Murdoch was warned phone hacking 'rife' at newspaper
JAMES Murdoch was warned in writing more than three years ago of allegations that phone hacking was "rife" at the 'News of the World', newly-released documents disclosed yesterday.
The head of News International was forwarded two emails suggesting that hacking was not restricted to a single rogue reporter.
They included one from Colin Myler, the former editor of the 'News of the World', who said the company faced a "nightmare scenario" after it emerged that a second journalist had sent an email with details of a hacked conversation. The message warned Mr Murdoch, "it is as bad as we feared".
Mr Murdoch last night admitted he had been sent the emails but claimed he had not had time to read them, although he agreed to meet Mr Myler to discuss its contents.
Rupert Murdoch's son has repeatedly said he was not aware of "widespread wrongdoing" at the tabloid newspaper until earlier this year.
The emails at the centre of the controversy relate to discussions over a payment to be made to Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers' Association, whose phone messages were hacked.
At the time, News International was negotiating an out-of-court settlement with Mr Taylor worth hundreds of thousands of pounds -- allegedly because Mr Taylor had evidence that phone hacking was not restricted to a single rogue reporter.
In an email sent to Mr Murdoch by Mr Myler on Saturday June 7, 2008, the former editor wrote: "James . . . Update on the Gordon Taylor case. Unfortunately it is as bad as we feared."
Mr Myler included two emails -- one from Tom Crone, the lawyer at the 'News of the World', and another from Julian Pike, a partner at Farrer & Co, a firm of solicitors advising the newspaper on the case.
Mr Crone's email referred to "the Ross Hindley email" which may contain details of hacked voicemails. This reference, to another 'News of the World' reporter who had not publicly been associated with phone hacking previously, could have alerted Mr Murdoch to a more widespread problem.
The email from Mr Pike also warned that Mr Taylor's lawyer "wants to demonstrate that what happened to him is/was rife throughout the organis-ation". Had Mr Murdoch read the emails, these references should have led him to ask searching questions of Mr Myler and Mr Crone.
He met the two men three days after the email was sent. Mr Myler and Mr Crone insist that they would have warned the executive at this meeting about the significance of Mr Taylor's case. However, Mr Murdoch says he was not warned.
Mr Crone yesterday told the Leevson Inquiry into media ethics that he had feared that phone hacking would "come back to bite" the 'News of the World'.
He said that News International repeated the line that the practice was confined to "one rogue reporter" because they hoped it would "all go away".
Yesterday, Mr Murdoch said: "I was not aware of evidence of widespread wrongdoing or the need for further investigation."
Richard Caseby, managing editor of 'The Sun', told the House of Lords Communications Committee that 'The Guardian's' "false accusation" that a 'News of the World' reporter deleted voicemails from Milly Dowler's phone had been directly responsible for the closure of the newspaper.
He said: "'The Guardian's' false allegation directly resulted in 200 people being thrown out of work."
Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of 'The Sun', separately called on the newspaper to apologise to Rupert Mudoch, the owner of News International. He said: "Rupert was forced to make a personal apology to the Dowlers -- both in private and in front of TV cameras -- for an offence which, it transpires, he did not commit." (© Daily Telegraph, London)