Former editor of Irish 'News of the World' to face hacking probe
Journalist accused of hiring people to intercept emails
Published 15/03/2011 | 05:00
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.
A BBC '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 -- who co-wrote a book about the IRA informer codenamed 'Stakeknife' -- 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 UK celebrities and politicians.
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 told the Irish Independent.
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 that Mr Rees, who was recently cleared of a murder charge, subcontracted the work to another private investigator, who used spying software to retrieve the emails.
Details of emails from Mr Hurst's computer were subsequently forwarded by fax to the 'News of the World' office in Dublin on July 5, 2006, with Mr Marunchak being the intended recipient, the programme claimed.
"The BBC has shown me documents which contained parts of emails exchanged between me and a number of other people, including my co-author Greg Harkin, while I was living in France," Mr Hurst said.
"Some of these were later faxed to the Dublin office of the 'News of the World'. This person was being paid by News International to hack into my computer and it is clear from the information passed to 'Panorama' that the British security establishment 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 would also be pursuing a case against News International, publishers of the 'News of the World'.
Mr Marunchak last night denied the claims made in the programme. He admitted going to a hotel in Leeds to meet Mr Rees and another man, who was offering to provide information for a story.
He said information was offered to him for a story regarding "collaborations between British security services and loyalists".
"I wasn't interested as most of it was rubbish and not revelatory," he said.
Mr Marunchak said he left the meeting and had no further contact with Mr Rees or his companion.