News of the World’s former Ireland editor caught up in hacking scandal
The former editor of the Irish edition of the News of the World is expected to face a police inquiry following claims he ordered computer hacking to get information for a story on a Northern Irish spy scandal.
BBC’s Panorama programme last night claimed Alex Marunchak (59) paid private investigators to intercept the emails of former Northern Ireland intelligence officer Ian Hurst.
The English journalist, who ran the newspaper's Dublin operation between 1996 and 2006, disputed the allegations, describing them as “pure fantasy”.
However, a police probe now looks likely after Mr Hurst confirmed that he would be making an official complaint.
The Panorama revelations made Mr Marunchak the first Irish-based journalist to be implicated in the News of the World hacking scandal, which has left the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper facing a raft of lawsuits from well-known UK personalities.
Mr Marunchak last night insisted he had been unaware of phone hacking allegedly ordered by colleagues in London and denied having ever ordered phone or computer hacking during his 10 years in Dublin.
“I can say categorically that nothing of that sort ever happened in Ireland,” he said.
However, Panorama claimed Mr Marunchak hired private investigator Jonathan Rees to hack Mr Hurst's computer.
It is thought Mr Hurst was targeted for information as he had “run” a number of IRA informers. He had used the pseudonym Martin Ingram to co-write a book about Freddie Scappaticci, or ‘Stakeknife', who was deputy head of the Provisional IRA's so-called ‘nutting squad'.
The programme alleged Mr Rees subcontracted the work to another investigator who used spy software to retrieve emails.
Details of emails from Mr Hurst's computer were subsequently forwarded by fax to the News of the World's Dublin of
fice on July 5, 2006, with Alex Marunchak being the intended recipient, the programme claimed.
“The BBC has shown me documents which contained parts of emails between me and a number of other people,” Mr Hurst said. “This person was paid by News International to hack into my computer and it is clear that British security have been aware for a number of years that I was being hacked for a sustained period.”
Mr Hurst said he would be seeking a criminal investigation and pursuing a case against News Corp-owned News International, publishers of the tabloid.