RUPERT Murdoch is under pressure to disclose whether a law firm warned that phone hacking was rife at the 'News of the World' as he admitted there was a "cover-up" by senior employees.
During a three-and-a-half-hour appearance before the Leveson Inquiry, the News Corporation boss was challenged by Lord Justice Leveson to publish advice given to News International by the criminal law firm Burton Copeland after an internal investigation in 2007.
Mr Murdoch did not take up Lord Justice Leveson's suggestion that he should waive client confidentiality and allow Burton Copeland to tell the inquiry what it discovered in its review, which followed the jailing of the 'News of the World' royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire.
But the probing questions about what the law firm found out, which could shed light on whether Mr Murdoch or his son James were aware of a cover-up, added to the growing pressure here and in the US for News International to come clean.
Mr Murdoch (81) used the second day of his appearance to hit out at his critics and showed he retains his appetite for a fight as he made a series of cutting remarks to his inquisitor Robert Jay.
The inquiry room at London's High Court fell silent with astonishment as Mr Murdoch admitted for the first time that there had been a high-level cover-up of phone hacking at the 'News of the World'.
"There was a cover-up," he said. "I think the senior executives were ... shielded from anything that was going on there, but there's no question in my mind that ... someone took charge of a cover-up, which we were victims of and I regret."
He said the culture of secrecy came from "within the 'News of the World'", adding: "There were one or two very strong characters there ... the person I'm thinking of was a friend of the journalists, a drinking pal and a clever lawyer.
"And this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs Brooks or to James."
Tom Crone, the former head lawyer at the 'News of the World' who left in the wake of the phone-hacking row, said yesterday that Mr Murdoch was referring to him, but added that any suggestion of a cover-up by him was a "shameful lie".
Mr Murdoch said he wished he had spoken to Mr Goodman in 2007 when the reporter had written a letter to his managers saying others were involved in hacking.
"I should have gone there and thrown all the lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one on one and cross-examined him myself," he said.
"If I came to the conclusion that he was telling the truth I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn't be here today."
Lord Justice Leveson asked Mr Murdoch why he had not allowed Burton Copeland to publish the results of its investigation.
He said he was "not aware" that he could waive client confidentiality and allow the firm to address the inquiry. (© Daily Telegraph, London)