Scoops and scrapes of Mahmood

By Zoe Smith

Mazher Mahmood has been turning over criminals in the press since he was a teenager, and next week marks his ninth anniversary as News of the World investigations editor.

Now 44, Mahmood once told broadcaster Andrew Marr that he got his first break in journalism by shopping some friends of his parents to the NoW after they revealed over dinner that they were involved in pirating videos.

According to the NoW, he has put some 130 criminals behind bars. His most recent scoop, in January, was a variation on his trademark fake sheikh sting, in which he lured England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to Dubai with the false promise of a coaching job.

He told Press Gazette at the time: "Our targets are invariably driven by greed, and the disguise has been a useful tool for helping expose high-profile targets who are involved in criminal or moral wrongdoing."

He joined the NoW in 1992 and in a Press Gazette interview in 1997, said that he couldn’t remember a week in which he hadn’t received a death threat. He was twice turned down for a work placement on the Birmingham Evening Mail as a teenager, so headed for Fleet Street and spent three years at The Sunday Times, followed by a spell on TV-am before the NoW.

July 1992 Mahmood receives tapes of telephone conversations between Tory MP David Mellor and the actress he was having an affair with, Antonia de Sanchez. The NoW runs it and Mellor later resigns.

December 1993 Conservative front-bencher Tim Yeo resigns after the NoW runs the headline "Yeo Ho Ho". The story, which Mahmood was involved with, revealed that the married environment minister had a six-month-old ‘love child’ with single mother and Tory councillor Julia Stent.

April 1997 Mahmood is appointed investigations editor by Phil Hall. He cites his most fulfilling sting as one which led to the jailing of a husband and wife in Huddersfield, who were sexually abusing children in a council-run home. He later received a letter from a 13-year-old girl who had been involved, saying: "Thank you for saving me from this evil couple; thank you for saving my life."

March 1998 Newcastle United FC chairman Freddie Shepherd and deputy chairman Doug Hall resigns after Mahmood’s "Toongate tapes", recorded in a Spanish brothel, revealed them mocking fans and branding Geordie women "dogs".

May 1999 In Press Gazette, Phil Hall reveals that Mahmood has a full-time minder following "a number of early morning visits to his flat by strangers wanting to settle old scores".

March 2000 Rhodri Giggs, 22, (brother of footballer Ryan) is arrested in October 1999 after being accused by the NoW of supplying cocaine to Mahmood. He loses his job as an estate agent as a result, but is later found not guilty of supplying cocaine.

April 2001 Mahmood engineers a meeting with the Countess of Wessex and her PR partner, Murray Harkin, by posing as an Arab able to offer thousands of pounds each month for her PR services. Over the course of the meeting Princess Sophie mocks Tory leader William Hague, refers to the Prime Minister as "President Blair" and criticises Gordon Brown. The story causes huge embarrassment to the royal family. Following accusations that Sophie is abusing her royal connections as head of her PR firm R-JH, she resigns as chairwoman.

The Observer published a photograph of Mahmood in its coverage of the Sophie Wessex tapes.

September 2001 Mahmood wears traditional Muslim clothes to get into Afghanistan for an interview with members of the Taliban.

Mahmood, a Muslim, and photographer Conrad Brown, spent a night with fighters, after getting past border checkpoints in the back of a jeep.

November 2002 Mahmood foils a £5m kidnap plot to snatch Victoria Beckham and her children.

His minder, known only as "Jaws"

because of his gold teeth, infiltrates the gang as a getaway driver. Mahmood is profiled in Time afterwards. He is described in the article as "one of the few tabloid reporters who can get away with expensing cocaine".

January 2003 Mahmood "resigns" after the result of a dangerous investigation is relegated to a few paragraphs. He said he had a gun put to his head and received a severe kicking from Yardies in Birmingham after attempting to buy a gun. He is reported to have dumped a Kalashnikov AK-47 on the assistant editor’s desk before walking out.

June 2003 The Guardian puts Mahmood’s picture on its front page after reporting, wrongly, that Mahmood’s team had been involved in supplying cocaine.

September 2005 Taking on the guise of a wealthy Arab prince, Mahmood fools Princess Michael of Kent into airing her true views on the royal family as he pretended to be interested in buying her house.

January 2006 Mahmood meets England coach Sven- Goran Eriksson, posing as a businessman interested in opening a sports academy. Eriksson says that he would leave England after the World Cup if the Aston Villa job was offered to him.

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