A former escort agency boss who hit the headlines when a picture emerged of her with George Osborne has used a TV interview to claim she was a victim of phone-hacking by the News of the World.
Natalie Rowe, whose lurid claims about drugs first hit the headlines during the Tory leadership campaign of 2005, said she had been contacted by police investigating the hacking scandal, who told her that her phone number featured on a list seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Mulcaire was jailed with NoW royal reporter Clive Goodman in 2007 for eavesdropping on voicemail messages.
The NoW published a photo of Rowe and Mr Osborne on its front page in 2005, at a time when the paper was edited by Andy Coulson, who later went on to be David Cameron’s director of communications at 10 Downing Street.
The Chancellor confirmed at the time that he had met Rowe when he was 22 and she was the partner of a close friend of his.
He said his friend developed a serious problem with drugs but he strenuously denied anything untoward himself.
In what is thought to be her first broadcast interview, Rowe told Australia’s ABC network she had intended to sell her story to the Sunday Mirror and was surprised when it appeared in the rival tabloid on the same day.
Her lawyer Mark Lewis, who is representing several of the alleged NoW hacking victims, raised questions about Coulson’s role in the handling of her allegations.
Lewis claimed that the NoW took a notably softer line on Osborne than it might have done in its coverage of Rowe’s allegations.
An editorial described Osborne – then managing Cameron’s campaign for Tory leader – as a young man who had got caught up in a murky world.
He added: “The editor at the time was Andy Coulson. And I think that’s worth remembering, because of the future relationship that we have between the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister and Andy Coulson.”
Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks told a parliamentary committee in July that it was Osborne who recommended Coulson to Cameron as head of communications for the Conservative Party in 2007.
A spokesman for the chancellor said: “These are old allegations that were widely reported and denied years ago. There is nothing new in them.”
The Metropolitan Police declined to confirm whether Ms Rowe’s name had come up in the Operation Weeting investigation into phone-hacking.