Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Murdoch rejects hacking claims

James Murdoch has clashed with two former senior staff after they insisted he was told about an explosive email which proved that knowledge of phone hacking was more widespread at the News of the World (NOTW) than News International had claimed.

The Sunday tabloid's former editor Colin Myler and ex-legal chief Tom Crone told MPs investigating the scandal they were "certain" they informed the News International chairman about the email at a meeting in 2008.

However after the hearing, Mr Murdoch, who had previously told the Commons Culture Committee he was not aware of the document, insisted: "I stand by my testimony, which is an accurate account of events."

And NOTW publisher News International accused the two men of giving MPs "unclear and contradictory" evidence.

The Culture Committee will decide at a meeting next week whether to subject Mr Murdoch to further questioning. Chairman John Whittingdale said last month it was "very possible" that the committee would want to hear again from him following the evidence of Mr Myler and Mr Crone, who were recalled after publicly challenging his account.

Mr Murdoch came out fighting after Mr Crone and Mr Myler were subjected to more than two hours of intense questioning by the committee. Both men were quizzed about the so-called 'For Neville' email, which blew apart the company's stance that hacking was the fault of a single rogue reporter - former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was paying private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to carry it out.

It is widely thought that the document - a transcript of hacked private information about Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor - was intended for NOTW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, though Mr Crone told MPs that Mr Thurlbeck denied having seen it.

Mr Crone, who quit as News Group Newspapers legal manager amid the furore over hacking earlier this year, told the committee he was "certain" he informed Mr Murdoch about the document at the 2008 meeting, which lasted 15 minutes or less and resulted in Mr Murdoch authorising him to reach a settlement with Mr Taylor, who was eventually paid £425,000.

He could not remember whether he showed Mr Murdoch a copy of the email. But he told MPs: "It was clear evidence that phone hacking was taking place beyond Clive Goodman. It was the reason we had to settle the (Taylor) case and in order to settle the case, we had to explain the case to Mr Murdoch and get his authority to settle, so clearly it was discussed."

In a statement released after the hearing, Mr Murdoch said: "My recollection of the meeting regarding the Gordon Taylor settlement is absolutely clear and consistent. I stand by my testimony, which is an accurate account of events."


From Belfast Telegraph