A Met police office who worked on the original phone hacking investigation told Leveson the “moment had been lost” to conduct a full search of Clive Goodman’s desk at News International.
Chief Superintendent Keith Surtees said officers had been obstructed by members of staff who feared they could be threatened with violence.
He said: “I wanted to search the desk, I wanted to search the financial areas, I wanted to find who was involved in this illegal activity.
“[Officers] were asked to go into a conference room until lawyers could arrive and challenge it. It was described to me as a ‘tense stand-off’ by the officer leading the search.
“Our officers were effectively surrounded and photographed and not assisted in any way shape or form. The search was curtailed and did not go to the extent I wanted it too.”
Surtees said it would have been virtually impossible to check whether the list of 418 potential victims had been hacked without a suspect in mind and a search could have been conducted with numbers known to have been used only by Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire.
Detective Inspector Mark Maberly said one of three mobile numbers of News of the World journalists appeared in Mulcaire’s phone bill.
He told the inquiry: “There would have been aspects of the case I would have liked to ask them about. I had no firm evidence of their knowledge of voicemail interception or them tasking Mulcaire.
“It would have been the case if we did bring them in for questioning the likelihood is they would have made no comment as did the other two employees of the News of the World. We would have got nowhere.”
Maberly said police had investigated Mulcaire’s office numbers and two “hub” numbers at the News of the World, which could have been used by anybody at the newspaper.