Skip to main content

Dozens used phone-hacker's services, inquiry hears

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 12:33 PM EST, Mon November 14, 2011
  • NEW: 28 News International employees' names appear in a phone-hacker's files
  • Hugh Grant and Jude Law are among those involved in a public inquiry
  • It comes after James Murdoch denied running a Mafia-like organization
  • He shut down the News of the World newspaper over the phone-hacking scandal

London (CNN) -- More than two dozen News International employees used the services of a convicted phone-hacker, the British government-backed inquiry into illegal eavesdropping and bribery by journalists heard Monday.

"This fact alone suggests wide-ranging, illegal activity within the organization at the relevant time," lawyer Robert Jay said Monday.

Prime Minister David Cameron established the Leveson Inquiry after public outrage at the revelation that the tabloid newspaper News of the World illegally hacked into the phone messages of a 13-year-old murder victim.

The missing girl, Milly Dowler, was among up to 5,800 crime victims, royals, politicians and celebrities alleged to have been targeted by the best-selling newspaper in search of stories. The tabloid was shut down in July because of the scandal.

James Murdoch called a 'mafia boss'
UK phone scandal recapped
James Murdoch on the hot seat
Murdoch heckled by Occupy protesters

The paper's publisher, News International, and its chief executive, James Murdoch, have always insisted that the practice of phone hacking was not widespread.

But Jay, one of the lawyers serving as part of the Leveson Inquiry, said Monday that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks contained the names of at least 28 people who employed him on 2,266 occasions.

Four individuals -- whom Jay did not name -- were responsible for almost all the Mulcaire commissions, Jay said.

But the sheer number of names in Mulcaire's files means the one News of the World journalist jailed over phone hacking, Clive Goodman, "was not a rogue reporter," Jay said.

Mulcaire and Goodman went to prison in 2007 after admitting hacking into royal family staff messages.

News International did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment on Jay's allegations Monday.

The Leveson Inquiry will hear from celebrities including Hugh Grant and J.K. Rowling, who believe they may have been victims of phone hacking, as well as from journalists, crime victims, politicians and other experts.

Actor Jude Law is suing another News International paper, The Sun, because he believes he was hacked.

Jay said there is one reference to The Sun in Mulcaire's notebooks, as well as another one which may refer to the Daily Mirror, a tabloid published by a rival newspaper group.

Most British newspaper groups, including News of the World publisher News International, got "core participant" status in the investigation, as did its former editor, Rebekah Brooks.

So did the Metropolitan Police, which has been accused of bungling the original investigation into phone hacking. Officers are also accused of taking bribes from journalists.

Lawyers for core participants can examine witnesses at the inquiry.

Police are investigating both the phone-hacking and the bribery allegations, and lawmakers are conducting their own separate probes.

You must be the first Mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise.
Labour MP Tom Watson

Last week, a parliamentary committee investigating the hacking grilled James Murdoch.

The son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch rejected allegations Thursday that his company behaved like a Mafia organization over the scandal.

Questioning Murdoch about why so little information was shared, Labour Member of Parliament Tom Watson suggested the company operated under an "omerta" code of silence.

He said an "omerta" involves "a group of people who are bound together by secrecy, who together pursue their group's business objectives with no regard for the law, using intimidation, corruption and general criminality."

"Would you agree with me that this is an accurate description of News International in the UK?" Watson asked.

Murdoch replied: "Absolutely not. I frankly think that's offensive and it's not true."

To gasps of amazement from fellow members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Watson went on: "You must be the first Mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise."

Murdoch rolled his eyes before saying that comment was "inappropriate."

He said he "disputed vigorously" the version of events described by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and its former legal manager, Tom Crone, who both left the company when the tabloid was closed.

Myler and Crone claimed they made Murdoch aware of the contents of an e-mail in 2008, indicating phone hacking was widespread. The document is known as the "for Neville" e-mail, apparently after its intended recipient, Neville Thurlbeck, then News of the World's chief reporter.

Analysts said Murdoch was caught in a "Catch-22" situation: if he wasn't aware of the extent of phone hacking when the company paid an out-of-court settlement of $1.2 million to one victim, he could be seen to be incompetent; if he did know about it, it could be an indication there was a cover-up.

Murdoch has maintained he found out about the full extent of phone hacking by staff and investigators at News of the World in 2010 and was not shown the e-mail.

CNN's Jonathan Wald, Erin McLaughlin, Peter Wilkinson, Atika Shubert and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:32 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Britain's phone-hacking scandal has seen former tabloid editor Andy Coulson move from the newsroom into the full glare of its spotlight.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Rebekah Brooks was once feted as one of the rising stars of the British media.
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Rupert Murdoch
An old-fashioned press baron with ink running through his veins, a hefty checkbook, and a hunger for the next big story.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
How did phone hacking grow into a scandal that threatened Rupert Murdoch's hold on his global media business? Track all the major events.
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
The phone hacking trial revealed much about the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch's sex-and-scandal tabloids.
updated 7:34 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Revelations that murdered UK schoolgirl Milly Dowler 's phone was hacked sparked outrage. But who was the girl at the center of the scandal?
updated 1:21 PM EST, Wed November 28, 2012
Media expert Brian Cathcart says Fleet St. has grabbed its megaphone and started bellowing out its usual message: leave us alone.
updated 6:33 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
James Murdoch, head of News Corp's European operations
James Murdoch was widely regarded as heir-apparent to his father global media empire. All that changed when the hacking scandal broke.
updated 6:30 AM EST, Fri November 30, 2012
Could the phone-hacking scandal prove to be a blessing in disguise for Murdoch? He claimed to have been "humbled" by the scandal.
The Leveson inquiry is a British government-backed inquiry into illegal eavesdropping and bribery by journalists. Read the final report by Lord Leveson.
Phone-hacking scandal revealed the dark side of tabloid journalism. Should it lead to a stricter press regulation? Share your views with CNN.