Saturday 25 February 2017

'Sun' staff fear more arrests in police probe into 'bribes'

Martin Evans in London

Journalists at 'The Sun' in the UK were fearing more arrests last night as the investigation into illegal practices at News International gathered pace.

More than 60 detectives out of 171 looking into illegal newspaper practices are focused on allegations of bribery as part of Operation Elveden.

At the weekend, five senior figures on Britain's best-selling newspaper were arrested in connection with the inquiry.

While police refused to confirm their identities, within a few hours of the journalists being taken in for questioning, their names were widely known, leading to speculation that they had been leaked by News International.

In synchronised dawn raids on Saturday, detectives detained Geoff Webster, 'The Sun's' deputy editor; John Kay, its long-serving chief reporter; Nick Parker, the chief foreign correspondent; John Edwards, the picture editor, and John Sturgis, the deputy news editor.

According to one source, as many as 20 officers turned up at the homes of the journalists and conducted detailed searches of their houses, including going through their children's bedrooms.

Notebooks, computers and mobile telephones were seized as the journalists were taken in for questioning.

In addition, a 36-year-old army major and his 39-year-old wife, who works for the Ministry of Defence, were arrested at their home in Wiltshire. A 39-year-old officer serving with Surrey Police was also held.

The arrests, which followed the detention of four 'Sun' journalists, including the head of news, Chris Pharo, and crime editor Mike Sullivan, last month, took the total number of arrests in Operation Elveden to 21. Sources close to the investigation suggested that they were unlikely to be the last as detectives work through 300 million emails dating to 2004, which have been supplied by News International.

The company moved quickly to quell rumours that 'The Sun' would suffer the same fate as the 'News of the World', however. In a memo to staff, Tom Mockridge, the chief executive, attempted to reassure them that Rupert Murdoch, the group's owner, had no plans to close the paper.

He wrote: "'The Sun' has a proud history of delivering groundbreaking journalism. You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish 'The Sun' newspaper."

The company also confirmed that Mr Murdoch would fly to Britain this week in an attempt to steady the ship.

Determined

'The Sun's' editor Dominic Mohan[ expressed shock at the arrests, but said he was determined to lead the paper through its most difficult challenge.

In a statement, he said: "I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that."

On Saturday night all of those arrested were released on bail. As with the four journalists arrested a fortnight ago, each was suspended on full pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Staff arrived at work early yesterday or turned up on their day off to show their loyalty. But when Mr Mohan addressed them, many accused the company of throwing their colleagues to the wolves.

A source at the paper said: "It is looking like a witch hunt now. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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