Police face new claims in News of the World scandal
Police faced new allegations Sunday that officers leaked details about terror attack victims and a murdered schoolgirl to journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s felled News of the World tabloid.
The claims deepen the scandal surrounding phone-hacking at the paper, which has shaken Murdoch’s global media empire, claimed the jobs of two of Britain’s top police officers and dragged in Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Observer newspaper said survivors of the July 7, 2005 London bombings had asked lawyers to probe their belief that the capital’s Metropolitan Police had sold or passed on a confidential contact list of victims.
Beverli Rhodes, chair of the Survivors Foundation Coalition, said journalists from the paper approached survivors with false stories about how they got their details.
“Scotland Yard had the full list of survivor contact details. I am pretty sure that is how the News of the World got my home address,” she told the Observer.
Four suicide bombers blew themselves up on three underground trains and a bus in the worst terror attacks on British soil, killing 52 people.
Separately, the BBC reported that police had removed an officer from the inquiry into the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002 after information was allegedly leaked to the News of the World.
Police in Surrey, a county southwest of London, confirmed that a detective constable had been accused by a colleague of inappropriately disclosing information about the case to a “retired police officer friend.”
The officer “received words of advice and was removed permanently from the inquiry,” the force said in a statement. It did not mention the NotW.
The tabloid has already been accused of hacking Dowler’s voicemails and those of families of 7/7 victims, but this is the first time police have directly been linked to the paper’s activities on the two events.
Murdoch has now closed the NotW and personally apologised to Dowler’s parents.
Revelations that police employed a former NotW executive who has since been arrested over hacking claimed the jobs of Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson and the force’s anti-terror boss John Yates a week ago.
Scotland Yard was heavily criticised for botching an initial investigation, which resulted in the jailing of the paper’s former royal editor and a private investigator in 2007, but concluded he was a “rogue reporter.”
When the force bowed to pressure and reopened the probe in January it emerged that nearly 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked.
Other British papers were dragged into the row this weekend when former journalists at the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror — Murdoch’s main British tabloid rivals — reportedly said phone-hacking was rife at their papers too.
But the main effects have been on Murdoch’s US-based News Corporation.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said Sunday there were “big questions” over whether the mogul was fit to control a British broadcaster.
“We have learned from the past that having media moguls dominating the British media is deeply unhelpful, not simply in terms of plurality but because of the wider impact on the political world,” he said.
News Corp. was forced by the scandal to scrap its bid for full control of pay-TV giant BSkyB earlier this month.
Cable was stripped of responsibility for deciding the fate of the BSkyB deal last year after a newspaper secretly recorded him saying he was at “war” with Murdoch.
Aides for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on Sunday denied that this decision was influenced by a meeting between himself and Murdoch in New York in December.
“George meets with proprietors and editors of all the newspapers…” a spokesman said.
Britain’s Cabinet Office is due to publish details of all meetings between cabinet ministers and News International executives since May 2010 early next week.
Osborne’s spokesman said this information had been submitted for publication last week.
Murdoch’s son James meanwhile faces calls for a police probe into evidence he gave to lawmakers last week saying he did not know hacking was more widespread.
Meanwhile premier Cameron has also come under pressure due to his decision to employ Andy Coulson, another former editor of the tabloid, as his media chief.
Coulson then quit Downing Street in January and was arrested on July 8. Ten people have been detained since January.