A former 'News of the World' journalist who blew the whistle on the extent of phone hacking was found dead yesterday as the unrelenting scandal took another dark turn.
Sean Hoare (47), who accused his former editor, Andy Coulson, of complicity in the illegal activity, was discovered at his home days after he made a series of fresh allegations against executives under whom he worked.
Police said his death was "unexplained", but said they did not at this stage suspect foul play.
The news came as David Cameron cut short a trip to Africa to fly home as another day of developments turned the phone hacking scandal into his gravest crisis as prime minister.
Mr Cameron, who employed Mr Coulson as his Downing Street media strategist after the former editor quit his post at the 'News of the World', faces a barrage of questions from MPs tomorrow after parliament's summer recess was delayed so he could make an emergency commons statement.
In addition to the death of Mr Hoare, John Yates, the policeman who twice resisted calls to reopen the investigation into phone hacking, resigned as assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over his links to Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the 'News of the World'.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson was forced to defend himself against allegations that he had personally intervened to secure the resignations of Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police commissioner and Mr Yates.
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, announced that she would answer questions from a committee of MPs today despite being arrested on Sunday by police investigating hacking at the newspaper she once edited.
James Murdoch is expected to face a fight for his future as chairman of News International when he and his father, Rupert, appear before the same panel of MPs.
Mr Hoare, who worked for 'The Sun' and the 'News of the World' until 2005, became a key figure in the phone hacking scandal last year when he was the first reporter to go on the record with allegations that Mr Coulson not only knew about hacking but "actively encouraged" his staff to intercept voicemail messages.
He told the 'The New York Times' that Mr Coulson's claims that he knew nothing about phone hacking were "simply a lie". He later told the BBC that his former editor had personally asked him to access phone messages, a claim that Mr Coulson also denied.
Mr Hoare, who was later interviewed under caution by police, made fresh allegations last week, when he said 'News of the World' executives paid police officers to locate "targets" by using their mobile phone signal in an operation known as "pinging".
He said: "There's more to come. This is not going to go away."
The former journalist was found dead at his home in Watford, England, yesterday morning after concerns were raised about his whereabouts.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire police said: "The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious."
Mr Hoare had been treated in the past for drink and drug problems, and badly injured his foot earlier this month in an accident.
His father, John, said he was "totally bemused" by his son's death and added: "All I can say is I think eventually he will be proved right." (© Daily Telegraph, London)