The investigator at the heart of Britain’s phone-hacking scandal says he acted on orders from the News of the World, casting doubt on claims by Rupert Murdoch’s empire that he was a rogue operator.
Private detective Glenn Mulcaire broke his silence as a British parliamentary committee said it had ordered Murdoch’s son and heir apparent James to give written clarification of answers he gave on the scandal last week.
Meanwhile a protester who splattered Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie when the media mogul was testifying to the same committee pleaded guilty at a court in London to assault and harassment.
The scandal which has dragged in police and politicians has returned to the question of how much key figures within News Corp knew about hacking at the tabloid.
In a statement issued by his lawyers, Mulcaire, who with former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking in 2007, expressed “sincere regret”, but added that he was “effectively employed” by the paper from 2002.
“As an employee he acted on the instructions of others,” the statement said.
“Any suggestion that he acted in such matters unilaterally is untrue.”
He spoke a day after the mother of a murdered 8-year-old girl said police had confirmed her details were found among his papers. Claims that he hacked the phone of a murdered 13-year-old ignited the scandal earlier this month.
Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News of the World from 2000-2003, and her successor until 2007, Andy Coulson, have both denied authorising any phone hacking or knowing that staff used the practice.
Brooks and Coulson, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief until January, have since been arrested.
James and Rupert Murdoch, with Brooks, who quit as chief executive of News Corp’s British newspaper wing, News International, this month, answered questions from Parliament’s media committee on July 19.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale said on Friday that he would write to James Murdoch about his testimony to the committee.
Former News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal manager Tom Crone said last week that James Murdoch gave misleading evidence about how much he knew about the extent of hacking at the paper when he authorised a payout to a victim in 2008. Whittingdale said “the chances are” that the committee would recall the younger Murdoch.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the head of Britain’s beleaguered Press Complaints Commission, Peta Buscombe, announced that she would not renew her contract when it expired in the new year.
James Murdoch has also faced calls to quit his chairmanship of pay-TV giant BSkyB, but his position was strengthened on Friday when the company posted bumper operating profits of £1.073 billion ($2 billion) in the 12 months to June, up 23 per cent on the previous year.
Meanwhile, New York Post staffers have been told to preserve any documents that may relate to phone hacking or payoffs to officials, as News Corp prepares for a probe into its UK operations to reach across the Atlantic.
Post editor Col Allan wrote in a memo to staff that as the scandal at the News of the World unfolded, “We knew that as a News Corporation tabloid, we would be looked at more closely.”
US Attorney General Eric Holder plans to meet on August 24 some September 11, 2001, family members about an FBI inquiry into allegations that News of the World journalists attempted to bribe a former New York City policeman to get phone records of victims of the attacks.