British investigator at heart of scandal 'was told to hack'

29th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The investigator at the heart of Britain's phone-hacking scandal said Friday 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 has dragged in police and politicians and spread to the United States and Australia, but increasingly it 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 along with former NotW 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 eight-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 the practice was being used by their staff.

Brooks and Coulson, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief until January this year, have since been arrested.

James and Rupert Murdoch, along with Brooks, who quit as chief executive of News Corp.'s British newspaper wing News International earlier this month, answered questions from parliament's media committee on July 19.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said Friday that he would be writing to James Murdoch about his testimony to the committee.

Ex-NotW editor Colin Myler and legal manager Tom Crone last week said 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 added "the chances are" that the younger Murdoch would be recalled by the committee.

It was at that hearing that the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch was hit in the face with a plateful of shaving foam by comedian Jonathan May-Bowles.

On Friday the 26-year-old May-Bowles, who goes by the stage name of Jonnie Marbles, pleaded guilty at City of Westminster Magistrates court in London to assault and to causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Leaving court, May-Bowles echoed Australian-born Murdoch's own statement to the committee, telling reporters: "This has been the most humble day of my life."

The judge warned May-Bowles that he faces jail when he is sentenced on August 2.

The scandal has already forced the resignation of two top police officers and several Murdoch aides, and it claimed its latest victim on Friday when the head of Britain's beleaguered Press Complaints Commission, Peta Buscombe, announced she will not renew her contract when it expires in the New Year.

James Murdoch has also faced calls to quit his chairmanship of pay-TV giant BSkyB, but his position was strengthened Friday when the company posted bumper operating profits of £1.073 billion ($1.74 billion, 1.22 billion euros) in the 12 months to June, up 23 percent on the previous year.

Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster said it also planned a share buyback of £750 million ($1.22 billion, 857 million euros) and dividend of £253 million.

The move was seen as calming the waters after the hacking scandal forced News Corp., which has 39 percent of shares in the broadcaster, to abandon a bid for full control, sparking a share price collapse.

Meanwhile a British lawmaker apologised to US talk show host Piers Morgan on Friday for suggesting at the July 19 hearing that he used phone hacking when he was editor of Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid.

"I wrongly stated that Piers Morgan, formerly editor of the Daily Mirror, had been open about personally hacking phones in a book he wrote," Conservative MP Louise Mensch wrote in a letter released to the press.

© 2011 AFP

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