July 18, 2011
Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbiz reporter who was the first named journalist to allege Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead, the Guardian has learned. Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, is said to have been found dead at his Watford home. Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but the force said in a statement: “At 10.40am today [Monday 18 July] police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.
“The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.” Hoare first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World. He told the newspaper that not only did Coulson know of the phone hacking, but that he actively encouraged his staff to intercept the phone calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives. In a subsequent interview with the BBC he alleged that he was personally asked by his then-editor, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson’s insistence that he didn’t know about the practice was “a lie, it is simply a lie”.
At the time a Downing Street spokeswoman said Coulson totally and utterly denied the allegations and said he had “never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone hacking took place”. Sean Hoare, a one-time close friend of Coulson’s, told the New York Times the two men first worked together at the Sun, where, Hoare said, he played tape recordings of hacked messages for Coulson. At the News of the World, Hoare said he continued to inform Coulson of his activities. Coulson “actively encouraged me to do it”, Hoare said. In September last year, he was interviewed under caution by police over his claims that the former Tory communications chief asked him to hack into phones when he was editor of the paper, but declined to make any comment.
Hoare returned to the spotlight last week, after he told the New York Times that reporters at the News of the World were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals in exchange for payments to police officers. He said journalists were able to use a technique called “pinging” which measured the distance between mobile handsets and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location.
July 18, 2011
It seems fair to say that the stakes could not be higher for Rupert and James Murdoch when they appear in front of 11 members of parliament at 2.30pm on Tuesday. Their appearance, scheduled to last an hour, will not only be scrutinised by the world’s media but will also be pored over by criminal investigators and investors looking for signs of culpability from one of the world’s most powerful media owners and his heir apparent. Next up in front of the MPs will be Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, the newspaper business that owned the News of the World, who is to give evidence after her resignation on Friday and arrest two days later.
The scale of the crisis saw the two men locked in meetings with their advisers over the weekend and all day on Monday, preparing for a performance that could have devastating consequences for News Corp, which owns three national newspapers in the UK as well as the Fox film and television network and a 39% stake in the satellite business BSkyB. Not only has the scandal prompted the resignations of two of the most senior people in the company but it has also brought down two of the most senior police chiefs and led to 10 arrests.
So what can we expect? John Whittingdale, chairman of the media and culture select committee who summonsed the pair, said his team would be looking for answers in the phone-hacking scandal such as: how widespread was it? How long has it been going on? Who knew about it? These questions may seem straightforward but, as James Murdoch pointed out in his letter finally accepting the summons (he had earlier tried to delay the appearance), he could be constrained legally.
July 18, 2011
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, appeared not to foresee any difficulties yesterday when she announced an inquiry into alleged police corruption and “nepotism”. Following the resignation of two of the country’s most senior officers, she has asked HM Inspector of Constabulary to consider the propriety of the media’s relationship with the police. This follows the appointment of Neil Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor, as a PR adviser to the Metropolitan Police.
But if this was supposed to demonstrate a reassuring grasp of events, it failed. It had all the appearance of yet another cobbled-together proposal, intended to stem a crisis that threatens to engulf the Government. What began two weeks ago with the shocking revelation that News of the World journalists, or a private detective acting for them, hacked into the phone of the missing teenager Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered, has developed into an all‑consuming political calamity – and, with the death of Sean Hoare, the whistleblower, a human tragedy. David Cameron last week called it a firestorm and he was right. Firestorms are unpredictable in their trajectory and hard to put out. The flames are now licking at the door of No 10.
So far, the inferno has claimed the jobs of a number of significant players. Mr Cameron’s press spokesman Andy Coulson resigned in January when fresh allegations were made about the extent of the phone hacking carried out at the newspaper he once edited. In the past fortnight, Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International (NI), and Les Hinton, the company’s former chairman, have both resigned. They have been followed by Sir Paul Stephenson, the Commissioner of the Met, and by his assistant, John Yates. All have protested their innocence; all say they did not fully appreciate what was taking place; yet all felt that they were left with no option but to go.
The NI executives’ continued presence risked damaging the reputation and financial interests of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The police chiefs quit because the failure to investigate properly the hacking, combined with other allegations, has undermined the credibility of the Met. The next 12 months are crucial for the force as London prepares to host the Olympics, and preparations are made for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Which takes us back to Mrs May’s Commons statement: if there is to be an inquiry into police links with the media, why is the Government – and the Prime Minister in particular – apparently exempt from such forensic scrutiny? Mr Cameron has made much of the importance of “transparency” in this affair, a point he repeated on his now-truncated trip to South Africa yesterday. “The British Government has taken all of the appropriate action,” he said. “I have been out there in Parliament and in press conferences, fully answering the questions, fully transparent, very clear about what needs to be done.”