By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
An internal inquiry into a News of The World phone hacker was launched AFTER its lawyers had found incriminating evidence about him, The High Court has heard.
The accusation forms part of a disputed timeline of events in a civil case, in which the now defunct paper, and its sister title The Sun, are being sued for privacy breaches and an alleged cover-up.
Exactly what happened when is ‘highly relevant’, say the claimants, because if executives knew earlier than previously admitted, it could have given them time to plan an alleged cover-up.
News Group Newspapers, the parent company, do not admit concealing or destroying evidence – and say that emails were lost during a routine IT systems’ upgrade.
Last week, in Part 1 of this three part court report, Byline Investigates revealed that News International’s former top lawyer Jon Chapman allegedly saw ‘incriminating’ emails EIGHT days earlier than previously admitted.
In Part 2, we detailed events on the morning of the key January 6th2011 date – which Chapman did not mention in his witness statement, the claimants state.
Today, in our final part, we pick-up events on the afternoon of January 6th 2011, when the cache of ‘Ian Edmondson’ emails was sent to Jon Chapman.
At a hearing last month, the claimants’ barrister David Sherborne guided the court through the complex arguments.
He emphasised Jon Chapman’s internal inquiry into ex-News of The World news editor Ian Edmondson’s emails.
At 2:19pm, on January 6th2011, as part of this internal probe, Data Manager Chris Williams sent 37 emails to Jon Chapman.
Among these 37 emails, that Mr. Chapman received, were two of the ‘highly incriminating’ emails which allegedly showed phone hacking at the News of The World was more widespread than previously thought.
The messages also showed that the hacking was carried out by the News of The World’s News Editor Ian Edmondson.
This contradicted the company’s line at the time that illegal activity had only been committed by ‘one rogue reporter,’ namely the paper’s ex royal reporter Clive Goodman.
Mr. Sherborne made the point to the court, that the story that Mr. Chapman had presented in sworn witness statements so far, had never included any reference to the January 6th2011 supply of ‘Ian Edmondson’ emails.
He added, that the emails supplied by Mr. Williams to Mr. Chapman, contained a large amount of incriminating information – not only about News Editor, Ian Edmondson – but a third journalist called James Weatherup, Mr. Edmondson’s Deputy.
According to the claimants, this showed that Mr. Chapman was now aware that there were at least three News of The World journalists involved in a phone hacking conspiracy with Glenn Mulcaire.
In addition to Mr. Chapman, Mr. William’s ‘incriminating’ files were also sent to the News of The World’s top in-house lawyer Tom Crone.
Mr. Sherborne said, there were at least two highly incriminating emails seen by Jon Chapman and Tom Crone.
The first one was from Glenn Mulcaire to Ian Edmondson about Freddie Windsor, an aristocrat who was a member of the wider Royal family.
The email was incriminating, according to Mr. Sherborne, because it contained a mobile number, a mailbox number and the instruction ‘press star and enter PIN’, a reference to the Personal Identity Number that allows access to voicemails.
Mr. Sherborne alleged that, this is Glenn Mulcaire instructing Ian Edmondson on ‘the tools to intercept voicemail messages.’
The second ‘incriminating’ email was about Joan Hammell, a political aide to former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
In a legal document, Mr. Sherborne said:
‘The 37 emails sent to Mr. Chapman on 6 January 2011 included both the “Fred Windsor” email and the “Joan Hammell” email sent by Glenn Mulcaire to Mr Edmondson.
‘Given its obvious relevance, the fact that the January 6 email and its attachments have not been disclosed to date in this litigation, is deplorable.
‘They show that the correct start date when Mr Chapman was aware of these criminal activities was 6 January 2011, rather than 14 January 2011, and that therefore Mr. Chapman had these highly incriminating emails prior to the targeted deletions in mid-January.’
Mr. Sherborne gave an example of an ‘incriminating’ email, outlined the clues in the text and explained why they were suspicious.
In one email, Glenn Mulcaire told Mr. Edmondson that there were 45 messages on Joan Hammell’s phone.
In a legal document, Mr Sherborne added:
‘The “Joan Hammell” email gave her mobile number, mailbox, PIN and the number of voicemail messages.
‘The “Fred Windsor” email gave his mobile, mailbox and PIN – it is plain that they evidence criminal activity, justifying immediate dismissal (of Edmondson) and notification to the police.
‘Indeed, these emails were relied upon by NGN on 26 January 2011, as grounds for Mr Edmondson’s summary dismissal.’
The other email, given to the police on 26 January 2011, contained a mailbox PIN number for the mobile number Tessa Jowell, the late former Labour Government minister.
Mr. Sherborne said, that in the message, there was a number known as a ‘DDN,’ a Direct Dial Number, a short-cut used for hacking into voicemails.
‘People like Mr. Mulcaire had Unique Voicemail Numbers, or UVNs,’ said Mr. Sherborne.
‘It’s a PIN number.’
Mr. Sherborne said there was a number relating to Mr. Mills – Tessa Jowell’s husband.
Following the analysis of hacked data, Mr. Sherborne said Glenn Mulcaire had concluded there was substantial (phone) traffic both ways and that it looked like she’s selling- up – meaning that Tessa Jowell was selling her house.
That email, Mr. Sherborne said, was later printed off from the account of News International boss Rebekah Brook’s personal assistant Cheryl Carter, as the police investigation got underway.
The emails contradicted News International’s public statements on phone hacking.
Between 2006 and 2011, The News of The World maintained that no other journalist except Clive Goodman was involved in phone hacking.
Mr. Goodman was jailed in 2007, along with Glenn Mulcaire, for hacking the phones of the Royal Household.
But after the compromising emails were unearthed by Mr. Williams, during a search of company databases, the ‘one-rogue-reporter’ defence was exploded, and Ian Edmondson was sacked in January 2011.
The email searches were carried out by Mr. Chris Williams, a senior data manager, who was instructed by News International lawyer Jon Chapman to look for communications between Ian Edmondson and Glenn Mulcaire.
Mulcaire was the paper’s phone hacking expert, who was an external sub-contractor but one that was tied intimately with news desk operations via a series on long-running contracts.
The court heard that senior executives allegedly deleted incriminating emails deliberately in January 2011 whilst an internal investigation was going on.
Mr. Sherborne said News International’s Director of Legal Affairs John Chapman allegedly halted the internal investigation as a result of his ‘developing knowledge of unlawful activity,’
The court heard that after the incriminating emails were discovered, events moved very quickly at News International.
Shortly after receiving the emails on 26 January 2011, Operation Weeting was launched by the police to investigate phone hacking at The News of The World.
The key issue put before the Court was the date on which Mr. Chapman first saw the incriminating emails
In a witness statement, Mr. Chapman did not mention seeing them on January 6th.
Mr. Chapman instead suggests he first saw them on or after January 14th, 2011 as a result of his internal investigation into Mr. Edmondson.
But Mr. Sherborne alleged that he saw them on Jan 6th2011 as a result of the inquiry made into the Andy Gray claim, and that the Edmondson Inquiry was launched after the emails had already been seen.
Andy Gray is a former football player who went onto to work for Sky Sports.
Mr Sherborne alleged that executives ordered ‘targeted deletions’ of incriminating emails to take place on January 14th, a timeline that was more consistent with being aware of the problem on 6 January than on the 14 January itself.
Mr. Sherborne said, ‘the date of knowledge is the January 6th’.
And that ‘the conspiracy is blindingly obvious.’
Mr. Sherborne said that there were two separate email searches.
The first one was instigated in mid-December 2010 and that started as a result of a legal claim by Andy Gray, and its results (the Windsor and Hammell emails) were seen by Chapman and Crone on 6 January 2011.
The second one was instigated on 12th January 2011, as a result of the Ian Edmondson allegations.
And the Windsor, Hammell and Jowell emails were seen by Chapman on or after 14 January 2011.
NGN’s case is that there were no targeted email deletions, and that deletions were merely implementing streamlining decisions stemming from the introduction of a new archive system.
Claire Montgomery QC, for News International, said that none this happens in connection with the emails showing Mr. Edmondson’s involvement.
She said: ‘We contend that….that there was corruption in the email archive source and a data loss caused by a migration to a Google system.’
Ms. Montgomery stated that, on January 12th, a decision was made for an employment-focused search, which then lead to the ‘down tools’ decision.