IN THE THIRTEENTH PART OF OUR DEEP INVESTIGATION INTO CRIME AND MALPRACTICE AT THE DAILY MAIL AND MAIL ON SUNDAY, WE REVEAL A SECOND STORY ABOUT HUGH GRANT BY WRITER KATIE NICHOLL THAT REFERS HEAVILY TO PRIVATE PHONE ACTIVITY, AND TELL HOW THE:
- BILLIONAIRE-owned paper also ran the notorious ‘Plummygate’ story that Mr Grant believes was ‘hacked’
- SECOND article focuses on phone calls between Jemima Khan and her former husband Imran Khan – who is today the Prime Minister of Pakistan
- AUTHOR Katie Nicholl has been heavily connected to illegal private investigators and mobile phone surveillance specialists
- PRELUDE to Plummygate suggests a pattern of conduct that has sparked new denials of wrongdoing from Lord Rothermere’s Associated Newspapers, yet;
- BOTH stories are laden with language considered shorthand for illegally hacked and blagged personal information
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
PHONE data relating to actor Hugh Grant appeared in a SECOND story by the same Mail on Sunday journalist who sparked the bitter Plummygate ‘hacking’ row, Byline Investigates can reveal.
The new article also features sensitive private information about the Four Weddings… star’s former partner Jemima Khan, and her ex-husband – and serving Prime Minister of Pakistan – Imran Khan.
And like the infamous Plummygate story – which Mr Grant told the Leveson Inquiry must have been hacked from his voicemail, leading the Daily Mail to accuse him of “mendacious smears” – it relies on the language of ‘unlawful information gathering’.
Analysis of the exclusive piece by star writer Katie Nicholl, whose links to phone hackers and illegal private investigators we exposed earlier in the MailBOMB series, suggests a pattern of criminal activity surrounding her work.
The story – headlined ‘Imran: I’d take Jemima back…’ – appeared in the Mail on Sunday 18 months prior to the piece about Mr Grant’s communications with a ‘plummy voiced’ colleague, as featured last week in MailBOMB 12.
And the two stories feature three striking similarities.
Firstly, they involve the same three people; secondly, they focus on their interpersonal relationships; and thirdly, they rely on evidence based on their private phone conversations.
High Court phone hacking litigation, which has already seen the Mail’s rival tabloids at Mirror Group, and Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, pay out hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation and victims’ legal costs, has established such references as hallmarks of criminal hacking and ‘pretext’ blagging (obtaining private information by deception).
Our analysis of a large body of Ms Nicholl’s work show she made regular use of language synonymous with the use of illegal information.
Her articles sometimes used dubious euphemisms, such as references to ‘late night calls’, and alluded to roughly-approximated activity logs, such as when a phone was switched on or off – all indicators of voicemail interception.
Ms Nicholl’s jointly-bylined July 24, 2005, story was written at the very height of phone hacking on Fleet Street and makes prominent mentions of phone calls, between the fifth and eighth paragraphs.
In both controversial stories, all the information they contain is ascribed to anonymous ‘friends’, and in both, there are six of these anonymous attributions.
The crux of Ms Nicholl’s story was that Imran Khan – who has been Pakistan’s Prime Minster since August 2018 – was allegedly looking to reconcile with his ex-wife following their divorce a year earlier.
Just a week prior, Ms Nicholl had claimed that Ms Khan’s relationship with Mr Grant was in strife, after she allegedly refused to accompany him to America while he made a film.
The first suspicious mention of phone data came in the fifth paragraph of the 446-word story. It reads: “Imran and Jemima still speak on the phone and have had numerous conversations since Jemima’s high-profile affair with Grant hit trouble.”
A second key reference to private phone communication came in the eighth paragraph.
It reads: “Last night it emerged that Jemima, 31, has been ‘in regular touch’ with her ex-husband.”
Last night a spokesperson for Katie Nicholl and the Mail on Sunday said: “These claims are nonsense. As we have told you before, neither Katie Nicholl nor The Mail on Sunday have ever hacked telephones nor have they ever commissioned anyone else to do so.”
WHEN PATTERNS MATTER
ESTABLISHING a pattern of suspicious conduct, as opposed to proving a single offence, has long been best practice in organised crime law.
The most well-known example is the RICO statute in the US, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.
The statute requires proving that an “enterprise” engaged in a “pattern of…. activity” in violation of criminal laws over a substantial period.
RICO law is not thought of as a way to punish an isolated criminal act, and prosecutors do not have to prove each offence individually.
And, it’s not just used against the mafia – RICO is routinely targeted against business, and was even levelled at Harvey Weinstein and his associates.
The complaint accused him and his company, of helping Weinstein cover-up a “pattern of sexual harassment,” through what it calls the “Weinstein Sexual Enterprise”.
· Stay tuned for more about Plummygate in MailBOMB 14