Peppiatt: 'My phone was hacked by tabloid figure'

Former Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt claims he was phone-hacked by an individual ‘linked to the tabloid world’who was in ‘seeming collusion’with his former employer.

Peppiatt left the Daily Star in March and leaked his resignation letter to The Guardian, in which he levelled a series of damaging claims against the paper.

Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today he said that after he left he ‘suffered a campaign of harassment and threats’which ‘likely included my phone being hacked”.

Peppiatt said that within hours of The Guardian informing the Daily Star that it was publishing his resignation letter – in which he accused the tabloid of routinely fabricating stories – the ‘threatening phone calls, text messages and emails began”.

This was before his resignation was in the public domain and several days before the story was published.

‘They ranged from ‘We’re doing a kiss and tell on you’ and ‘Change you voicemail message’ and RD will get ya (a reference, I’m certain, to Richard Desmond),” he said.

Peppiatt alleged the harassment became so persistent that he called the police and sent his girlfriend to stay with a friend.

After a newspaper report on the alleged harrasment was published it stopped – but not, claimed Peppiatt, before the details of a voicemail message left by a friend were emailed to him and ‘the message itself apparently deleted”.

‘I see no way that the information could have been known unless my voicemail had been accessed,’he claimed.

Peppiatt said the police had tracked down the individual responsible for the harassment and given him a warning, but he said he was now pursuing a civil claim against them.

‘He is a person linked to the tabloid world but that I have never met, and who would therefore not have the in-depth personal information he possesses without seeming collusion from the Daily Star/Outside Organisation [the PR firm for Daily Star publisher Northern & Shell].”

Asked by counsel for the Leveson Inquiry, Robert Jay QC, whether he was suggesting Northern & Shell had hacked his phone he replied: ‘Not directly, no. I know the person who did it. They are not as far as I know on the payrolls of Northern & Shell’

He added: ‘This person I have never met, he has no personal – as far as I can imagine – gripe with me.”

Peppiatt also claimed that after he left the Daily Star the Outside Organisation were employed to ‘deal with the fall out”.

‘One technique used was to contact other newspapers and attempt to discredit me.

‘It filtered back through friends in the industry that they were spreading the rumour that I had been stealing money meant for sources, and that I was disgruntled after being turned down for a promotion, that I wasn’t a qualified journalist, hadn’t worked for other organisations as I claimed – and even that I was a drug addict.’

Press Gazette has asked Outside Organisation for a comment.

Following Peppiatt’s departure in March the Daily Star released a statement saying: “Richard Peppiatt worked purely as a casual reporter at the Daily Star for almost two years.

‘Recently he became unhappy after he was passed over for several staff positions.’

It added: ‘Since he wrote his email we have discovered that he was privately warned very recently by senior reporters on the paper after suggesting he would make up quotes.”

‘Too few reporters to adequately do their job’

Among Peppiatt’s other claims were that editorial decisions at the Daily Star were dictated ‘more from the accounts and advertising departments than the newsroom floor”.

As an example he cited recent coverage of Channel 5’s Big Brother and the Desmond-owned Health Lottery in Express Newspapers, which he claimed was ‘far in excess of the respective news values”.

He suggested that private investigators at the Daily Star were ‘not routinely employed’– not because of an ethical decision but because ‘of comparative budgets”.

Peppiatt claimed that a large number of stories in the Daily Star were follow-ups on Daily Mail stories that appeared the day before – and that the Mail has such a ‘heavy influence’that it ‘dictated the Daily Star’s news agenda”.

He also attacked Desmond’s lack of investment in the title – which resulted in ‘too few reporters to adequately do their job”.

‘I recollect one day there being just myself and two other reporters to write the whole newspaper,’he said.

‘We were forced to use pseudonyms just to make it appear to readers there were more of us.”

On one occasion he claimed a news editor offered £150 to a reporter that could produce a story for page three.

‘I was left in no doubt that by his phrasing he was not concerned for the story’s veracity, for it was 6pm on a Sunday night and he wanted to go home,’he said.

‘I invented a story about model Kelly Brook seeing a hypnotist to help get ready quicker, and was duly paid the bonus.”

When he first made the allegation in March the Daily Star replied: ‘He refers to a Kelly Brook story: in fact, he approached and offered the newspaper that story, vouched for its accuracy, and then asked for and received an extra freelance fee for doing so.”

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