missing teenager, a police document sent to Parliament revealed Monday.

The 16-page letter from Surrey police also revealed a close, almost collaborative, relationship between the press and police  and offered no reason why Surrey authorities did not investigate the paper for illegal phone hacking in 2002 after the 13-year-old schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, went missing and was later found dead.

Instead, the police appear to have followed a line of inquiry back then that was suggested by misleading information from journalists based on the girl’s hacked phone messages.

The News of the World was a popular British tabloid owned by News Corp. media mogul Rupert Murdoch,  who has been subjected to questioning on allegations of illegal phone hacking by a parliamentary committee.

Allegations made public in July of the phone hacking have been at the heart of the scandal that led Murdoch to close the newspaper and have led to ongoing police and parliamentary inquiries into British media ethics and practices.

Dowler was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in March 2002. But for a time, her parents believed her to be still alive, based on the deletion of messages on her phone. The police letter casts no light on how the deletions occurred.

Monday’s letter to Parliament included a report on an exchange between Surrey police and News of the World journalists concerning information involving messages left on Dowler’s phone a month after her abduction. The letter shows Surrey police were fully aware that journalists were using illegal phone hacking methods yet failed to report it to the central British police authority, Scotland Yard.

However, it specifies journalists did not obtain Dowler’s number and pin code from police, but from her classmates. Last year, the paper’s legal advisor had speculated during a parliamentary inquiry that the paper had probably obtained the information from police.

The 16-page letter said News of the World journalists informed Surrey police in April 2002, a month after Dowler’s disappearance, that they had listened to messages on Dowler’s phone from “a tearful relative” and “a young boy” and a recruitment agency offering a job. Police first thought the latter was a hoax but later deduced after conducting investigations it was a probable simple error in dialing phone numbers.

The agency later claimed it was  harassed by a News of the World journalist claiming to work for the police, asking whether the agency had called Dowler.

“What the letter shows is that several journalists at the News of the World appear to have been involved in hacking into Milly Dowler’s phone,” said John Whittingdale, head of a parliamentary inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, “and that they were doing so because they wanted to pursue the story rather than help the police.”

James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch and chairman of the company that owned the newspaper, told Whittingdale’s inquiry last year that beyond  one journalist who served a jail sentence for phone hacking in 2007, there were no other suspected phone hackers on the editorial staff of his papers.

The BBC and an inconvenient truth about climate change

Toeing the party line: Attenborough put across his apocalyptic climate change message forcefully in the final episode of Frozen Planet | Dec 8, 2011

by Christopher Booker

From its breathtaking footage of killer whales hunting in packs to the scenes of penguins swimming with balletic grace under the sea ice, Sir David Attenborough’s BBC series Frozen Planet has been acclaimed as perhaps the most riveting sequence of natural history programmes ever produced.

The sophistication of the photography, the extraordinary endeavour of the film crews to get the best shots  and Sir David’s breathily authoritative commentary have had viewers entranced in their millions.

Last night’s was the final part of this landmark series, and it set a very different tone from his usual celebration of the natural world. This was because Sir David and the BBC decided to use the last programme to put over a particular message that has become all too familiar from the Corporation in recent years.

Sir David used the awesome shots of the frozen polar wastes to hammer home his belief that the world is facing disaster from man-made global warming.

No one can doubt the  passion of his belief. But in putting across his apocalyptic  message so forcefully, too many important questions on this hugely important subject  were last night neither asked nor answered.

In short, it was a deeply disappointing end to the series — for it was the latest one of countless examples of how, in recent years, the BBC has chosen to make its coverage of one of the most crucial issues of our time quite deliberately, even defiantly one-sided.

The BBC is committed by its charter to report with ‘accuracy and impartiality’. Yet on climate change, it has adopted a clear ‘party line’, which has run through almost every aspect of its broadcasting.

Earlier this year, when the Mail serialised the memoirs of the respected former BBC news reporter and anchorman Peter Sissons, his insider’s view explained how the BBC had become ‘a propaganda machine for climate-change zealots’.

So distorted has the BBC’s coverage become that I produced a detailed report on the subject for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the ‘sceptical’ think-tank run by former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, which is published today.

My disturbing findings show that the problem began a few years ago when the alarm over global warming was at its height. Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth — a sensationalist documentary warning of the imminent destruction of our planet because of climate change — was packing in vast audiences and being circulated to our schools to show to children.

Tony Blair was putting global warming at the top of his government’s agenda. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) was producing its scariest report to date.

At a secret ‘high-level seminar’ in January 2006, 30 of the BBC’s most senior staff listened as a former president of the Royal Society, Lord May, told them that ‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over, and that the BBC must ‘stop reporting the sceptics’.

As a result, the BBC adopted a new editorial policy line, throwing any obligation to impartiality to the winds.

The BBC’s journalists and producers were let off the leash — to line up with the more extreme environmental pressure groups, such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth, in pushing their global warming agenda for all it was worth.

This bias was soon evident across the whole of the BBC’s output. Not just in the news and current affairs coverage, but from children’s programmes such as Blue Peter —which titled one show Green Peter, with top tips to save the planet — to story-lines in The Archers, one of which involved a farmer planting trees to combat climate change.

Even producers of the BBC Proms got in on the act. In 2007 they commissioned a ‘music drama’ centred on a group of children who had lost their homes through floods caused by climate change.

Programme after programme promoted the climate change gospel, including a two-part documentary series by David Attenborough in 2006, which featured practically every scare story ever dreamed up.

Full Story

News of the World journalists’ computers were destroyed by ‘putting them through a grinder and smashing them up’

Investigation: Computers at the News of the World have been put through a ‘grinder’

Daily Mail | Nov 19, 2011

The phone hacking scandal has taken a new twist after it was revealed computers used by News of the World journalists were destroyed by putting them ‘through a grinder’.

They were ‘taken out and smashed up’ last autumn at a time when News International was being sued over the illegal activity at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.

The computers were destroyed during a move from the paper’s headquarters in east London to an office at the nearby Thomas More Square, a court has heard.

Only the terminal belonging to show business reporter Dan Evans still exists, according to Jeremy Reed, the barrister representing a number of phone hacking victims.

Mr Reed was speaking at a pre-trial hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice into civil damages test cases to be heard in January.

News International decided to grind down the hard drives as part of a routine upgrading of its technical hardware, it is understood.

Vital internal emails are believed to have been copied and kept on servers outside the building.

Mr Evans and NI subsidiary News group Newspapers, were sued by designer Kelly Hoppen over interception of messages left on her mobile phone between 2004 and 2006.

The destruction of computers would have happened long after senior executives at the paper were made aware that phone hacking was not the work of just one ‘rogue’ reporter.

A legal opinion from Michael Silverleaf QC in 2008 warned there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that senior journalists at the paper had made ‘illegal enquiries.’

Meanwhile, it was revealed police have raided the home of a retired Special Branch detective who acted as a whistleblower on the failure of authorities to investigate media dirty tricks.

The raid came just days before he is to give evidence as a witness to Lord Leveson’s inquiry.

Former Merseyside policeman Alec Owens was the lead investigator for the Information Commissioner’s ‘Operation Motorman’ inquiry, into the use of private investigators by journalists.

The probe exposed the vast scale of private information obtained including criminal records and vehicle registrations.

But he is a critic of the commissioner’s decision not to interview any of the hundreds of journalists named in the 17,000 transactions listed in files seized from Hampshire private detective Steve Whittamore in 2003.

No journalist was charged in Operation Motorman.

Mr Owens is due to give evidence to the public inquiry on media standards on November 30.

At 7.25am yesterday, two officers from Wilmslow, Cheshire, arrived at his home with a search warrant, demanding documents and electronic files and asked him to come to a police station to be questioned under caution.

Mr Owens, who has notified Lord Leveson’s office of the swoop, believed the raid was connected to his inquiry evidence.

‘They have come on a fishing expedition to find out what I’m going to say,’ he told the Independent.

‘But I have told them that statement is for Lord Leveson’s eyes only at this stage.’

News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch reaps a bonus despite scandal

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, has received $12.5m bonus from News Corp for the last financial year. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

News Corp chief’s total pay package soars 47% to $33m, though his son James has declined $6m bonus | Sep 2, 2011

by Josh Halliday

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, received a $12.5m (£7.7m) cash bonus for the last financial year, while his total remuneration rose 47% to $33m, according to the company’s annual statement to shareholders.

His son James Murdoch – who is deputy chief operating officer, with responsibility for News Corp’s business in Europe and Asia – was awarded a $6m cash bonus as part of an $18m pay package – a 74% rise on his 2010 take-home pay.

But in a statement on Friday night, James Murdoch said he would not be taking the bonus in “light of the current controversy” over phone hacking at the News of the World. “I feel that declining the bonus is the right thing to do,” he said.

The bonuses were for the year to the end of June, during which time News Corp became mired in the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed the News of the World. The affair only escalated into a full-blown corporate crisis – with the closure of the News of the World and several executive resignations – in July, shortly after the end of News Corp’s financial year.

Chase Carey, News Corp’s chief operating officer and Murdoch’s right-hand man, took home $30m in the year to 30 June, including a $10m bonus. Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, received a slight increase in total compensation in 2011, up to $15.5m from $13.9m in 2010. Ailes received a $1.5m cash bonus.

The Murdochs’ remuneration was revealed in their report to shareholders. Elisabeth Murdoch, the chief executive of TV production company Shine, received a salary of $1.7m from News Corp last year, the report shows. She received $214m in cash after News Corp bought Shine earlier this year.

Rupert’s eldest son, Lachlan – who is acting chief executive of the Australian TV firm Ten Network – took home a total of $504,000 in 2011 for his work on the News Corp board.

Charlotte Harris, the solicitor who represents several phone-hacking claimants, said: “The bonuses are not very humble given recent events.”

She was referring to a comment by Rupert Murdoch, who told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee when he appeared before them in July that it was “the most humble day of my life”.

News Corp also announced on Friday that two of its longest-serving directors were to leave. Ken Cowley, a trusted lieutenant for more than 50 years, will leave the News Corp board of directors he joined in 1979 when Murdoch established the global holding company for his media businesses.

Thomas Perkins, a partner of investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and member of the News Corp board since 1996, will also step down after the annual meeting next month. Jim Breyer, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and one of the first investors in Facebook, will join the News Corp board in October.

Rupert Murdoch, papal knight

Rupert Murdoch, left, and Cardinal Edward Egan at the Alfred E Smith fundraising dinner in New York | Jul 19, 2011

by John Dart

As British authorities look into the cellphone hacking scandal surrounding the global media empire of Rupert Murdoch, questions have reappeared about the 1998 award of a papal knighthood to Murdoch–and how his family may have used its riches to appear in a favorable light with the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Murdoch’s selection for the honorary knighthood–the highest honor the pope can bestow on laypeople–upset many people at the time. Murdoch’s News Corp. was long known for sensationalist tabloid newspapers and titillating programs on the Fox Network.

The ceremony was celebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony in a suburban Los Angeles parish, and I covered it for the Los Angeles Times. Later reports said that Murdoch contributed $10 million toward building the Los Angeles archdiocese’s large downtown cathedral, dubbed Taj Mahony by many.

Those given the title of Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great ranged from generous donors to tireless volunteers. Honorees were to be people of “unblemished character” who contributed to society and/or Catholic institutions. “You are examples of good peer pressure, positive influences on society and culture,” said Mahony to some 60 inductees.

Murdoch attended, sitting in a section of the pews well-distanced from reporters. His then-wife Anna, a Catholic, was one of a dozen women named Dames of St. Gregory. She told me her husband grew up in the Anglican Church in Australia but would occasionally attend mass with her at a Beverly Hills parish.

Two other non-Catholic honorees stayed away from the hoopla: comedian Bob Hope and entertainment executive Roy Disney. But veteran actor Ricardo Montalban was sitting in a front pew. He frequently appeared at Catholic charitable affairs during his long film and television career. Four years before, Montalban underwent a spinal cord operation. Using a walker, he still betrayed the pain of sitting down and rising in the church.

But he was all smiles to everyone who greeted him. “This is probably my greatest honor,” he said of the unanticipated award. “It’s a wonderful gift, medicine from God.”

Phone hacking scandal: Rebekah Brooks claims she was repeatedly told phone allegations were untrue

Rebekah Brooks appears before MPs investigating the phone-hacking scandal at News International

Former editor denied she had gone riding with David Cameron or spoken to him about the appointment of Andy Coulson | Jul 20, 2011

By Martin Hickman and Cahal Milmo

Rebekah Brooks said yesterday that she was a friend of the Prime Minister but denied that she had influenced his appointment of Andy Coulson as his party’s director of communications.

“The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate,” she said.

The newly resigned chief executive of News International denied press reports that she had gone riding with David Cameron or spoken to him about the appointment of Mr Coulson – or that NI had augmented Mr Coulson’s salary while he worked at Conservative central office.

Asked whether she had ever spoken to Mr Cameron about Mr Coulson prior to his appointment, Ms Brooks replied: “That is not true. Never was true.”

Appearing before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s investigation into phone hacking, the former tabloid editor said that the News of the World had repeatedly assured her that allegations the newspaper used the practice were untrue.

“They consistently denied any of these allegations in various internal investigations,” she said.

“It was only when we saw the Sienna Miller documentation that we realised the severity of the situation.”

When asked whether she had been lied to by senior employees, she declined to answer because of the criminal investigation. The former editor of the News of the World and The Sun said: “Unfortunately, because of the criminal procedure, I’m not sure that it’s possible to infer guilt until those criminal procedures have taken place.”

She agreed that the NOTW used private detectives. She said: “The use of private detectives in the late Nineties and 2000 was the practice of Fleet Street and after Operation Motorman and What Price Privacy? Fleet Street actually reviewed this practice and in the main the use of private detectives was stopped.”

Pressed by Labour MP Tom Watson, she added: “I was aware that the News of the World used private detectives, as every paper in Fleet Street did. The payments… would have gone through the managing editor’s office.”

However, Ms Brooks denied she had met ever Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective exclusively contracted to the NOTW, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the Royal household.

“I didn’t know particularly that Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World,” she said.

“In fact, I first heard Glenn Mulcaire’s name in 2006.”

Asked about her links with private investigator Jonathan Rees, a convicted criminal, she replied: “He wasn’t a name familiar with me, I am told that he rejoined the News of the World in 2005, 2006, and he worked for the News of the World and many other newspapers in the late 1990s.”

Asked whether she found it “peculiar” that Rees had been rehired after serving a sentence for a very serious offence, she replied: “It does seem extraordinary.”

She struggled to name other private detectives who had worked with the News of the World. “It isn’t that I can’t remember, it’s that you have the same information that I have, which is from Operation Motorman,” she said.

Asked whether she had any regrets, she said: “Of course I have regrets.

“The idea that Milly Dowler’s phone was accessed by someone being paid by the News of the World, or even worse authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone in this room.

“And it is an ultimate regret that the speed in which we have tried to find out the bottom of these investigations has been too slow.”

Referring to her comments in 2003 that payments had been made to the police, she said: “I can say that I have never paid a policeman myself. I have never sanctioned, knowingly sanctioned, a payment to a police officer,” she told the cross-party committee.

“In my experience of dealing with the police, the information they give to newspapers comes free of charge.”

She admitted that “things went badly wrong” at the News of the World, but added that News International was a responsible news group. “You will have seen that, out of all the media groups in this country, News International has been the one to openly welcome the Prime Minister’s public inquiry into, I think, all Fleet Street practices.”

Asked whether she had any regrets over headlines now she had experienced the media “spotlight” herself, she said there had been “mistakes”.

She added: “And yes, it hasn’t been particularly pleasant. It was one of the main reasons that I wanted to leave because I felt I was detracting from the amazing journalists and media executives and all the people that work in News International. I felt I was detracting from their incredibly good work.”

Murdochs Deny That They Knew of Illegal Acts

Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

His humility did not extend to declaring that he was at fault. | Jul 19, 2011


LONDON — It was riveting theater, a newly emboldened parliamentary committee facing off against the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media mogul, in a series of exchanges designed to get to the bottom of the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed not just Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation, but also Britain’s political and law-enforcement elite.

In two hours of intense questioning broken only by a bizarre incident in which Mr. Murdoch was accosted with what appeared to be a foil pie plate filled with shaving cream, both he and his son James declared repeatedly that they had been shocked to discover something that has become increasingly apparent: that phone hacking and other illegal behavior were endemic at their News of the World tabloid, which is now defunct.

Even so, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks, a former editor at the paper who resigned from the News Corporation on Friday, only to be arrested on Sunday on suspicion of phone hacking and bribing the police, apologized again and again for the failures at their company.

“I would just like to say one sentence,” Rupert Murdoch said, breaking at one point into a long answer by his son, the News Corporation’s deputy chief operating officer. “This is the most humble day of my life.”

But his humility did not extend to declaring that he was at fault or that he should step down from his company.

“I feel that people I trusted — I don’t know who, on what level — have let me down, and I think they have behaved disgracefully, and it’s for them to pay,” he said. “And I think, frankly, that I’m the best person to see it through.”


While the elder Mr. Murdoch has long had the reputation of being a hands-on manager, pressing for and savoring the scoops scored by the newspapers he had always felt were the soul of his media empire, he said in his testimony that in the case of The News of the World, he had no knowledge of the specifics of what was going on.

He did not know, for example, that his company had paid confidential out-of-court settlements of £600,000 and £1 million to two victims of phone hacking. Nor, he said, did he know that the company was paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator under contract to The News of the World who was convicted in 2007 of hacking into the phones of staff members of the royal family.

James Murdoch said he had not known about paying Mr. Mulcaire’s legal fees either, and was “as surprised as you are that some of these arrangements had been made.”

The Murdochs shut down the tabloid last week in a futile effort to contain a crisis that has also claimed the careers of two high-ranking police officers and two top News Corporation officials, caused the company to withdraw a much-wanted $12 billion takeover bid of a broadcasting company, and led to the arrests of 10 former News of the World editors and reporters.

The hearings (Ms. Brooks appeared separately) provided a gripping spectacle of executives who once commanded unassailable political power enduring sustained questioning from lawmakers enjoying a newfound confidence.

There was Rupert Murdoch, looking every bit his age, appearing at times to lose his concentration and sometimes taking so long to answer questions that he seemed not to have heard them at all. There was James Murdoch, his 38-year-old heir apparent, sharp, engaged and seeming alarmed at the prospect that his father would lose his way, quick to leap in when the elder Mr. Murdoch wavered or appeared uncertain.

Mr. Murdoch’s glamorous wife, Wendi Murdoch, 42, sat directly behind her husband in the visitors’ section of the hearing room. At one point, a man suddenly rose from his seat and advanced on Rupert Murdoch, striking him with what appeared to be a pie tin filled with shaving cream, or possibly custard. That caused Mrs. Murdoch to rise from her chair and slug the attacker with a swift right swing.

The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, a Consevative member of Parliament, hastily declared a short recess.

The attacker was later identified in British news reports as Jonathan May-Bowles, a stand-up comedian. According to The Guardian, he was sending Twitter messages about the incident. “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat,” the attacker apparently wrote, in a homage to “A Tale of Two Cities,” just before unleashing the foam.

He was escorted from the building in handcuffs.

Members of the committee tried their best to get the Murdochs to explain why the company had repeatedly claimed that phone hacking was limited to a single “rogue” reporter. The answer, James Murdoch said, was that he had received bad advice — from his own executives, from the police, from his lawyers, even from the Press Complaints Commission. All had told him, he said, that “there was no illegality,” and he said he had no reason to doubt their word.

It was a matter of “deep frustration” and “real regret” that the facts had not emerged sooner, he said.

Full story

Rupert Murdoch’s “papal knighthood” questioned | Jul 17, 2011

There has been some debate among Catholics as to whether Rupert Murdoch should be asked by the Vatican to return the papal medal he was awarded in 1998. He was recommended for the medal after he gave large amounts to a Catholic “education” fund. After he was “knighted” by the pope, the media tycoon then donated another $10 million to help build a cathedral.

But now that it has been revealed to what depths the Murdoch empire stooped to accumulate this fortune, Catholics are asking if the Order of St Gregory should be replaced with the order of the boot.

In another development, it was revealed today that Murdoch’s son, James, paid £100,000 to the Catholic Church in order to gain a personal audience with the pope during his visit to Britain last September.

Catholic commentator Francis Davis said: “Given the importance that the English bishops have attached to ethics in business since the banking crisis, it would now be extraordinary if the bishops were not to review the ethical provenance of this donation. And perhaps it raises questions about other donations we don’t know about.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “There is now no doubt that the Murdoch fortune has been made partially on the back of illegal, not to mention immoral, activities. So, given that the money he donated is tainted with sin, will the morally righteous Vatican be sending it back and washing its hands of it? Or does money move only one way with the Vatican – and that’s in?”

Dead hacking scandal whistleblower was afraid of the Government and spoke of a “conspiracy”

Former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare has been found dead. Picture: AP Source: AP

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. | Jul 19, 2011

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.


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.”