11 more things we learnt about Britain’s biggest newspaper group

Posted: June 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm

By Martin Hickman

1. News International’s tabloids had a variety of ways of getting information about “celebrities.” On was the News of the World’s “arrangement” with topless model Lorna Hogan to report back on the behaviour of the celebrities she met in London nightclubs. She received up to to £10,000 a time from the News of the World northern reporter Chris Tate. Ms Hogan told the phone hacking trial: “He would come to my house and sit in his car and pay me cash.” She gave the paper a scan of her unborn child with Calum Best, for a story on “George Best’s First Grandchild.”

2. Reporters were distrusted. Inside News International’s heavily-guarded headquarters in Wapping, London, executives prepared exclusive stories in a “secret room” to prevent them being leaked by staff. The secret room had solid walls, unlike the other glass offices. Former reporter Clive Goodman told the trial that the room had to be sound-proofed because Andy Coulson’s deputy, Neil Wallis, shouted so loudly.

3. Under Rebekah Brooks’ editorship, the Sun paid a Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan-Barber £100,000 in return for military stories about the deaths of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about indiscipline in the ranks. Examples of the latter included: “Lust Post,” “Major Feels Up Privates of a Private” and “Captain Boozy Gets Boot From William College.”

4. News International considered shutting the News of the World in June 2011 to help the BSkyB takeover. Alarmed by the arrests and lawsuits for its phone hacking, Simon Greenberg, head of corporate affairs, wrote to chief executive Rebekah Brooks on 9 June: “This is why we should consider the shutdown option. Is the brand too toxic for itself and for the company? I believe it is.” He said the issue was “important” to help “Operation Rubicon”, the £7bn BSkyB bid.

5. Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s royal editor, was nothing if not assiduous. He hacked the phone of Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, 155 times – including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day 2005 – and 14 February 2006.

6. Goodman said he could not trust the News of the World to protect his sources. He told Court 12 that while editing the paper Piers Morgan and another executive had made a “heartless commercial decision” to name one of Prince Charles’ valets, Kenneth Stronach. Stronach had been trying to sell royal secrets to the paper, Goodman said, but Morgan and his colleague thought his employment contract would make the expose too difficult and betrayed him. As a result Stronach was sacked and arrested by counter-terrorism police.

7. There was so much phone hacking going on at the News of the World that in 2006 – when the eavesdropping was at its height – Glenn Mulcaire emailed a senior journalist with a list of targets saying: “Overload, no more please.”

8. According to Clive Goodman, the rivalry between redtop hacks on the News of the World was poisonous. He said that on learning that the paper’s “fake sheikh”, Mazher Mahmood, was about to expose a “top model” for being a prostitute, a journalist called her agent and tipped him off about it. The “Fake Sheikh’s” showdown with the model never happened – and the exclusive vanished.

9. The News of the World hired a lip-reader to spy watch the Royal Family at private events. While attending the wedding of his stepbrother Tom Parker-Bowles in 2005, Prince Harry told a fellow guest: “To be honest, I’d rather be at Jordan’s” – a reference to wedding that weekend of the page three model Katie Price to singer Peter Andre.

10. On a whiteboard seized from the home of private detective Glenn Mulcaire was the word: “Binology” – rooting through people’s bins to find interesting documents. “Binology” also appeared on an invoice submitted to the News of the World by a private detective in 2001, when its editor was Rebekah Brooks. She told the trial: “There was a particular private detective who worked for various newspapers who would go through bins, lawyers’ bins and high profile people: Benji the Binman. And he would sell that information to newspapers.” She told Court 12 the practice might have caused her some anxiety.

11. An editorial in the Sun in January 2003 called striking fireman’s leader Andy Gilchrist a “lying, cheating low-life fornicator” after revealing a brief extra-marital affair he had had in 1999. At the time of publication Mrs Brooks, editor of the Sun, was in the middle of a six-year extra-marital affair with Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World. When asked whether he was guilty of “pure hypocrisy,” Coulson said it was an “irony”.

Martin Hickman covered every day of the trial for Hacked Off. He is publishing a book on the case by Peter Jukes at hackingtrial.com

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