Fake wife blows lid on Fake Sheikh : ‘He lived in a fantasy world.’

Mazher Mahmood abused immigrants and phoned Rebekah Brooks four times a day, says former Private Investigator Christine Hart


  • KING of Sting came onto me
  • HE wanted sex at Dorchester – in exchange for a glass of champagne
  • MAHMOOD hurled slurs on targets
  • I suffered panic attacks after he set me up with machete-wielding gang
  • I got nicked when Mazher made me break INTO a prison
  • HE was ‘very close’ to Rebekah Brooks and whispered on the phone

Mazher Mahmood AKA the ‘Fake Sheikh’

By Christine Joanna Hart

Former News of the World Investigator

Remembering Wapping

Last night, I dreamt I was back at work.

I took the lift up to the offices, next to The Sun, and I made my way down the dimly lit, winding warren of corridors, passed a large sign, ‘Walk Tall. You are now entering Sun Country.’

I woke and thought about the book ‘Rebecca’ and how she often dreamed of Manderley and yet could never return.

None of us could ever go back to the News of The World. Like Manderley, the newspaper been ‘burned to the ground,’ metaphorically at least. We had all been disgraced by the phone hacking scandal – and it made us ashamed that we had ever been part of the ‘family,’ that had once been so close knit.

The News of The World had been run like a cult with layers of ‘need to know.’

Some of the reporters were mere pawns; never knowing what the upper layers were up to. Even the news editors like Greg Miskiw were never privy to the newspaper’s upper echelons.

One of the most important players on the chess board of the News of The World was Mazher Mahmood whose power rose all the way to the top of the Murdoch pile.

I was lucky to be drawn into his elite investigative department that was run as deftly as he had operated at The Sunday Times, Insight and kept apart from the rest of the newspaper.

I quickly became aware that in the scheme of things – while Rebekah Brooks was the Red Queen – her right hand man and close confidante was not Andy Coulson, but the handsome and charismatic Fake Sheikh, Mazher Mahmood.

‘Maz,’ as he was known to his friends, was a much respected ‘Bishop’ on the News Corps chessboard.

Former Private Investigator Christine Hart (C) C Hart

The Red Queen’s Bishop

How had I first met the man who had disgraced us even further with the latest exposures in court?

Who was Mazher Mahmood?

Why hadn’t his name come up in the previous scandals?

I had those answers because Maz had been a good friend to me whilst we worked alongside at the tabloid.

I had operated as his wife. Not his real wife – he wasn’t married then. When he finally did, no one had ever saw her.

I had been the Fake Sheik’s wife – my phoney name was Shakira.

His insults when in bad temper were legendary. ‘You’re not a dirty P*** lover are you, Chris?’ he said to me.

I assumed, at the time, that he wasn’t even Pakistani – because he seemed to hate them.

He also said, ‘Let’s get that P***,’ on more than one occasion.

He wasn’t racially insulting to other ethnic groups – he saved it for ‘P*** this, P*** that.’
It was odd. Maz could descend into vitriol in minutes that made him sound like he profoundly hated Pakistanis. It was only much later did I find out that he was Pakistani himself.

Often, when driving with him to a job, he would start.

How the job was about a ‘P***’ and how ‘we would get the P***.’

I did think it was a bit much and I assumed he was another race who hated that race. I assumed he was Indian or Saudi Arabian.

I felt sorry for his ‘marks’ because he made it a bit personal.

Mazher Mahmood had Pakistani roots. He was the son of journalists but he never spoke about his parents. He never spoke about his siblings, preferring in his mind not to have come from Birmingham but some royal connection in Arabia like his alter ego – Sheikh of Arabia.


The infamous Fake Sheik was a powerful man in News Corp – a close friend of Rebekah Brooks and he name dropped about social gatherings with Rupert Murdoch.

I was stunned, when one April morning in 1997, Greg pulled me into one of the side offices at work. He sat on the desk and told me.

‘I want you to meet Mazher Mahmood, our Chief Investigative Reporter.

‘Get to know him and how he works and then work with him as a team. 

‘Mazher hardly ever comes into the office, but he’s shown curiosity about you and agreed to pair up as a duo of you and he.’ 

My background was that I had been a private investigator for over thirteen years in ex military agencies in London.

I had read Mazher’s stories and I was a fan of his criminal investigations.

I had worked alongside ex-MI6 officers and after I left the paper joined an ex-MI6 officer at a Knightsbridge company called KCS Ltd who work for foreign governments and are real spies in the James Bond sense of the word.

However, I have never worked with anyone so devoted to being undercover that his persona stayed with him even when he was not working.

Maz was a spy who got lost in the cold.

Part of the reason for this was that he appeared to hate his blood family, his identity and his nationality. The newspaper had become his true family and his only identity was as an Arab who played tricks on people. It was like he was trapped inside a cage of pretence and could not get out – because there was nothing to get out to. The cage had become his home. Others suffered because of his inability to live authentically and report like everyone else who didn’t have an alter ego who had grown out of control.

Before our first meeting, I hadn’t even seen a pic of him. I assumed he was rather an unattractive man who devoted his life to his investigations.

I knew he had sky high salary and I had read all of his dangerous and explosive weekly investigations for The News of The World.

Mazher apparently looked down on the office-based journalists and had a very expansive budget to stay in first class hotel suites for long periods, eat oysters and drink champagne. He travelled first class and drove a limousine with personalised number plate MAZ 1.  

I enjoyed his lifestyle when I joined him and he revelled in the part of his Royal stance as his full-time identity.

The Team

There was never a time when Maz was not working – which means he lived and breathed ‘His Highness.’

No wonder his marks believed him. That was who he actually was – there was no other Mazher. Sometimes I caught glimpses of who he really was and he seemed like a lost kid.

He had a crew of freelance experts, Conrad the video guy and a snapper on staff he favoured called Steve Grayson.

They worked with him checking out stories, carrying out observations and doing electronic surveillance in white vans.

As well as a gutsy ex-army boxer turned bodyguard called Colin who could kick the shit out of anyone who came near him. 

Mazher had famously, as His Highness, conned a long list of well-known faces.

There was a contract out on his life from a gangland source.

He was a ghost to everyone including those in the Special Investigations Unit and the newsdesk.

Mazher had kept a great distance from the journalists in the Special Investigations Dept. He referred to their hacking ways and ‘amateur’ investigations as ‘Carry on Spying.’ I was sure he used the hacker Glenn Mulcaire, to get ex-directory phone numbers, through Greg Miskiw.

Greg ran the department.

Maz did not like there to be any other investigations on the paper bar him.

The first time I met Mazher was on an unseasonably hot afternoon in late April 1997. My porter Alan called up to my apartment in The Circle – just around the corner from the office in Queen Elizabeth Street.

‘There’s a car waiting outside for you – a long green limousine with a personalised number plate.’

I felt nervous. I knew Mazher was coming to pick me up to take me to work on a job with him in Buckinghamshire and I had put on a smart dress and Katherine Hamnett high-heel sandals.

I put on some lipstick and frowned at myself in the mirror. 

How would this work out?   I was afraid of this hard-hitting, celebrity journalist.  What would he look like?  Mazher’s  photograph never appeared in the papers – only the victims of his stings. I thought he would look tough and hard.

Mazher was a ‘secret’ and a very glamorous one at that. 

I dressed up to the hilt so I wouldn’t feel inferior, yet my stomach was in knots. 

He refused to mix with other reporters.

When he did, he worked from a back office – gliding in like an Emperor, not looking to either side of him.  He could go for a long time not coming in, so most of us had never seen him.

Mazher impressed me because his work was about the highly dangerous worlds of gun running and serious crime and some of the men I had worked with in the past were that breed. 

I had been a spy in the dangerous world of the ex-MI6 men, in what is known as MI6’s commercial arm in London so I considered myself his equal if not superior. Around that time, I was being hired by Michael Oatley’s firm Company X – known as Cie X or rather Ciex Ltd.

I wondered whether we would compete?

Later, I was to follow in his footsteps, and have my own spreads on the Real IRA and meet the Provo Godfathers.

I did my IRA stories in Dundalk for Liam Clarke at The Sunday Times, in true Maz style.

At sixteen, I had gone into an ex-military investigation agency in London and been trained to carry out close-ops spy work. 

Wanting to be a writer, I had offered my services to The News of The World.

Now it was me and Mazher working as a boy and girl team.

Would we have chemistry like a TV cop team – would we hate each other?

I was tired of the news desk investigations. Like him, I despised them as they had no investigative power – only intrusions on mobile phone companies and BT. I was pleased to be out with Mazher and hoped he would have some real work to do.

Undercover with the Fake Sheikh

I took the lift from my apartment and out to the car in this smart dress and heels. It was a long green limousine, a new one.

I got in the back and settled myself down, waiting for him to make small talk with me.

I had only seen the back of his head – then he turned and looked at me as he drove off. I felt confused immediately – he was an extremely good looking man – this was not what I expected.

‘Wow, you look hot, Suzy!  You’ll work well at this party to entertain all the men.’

I looked back at him, worried, feeling very stressed out. 

I assumed that My porter had ushered me incorrectly into the wrong car.  My heart sunk – now I would be late for the great Mazher who was probably waiting for me back at my apartment block. 

‘I’m sorry? Look, I’m not Suzy!’

‘Not Suzy? I’ve come to pick you up to take you to the party to entertain the lads?’

‘Oh, no. Oh, shit. Look, I’m so very sorry.’ I turned round and looked behind me as my apartment block got smaller and smaller. ‘Please – look, can you take me back home? I’m needed – someone’s coming to pick me up.’

‘Relax Suzy, you’ll be fine.’  He purred as he drove uber smoothly in the sleek dark green limousine.

‘Look, I’d love to be Suzy and come with you to your party, but I’m waiting to be picked up by someone to go to work. Could you please take me back? It’s important.’

He looked at me in his mirror for a long time monitoring my reaction, enjoying my confusion and stress with a grin on his face.

‘Chris, Chris, calm down, it’s me, Maz, God, you’re gullible.’

He laughed as he drove.  My heart beat faster and I felt sick. I looked at the back of his head.

Mazher Mahmood – The News of The World’s secret weapon.

The Secret of Maz’s Power

As we drove fast with the windows wound down a breeze cooled our faces. I looked at this legend. Maz was of Asian extraction with very clear skin, an aquiline nose, well contoured lips and well-shaped hands with long strong fingers. He was a very handsome man but the remarkable thing about Mazher was his eyes: they were amber and they actually glowed with tiny little golden flecks.  When you looked into these childlike eyes, you believed all that he said. 

Mazher was hypnotic. He also had a regal air about him, so no wonder his Fake Sheik blag worked on Sarah Ferguson. I remember thinking, ‘so that’s your secret weapon – your good skin.’  In the Asian caste system, Mazher Mahmood looked Royal. He also looked and wanted to be Saudi Arabian. 

His victims wanted to believe all he said because they wanted the regal beauty to like them. They looked into those sweet, honey-syrup eyes and saw a childlike honesty. What they were seeing was truth – Maz wholeheartedly believed he was Royalty and an Arab. Women especially fell for his little-boy routine.

I was soon to find out that he was deeply ashamed of his Pakistani nationality

Was it beauty that had captured  Sarah Ferguson?  Was she and Tulisa zapped by the Mazher Mahmood sex appeal that made mugs of us all, and nearly got me killed when I later went on jobs for him that were dangerous…. just because he wanted me to.

Mazher and I were off to a five-star spa and hotel in Buckinghamshire to entrap a creepy 60-year-old paedophile who was luring teen-year-old girls to pose naked and prostitute themselves in his house, for money and promises of fame and fortune.

As we drove, Mazher ignored me. He did it in such a way to make it feel like it would be beneath him to even speak to me.   It didn’t bother me at all.  It would be unthinkable for Mazher to go for a drink with any of the other staff.  Here was in his car with him I was supposed to feel honoured… and I was. 

Yet I was to play ‘lower level sidekick’ to his leader – Mazher was never going to accept anyone on an equal footing.

Half way through the journey he rang his buddy Rebekah Brooks, who used her maiden name Wade then.

It seemed that when I was with him, he spoke to Rebekah four or five times per day in the hushed tone of lovers.

He began to talk to her about me in code.  I sat and squirmed. 

‘I think she’s ok – not sure yet though – she may be close to Miskiw.’ That what he said to Brooks.

He and Brooks were very, very close. Chatting to each other in whispers, punctuated by laughter and promises to meet up later for drinks.  His voice would go low and he would laugh and joke with her – the only time I saw a side of him he ever showed to anyone else.

He spoke to her like an equal, but the rest of us were just his go-fers and slaves. I was his dum-dum wife who had to keep her mouth shut when we were operating together. Since I had worked beside hard- hitters in the world of private spies, I found this quite rich, but his childlike air of honesty and sweetness disarmed me. His charisma levels were extremely high and it was this he used to sucker in his marks.

In the hierarchy of the office, he was part of the elite of News Int. I wanted to keep in with him – to leave the others behind as I rose up to his level in the family.

Five Star All the Way

After arriving at the hotel in the countryside, we got settled into our luxurious suites.  Mazher always got the best suites for him and his people – never rooms. Champagne was always on the menu whenever you wanted it. While other journalists had to stay in normal hotels and drink beer and eat hamburgers, Mazher had the budget for five star all the way.

Later, we ate a candlelit dinner as we looked out over the gardens.

Mazher was entertaining to talk to because he had met a lot of celebrities for straight-forward newspaper interviews.

He had the unpublished gossip on the soap stars – the likes of Michelle Collins, Martine McCutcheon and so on.

Evidently, they all found him rather charming and some had even chosen him as a confidant.   

He used this opportunity to weave himself into their private lives, and get their drivers and nannies on the payroll, who then became an endless source of stories for him. 

Celebrities often rang him and he became their shoulder to cry on.

I sat spell bound as his celebrity secrets poured out of him – most of them were cruel observations.  When in gossip mode Maz became a bitch.

I often cringed.

Mazher didn’t drink, and being Muslim refrained from eating pork.   

I could tell he was a man who liked to remain in control, as he poured me more wine. I sat back and heard about the dirty washing of top celebrities that had never made it into print.

My suite had a connecting door to Mazher’s and after dinner Mazher lay on his king-size bed with his shirt off and I lay on the settee. I couldn’t help but secretly run my eyes all over his golden-skinned body. He was lovely, but he was something one only looked at rather than thought of touching because he gave out the impression that he was royal and therefore untouchable. I was also scared of the wicked child side of him that appeared somehow kind of lethal.

I understood how he fooled his victims. He oozed an effortless charisma that was hypnotic. I felt breathless, a bit like a silly girl whenever he stopped and stared at me.

All of a sudden, a cache of photos fell out of his file – hundreds of photos of girls with their legs akimbo.

God knows where he got them from.

I think the story tipster gave them to Maz.

I tried not to look.

They were completely disgusting.

‘Oh, sorry about that.’ He cleared them up with a superior grin.

I felt sick and retired to my room. I knew Mazher saw stuff like that all the time. Cops saw porn too, in their work but they were fit for it; I wasn’t sure Mazher was as he was immature.   

The next morning, our job was to approach the sleazy old pervert to try to buy the offending photographs from him.

The creepy pensioner left his house and we tailed him slowly to the nearby bowling club. I ended up telling him I was from the local newspaper, doing a feature on bowling, and asked if he would help us out as I plied him for information. I played bowls with him so our snapper could get a good facial shot of him for the paper.

Mazher took some snaps of us pretending to be my photographer.  He smiled at me. This was it our first job and we were working well together. Dempsey and Makepeace was in business, I thought to myself sardonically. I wondered why he told Leveson that he had never hired a private eye as he had hired me – his wife.

Then Mazher spoke to the pervert on the quiet about wanting some photos of young models. 

Mazher did a deal with him about the vile pornographic photos.  Then we arranged to meet him later.   The job ended up as a middle-page spread and the file was passed to the cops.  I didn’t get my name on it – no one shared a by-line with the great Mazher Mahmood.

Mazher and I quickly established that he was top dog and after that first time, we worked together frequently, and I was his bitch – literally.

Sylveser Stallone’s Marriage

Our fake marriage was first played out when we both attended Sylvester Stallone’s wedding in The Dorchester on London’s Park Lane in May of 97.

The luxury suite, the base for Maz’s team was one floor below Stallone’s.  Mazher answered the door in a Dorchester dressing gown, sipping a glass of milk and looking like Christopher Robin.  

Maz looked me up and down before he let me in to his suite.  I was wearing a tight and revealing leopard-print dress and I had a leopard-skin pill box hat perched on my blonde hair.  

This was my first time as ‘Shakira,’ as he called me when I played that role as the  ‘Fake Sheikh’s wife,’ and I had no idea what a Sheikh’s wife would wear.

But I assumed it would consist of animal print. 

When I thought about it the night before, it occurred to me that a tight leopard skin dress and a matching pill box hat was the way forward for an Arab’s wife.  

Mazher’s dressing gown was slightly open at the front like he was some kind of international playboy in his Dorchester suite.   He stared at me in disgust and said, ‘You look fucking absurd.

What’s wrong with your head? How can anyone be as stupid as you are?’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked a bit shocked.

‘That leopard-skin shit.’ He looked me up and down as if I was a bad smell.

‘I’m your wife – you’re an Arab.’

‘Wow! No brains! Go home and come back dressed for this fucking job yes.’

The door was slammed in my face. I wasn’t sure what to do. Why wasn’t animal print fitting?

I called a cab over to Harvey Nicks and bought a beige Nicole Fahri suit. I picked up an expensive hair fascinator with feathers on the ground floor. The plan was to get invited to the reception, and wedding itself, because he was Arab royalty.

‘Better – sit down and relax.’  Maz was laughing at me again.   The room was full of his men – about four or five of his team. It consisted of the photographer Steve Grayson, who was laid across one of the beds fiddling with masses of long lens cameras. There was also Colin, his personal bodyguard, and some others.

A phone call came in to say Sly Stallone was in the bar from one of his crew placed around the Dorchester.

I watched, as Mazher dressed up in his flowing white Arab robes or ‘rags’ as he called them and tied the black rope headband into place.  His men helped him dress ………………and then he was transformed. 

It was the first time I had seen him like it and I gasped. He really was impressive. He was such a method actor he didn’t speak to any of us after that point as Mazher – he was His Highness, like Dustin Hoffman getting completely into a role – he was now ‘in character’ and we weren’t allowed to call him Mazher or mention The News of The World.

He glided regally out of the Dorchester suite with all of us trailing behind him like servants. I wanted to prove my worth and to let him know I was in character, too.   I held Mazher’s hand as we descended in the lift, to make out I was his wife.  I enjoyed the feel of him. For one moment, there was just me and him and the lift. I went into a trance, as my palm got sweatier. Mazher held on for a while then – he turned to me as if I was the cleaning lady and I had taken a liberty.

‘You’re so getting off on this, aren’t you? I can feel it, that you like me, but now isn’t the time or the place.’  He held up our hands that were intertwined.  He looked deep into my eyes and then he laughed.

He dropped my hand and His Majesty glided off ahead of me to the bar area to meet Sylvester Stallone. I followed through the lobby with his entourage of bodyguards suited up in black suits.  It was a farce but an enjoyable one. It was one of the few stings that did not involved malice. Mazher had on his full Arab robes that were white and flowing with a headband in black.  One of Mazher’s men walked up to Stallone and asked him if he would allow ‘His Majesty’ a few minutes to talk with him, as His Majesty was a big fan. 

Sylvester Stallone grinned and was only too happy to agree. He told us he was honoured to meet us both.  I watched his eyes, and not at any time did he doubt Mazher was who he said he was.

We sat with the delightful Sly Stallone and he spoke about how happy he was to be marrying his beautiful bride then bowed as he left us. 

Mazher had got his exclusive interview with Sly Stallone on the eve of his wedding.   What other journalist could have nailed that? I was in awe of him and I quickly learned from him.

The next day we all woke up late. I slipped into his cavernous bathroom to have a bath. Mazher’s suite had a view over nearby Hyde Park. 

I looked out the window in a white towelling robe, then I heard Maz banging on the door.

‘The wedding’s on – they’re marrying on the roof. What the fuck are you doing?’ Mazher grabbed my hand and forcibly dragged me up the back emergency stairs. 

The thin, dark, dirty staircase had over a hundred stairs. Out of breath, we finally arrived onto the sunny roof of The Dorchester on the hot early summer’s day. 

Mazher held on to my damp towelling robe at the back, and made me lean over the roof that we were on, so that I could get a better view of the adjacent roof.

‘I won’t let you drop.’ I hung over the edge and shouted back to Mazher, describing what the bridesmaids were wearing on the other roof top, where Stallone was marrying Jennifer Flavin. 

Afterwards, I quickly got dressed and we headed off to the reception. There was a clatter of flash bulbs as we ducked into our limousine and sped off along the M4 in the direction of Oxfordshire, where the event was being held.

I think that Mazher hoped he’d been invited – not as Mazher Mahmood – but as the Fake Sheikh, following his ‘accidental’ meeting with Stallone in the Dorchester bar the night before.

But after failing to find his name on the reception guest list as he’d wished for, Mazher and I ended up with the rest of the press in a countryside pub in Woodstock.

Mazher stood back from the rest. I grabbed a beer and sucked on it trying to get rid of the stress of the day. I had been kept a secret by the newspaper so I was aware of curious glances. I felt proud to be standing alongside Mazher and Steve Grayson.

On the way back to The Dorchester, giddy from Budweiser, I was giggling in the back of the car – it was the stress of the day coming out.  Mazher sat taking photos of me and making snidey remarks about my hat that had miraculously stayed put on my head all day. Maz was silent. Now and again he took pics of me as we sat together in the back of the speeding limousine. I wondered why. He said again.

‘You like P***s, Chris?’

I frowned. ‘I don’t know what you mean?’

‘I mean, would you date a P***? Or are you racist about them?’

Since I assumed he was Indian, I wondered why he had a down on Pakistanis.

‘I have never got close to anyone Pakistani.’

He grinned and took more photos.

Back in The Dorchester, in the lavish suite, I wanted to have some champagne with the boys to debrief.  Mazher slumped on the bed said, ‘Undo my tie, would you?’

I obliged subserviently. 

‘You can stay and have a drink, if you and I can shag – if not, ’fraid you have to leave right now and get no champagne.’

My jaw dropped. Where had that come from? I thought we were making friends. His comment had ruined any chance of friendship.

He lay back on the bed, not looking at me, the Superstar Hack, the handsome hero of the day.

I had no choice. I left.

Machetes in Coventry

There were other stories where Maz put me in danger of being killed.

Maz woke me one morning at 8am to tell me I had to go to Coventry to see a little old lady and her grandson. I had to find out who her insurers were, he told me simply. I was still in bed and felt angry at such a blatant use of me as a go-fer – what was the story and was it the right thing to do? I had spent my life working as an investigator it felt off to take orders from a hack on how to investigate. I felt my stomach dip and knew it was because there was danger. I asked Maz was there danger because my sixth sense was warning me that there was.

He replied, ‘Don’t talk rubbish, it’s a little old lady and her son.’

I demanded a body guard so he reluctantly gave me Colin his ex-boxer minder.

I got the train up to Coventry. I went to the house and Colin took me by car and as protection waited outside. I knocked and asked what insurers there were using for their dead grandfather – she offered me to go in and when I sat down she asked who I was – meanwhile she called her relative. Sensing great danger, I ran out and into the car – then Colin and I went for a drink.

Colin dropped me at Coventry station, where suddenly a van load of Asian men carrying machetes jumped out and circled me, demanding to know who I was and why I had come to their house.

They were part of a criminal gang and Maz had known all along.

Colin stood infront of me and said ‘no one touches her or they come through me’ – he was ready to fight. He saved my life.

Just as they went to attack him, three meat wagons drew up and about six police officers jumped out. The knives and machetes went away – and the cops put me in the back off the van.

Later, I was made to tell the man whose house I was in exactly who I was. The cops were not on our side.

On the train, Maz rang me.

‘Oh well,’ he replied, in response to my story of horror.

‘Onwards and upwards kiddies. I’ve another job I want you on tomorrow, so I want you up and out of bed early – no lie in for you, Chris.’

I sat on the train and half realised I had enjoyed the adrenaline and half felt appalled at him.
Impersonating a Public Official

I once sat in on a job where Maz shocked me as he announced to his mark a Pakistani that he was from Immigration. We went up to London to see a man getting English lessons, in a school near the Kings Road.

Maz announced he was from ‘Immigration,’ and he had to tell him when he knew, or he’d be carted back to Pakistan. I sat in the back of car listening ,and when the man went, I spoke to Maz angrily.

‘Don’t ever do that again, Maz – it’s wrong and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal and was it fair to scare that guy so much just to get info?’

‘Chris, you do it your way and I’ll do it mine and it’ll serve you well to mind your own fucking business.’

‘I’m stuck in the back of your car, so I’m part of this. I’ve worked in the field for decades and anyone being this one, or that one official, burns out or gets nicked. I’m very careful to keep one side of the line when I blag people. I’m not judging you.’

He glowered at me and said nothing. The man came back to the car and Maz got out and went to talk to him as I sat in the car watching. He kept looking back at me. When he got back into the car he seemed like a kid. Our chemistry was evident that day. For once, I was his equal and he leaned on my smarts to finish the job and get it into the newspaper. I knew best about HUMINT – Human Intelligence which meant getting information out of the other person’s mind. We were finally functioning as an equal partnership. We were so opposite that we balanced.

To get a pic of a girl called Donna, involved in a story, Maz once sent me inside a prison where I was caught by authorities taking a photo of an inmate. They grabbed me and I had no idea it was against the law. Maz had told me it was allowed. The prison staff took me and held me for two hours. This was Maz’s turf – and I had been stung, as he knew more and I knew less.

The episode caused me a lot of anxiety.

I was doing my degree at the time, at University of North London – and found I couldn’t get on train, as my heart had begun to beat too fast as a result of the worry. I developed severe panic attacks. Maz had done for my career. I was over. I was never to work as investigator in that particular field again.

Christine Hart wrote about her career in Fleet Street in her book: ’How Nick Davies Hired me to spy on my Former Colleagues at the News of the World.’ Amazon 2016.

#MazherMahmoood, #ChristineHart, #NewsoftheWorld, #RebekahBrooks

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