Friday 24 November 2017

Hacking scandal: fears of more Irish victims

Police alert for bereaved dad and journalist

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

FEARS deepened here last night over the extent of illegal phone hacking by the 'News of the World' as British police pinpointed two alleged Irish victims.

A bereaved father and a journalist were both warned in recent days by the Metropolitan Police that they may have been victims, the Irish Independent has learned. Officers are now investigating whether the voicemails of Sean Cassidy, the father of a terrorist bombing victim, and award-winning journalist Greg Harkin, had been illegally accessed.

Another alleged victim, former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst, claimed last night that police had shown him evidence that his private emails were intercepted and later faxed to the Dublin offices of the 'News of the World'.

The expansion of the police investigation to Ireland raised fresh questions about the extent of hacking by the British tabloid.

The revelations came amid growing outrage over the alleged hacking of the phone of murdered English schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of the 7/7 bombing victims.

Cavan man Sean Cassidy was shocked to be told his phone may have been hacked after his son Ciaran died in the bombings, as he prepared to mark the sixth anniversary of the atrocity today.

"It was just disbelief," he said last night, recalling how police told him his mobile number was listed on a document at the centre of the investigation.

"We were very open with them (the 'News of the World'); we gave them open interviews . . . so they were on our side," said Mr Cassidy.

Meanwhile, journalist Mr Harkin was also told police were investigating whether his voicemail had been accessed. He was told by police that records were being examined to see whether his mobile telephone was hacked after he wrote a book about the IRA informer codenamed 'Stakeknife' in 2004.

He wrote the book in conjunction with Mr Hurst, a former Northern Ireland-based British intelligence officer. He told the Irish Independent that police showed him evidence in recent days that his emails were intercepted by a private investigator working for the newspaper in 2006.

The alleged hacking of Mr Harkin and Mr Hurst occurred while English journalist Alex Marunchak was the tabloid's Ireland editor. Last March, a BBC 'Panorama' programme alleged Mr Marunchak, who worked in Ireland from 1996-2006, paid a private investigator to conduct hacking.

The claims have been repeatedly denied by Mr Marunchak, who said he was "astonished" that police were looking at the possibility Mr Harkin's phone was hacked.

"I know nothing whatsoever about this," he said last night.

Hayley Barlow, the spokeswoman for the 'News of the World', which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, did not respond to queries yesterday.


Mr Harkin said his lawyers were told by the Met that officers were checking records seized from private investigators who worked for the 'News of the World' to see if they contained any reference to him or his mobile number.

"I was taken aback by this development as I had worked for the 'News of the World' in the past and the idea that they could have been hacking me after I left is incredible," he said.

Mr Hurst told the Irish Independent that he met police officers on Friday last week and was shown evidence his emails had been intercepted.

He said officers showed him a seven-page fax, containing a number of his emails, which was sent to the newspaper's Dublin office in July 2006. He said the fax was addressed to "Alex".

'Panorama' alleged earlier this year that Mr Marunchak hired private investigator Jonathan Rees to hack Mr Hurst's computer.

Mr Rees is said to have subcontracted the job out to another private investigator, who used spying software to retrieve the emails.

Mr Hurst believes he was targeted for information as he had previously "handled" a number of IRA informers.

He had used the pseudonym Martin Ingram to co-write a book about Freddie Scappaticci, the informer codenamed 'Stakeknife' who was deputy head of the Provisional IRA's so-called 'Nutting Squad'.

Mr Marunchak denied receiving any fax containing Mr Hurst's emails.

"I received nothing. I received no fax," he said.

Mr Cassidy said police had contacted him on Tuesday to say his address and phone number had been found on a document connected to the illegal hacking. "I think it is just despicable. News International should just be ashamed of themselves really," he said.

Irish Independent

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