James Murdoch has admitted receiving an email which appeared to outline the ‘nightmare scenario’that phone-hacking at the News of the World went beyond so-called rogue reporter Clive Goodman.
But the News International executive chairman insists he did not actually read the full contents of the email, which repeated Professional Footballer Association chief Gordon Taylor’s allegation that phone-hacking was ‘rife’at the newspaper.
The claim was included in an email chain released today that begins with a message from from NGN’s external lawyer Julian Pike, of the law firm Farrer & Co, and ends with former NoW editor Colin Myler arranging a meeting to discuss the Taylor case with Murdoch and NGN legal chief Tom Crone.
In an email dated 6 June 2008 – headed ‘Strictly Private & Confidential and subject to legal professional privilege’– Pike told Crone of a ‘without prejudice’conversation with Taylor’s lawyer Mark Lewis.
The conversation came after after the now infamous ‘For Neville’email was obtained by Taylor’s lawyers from the Met police under a court order, one of 11,000 files seized from Mulcaire in 2006, which included a transcript of 15 messages from Taylor’s mobile phone voicemail and 17 messages left by Taylor on the phone of PFA in-house lawyer Joanne Armstrong.
It showed that on 29 June 2005, then News of the World reporter Ross Hindley emailed Mulcaire a transcript of the voicemails titled ‘Transcript for Neville”, with the suggestion that the email was intended for former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who has since strongly denied ever seeing the email or having any knowledge of phone-hacking at the tabloid.
In the first email Pike told Crone:
- ‘Taylor’s attitude is that he wishes to be ‘vindicated or made rich’
- ‘He wishes to see NGN suffer: one way or another he wants this to hurt NGN
- ‘He wants to demonstrate that what happened to him is/was rife throughout the organisation. He wants to correct the paper [News of the World] telling Parliamentary enquiries that this was not happening when it was, NGN’s line having been there was a rogue trader in CG [former royal editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone-hacking alongside Glenn Mulcaire in 2007]”
Lewis also allegedly told Pike that if NGN agreed to pay £1.2m – the amount the case eventually settled for – he was ‘sure the case would settle and Taylor would agree to confidentiality”.
At 12.30pm the next day (a Saturday) Crone forwarded the Pike email to Myler, adding: ‘BUT there is a further nightmare scenario in this, which is that several of those voicemails on the Ross Hindley email were taken from Joanne Armstrong’s [REDACTED] phone.
‘She was at the time and still is, the in-house lawyer at the PFA.
‘We can also assume she will have seen this evidence and is waiting to see how Taylor’s case concluded before intimating her own claim. Such a claim is not time-barred until six years after the ‘event’.’
At 2.31pm the same day Myler forwarded the email chain on to Murdoch, telling him that the Taylor case was ‘as bad as we feared”, and he alluded to Pike’s email further down the chain, which he said was ‘extremely telling regarding Taylor’s vindictiveness”.
He ended by asking Murdoch for a five-minute meeting along with Tom Crone the following Tuesday (10 June 2008).
Murdoch replied two minutes later saying: ‘No worries. I am in during the afternoon. If you want to talk before I’ll be home tonight after seven and most of the day tomorrow.”
In a letter sent to the Culture Media and Sport Committee investigating hacking at the News of the World yesterday, the law firm Linklaters (writing on behalf of the NGN’s internal Management and Standards Committee into hacking) said that it had come across the email as part of the company’s ‘substantial and continuing investigation”, and it was provided to Murdoch on 7 December 2011.
Murdoch: ‘I am confident that I did not review the full email chain’
In a separate letter, Murdoch acknowledged receiving the email back in 2008 but added: ‘Given the timing of my response, just over two minutes after Myler had his email to me, and the fact that I typically received emails on my Blackberry on weekends, I am confident that I did not review the full email chain at the time or afterwards, nor do I recall a conversation with Mr Myler over that weekend.
‘Instead, having agreed to meet the following Tuesday, I would have relied on the oral briefing on 10 June 2008 that I have previously described in my testimony before the Committee.”
On 10 November 2011 Murdoch appeared before the comittee for the second time to face allegations that he misled Parliament during his first appearance, after both Myler and Crone claimed that the infamous ‘For Neville’email transcript was discussed with Murdoch at that 10 June meeting.
Murdoch insisted to MPs that he had ‘no recollection’of the email, adding: “The meeting, which I remember quite well, was a short meeting, and I was given at that meeting sufficient information to authorise the increase of the settlement offers that had been made. But I was given no more than that.”
In a separate email released today he said: ‘I was sent the email on a Saturday when I was not in the office. I replied two minutes later accepting a meeting and did not read the full email chain.
‘As I have always said, I was not aware of evidence of widespread wrongdoing or the need for further investigation.”