Carry on hacking – 9 things we learnt about the News Of The World

By Martin Hickman

1. Phone hacking was routine. Clive Goodman, the former royal reporter, told the Old Bailey that almost every big story in the News of the World in the two years up to his arrest in August 2006 came from hacking phone messages. Phone records that in those years the paper’s private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, and journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper arm, News International, made 6,813 “hacking calls” to 281 unique voicemail numbers (inboxes that stored the messages). At least 1,000 people are likely to have been hacked, according to the Metropolitan Police. Four thousand more are potential victims.

2. While the Sunday tabloid targeted royal courtiers, Hollywood actors and leading politicians, whether you had your private thoughts eavesdropped could be bad luck. Some individuals were by-catch in the News of the World’s nets. Among those leaving voicemails on the ansaphone of Jeffrey Archer’s friend Edwina Freeman was “somebody from a driving school.” Laura Rooney’s messages were intercepted in the belief she was related to Wayne Rooney. She wasn’t, Court 12 heard. She was a beauty therapist from Windsor.

3. At the other extreme, among those who may have left messages for Hannah Pawlby, special advisor to Home Secretary Charles Clarke, was a former head of Britain’s foreign spy agency, MI6

4. Hannah Pawlby never heard three urgent messages left for her by the News of the World’s editor – because they had been accidentally deleted by Mulcaire. On a tape recording made by the private detective, Coulson could be heard saying: “I’ve got a story we’re planning to run tomorrow that I’d really like to speak to Charles about. I wouldn’t do this in the normal course of events but it’s quite a serious story…” After beeps, an automated message says: “Message deleted” – and Mulcaire exclaims: “Oh fuck”.

5. Some individuals were put under surveillance with a thoroughness that would have impressed the Stasi. When the current Metropolitan Police inquiry into hacking raided a safe at News International’s Wapping HQ, they found micro-cassettes of 330 phone messages left by David Blunkett, then the Home Secretary. Detective Constable Tim Hargreaves told the hacking trial: “They are deeply personal and intrusive.”

6. On a tape recording of one of Mr Blunkett’s hacked messages, Mulcaire could be heard muttering: “Just say ‘I love you’ and that’s 25 grand [£25,000].”

7. After hacking the phone of Amanda “Milly” Dowler, the News of the World was convinced the missing 13-year-old was working at a computer factory. A recruitment agency had misdialled one digit while asking a woman called Nana to attend an interview at Epson in Telford.

8. After hearing the message, the News of the World did not immediately inform the police. Instead news editor Neville Thurlbeck dispatched a team of seven reporters and photographers to the Midlands in the hope of landing a front-page. The recruitment agency workers said they had received phone calls claiming to be from Milly’s mother and the News of the World was “working with the police”. After at least two days scouring the Midlands for Milly without success, the News of the World alerted Surrey police on Saturday 13 April 2002.

9. Mulcaire submitted an invoice to the News of the World marked: “Dowler messages.” It was paid in full.

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

We rely on people like you to make a difference.

Give now to support the campaign for a free and accountable press.


Share your thoughts