- RUPERT Murdoch’s News UK Chief Executive is being sued personally over claims of spying on her ex-husband Ross Kemp and love rivals
- WE HAVE been covering the cases of Tony Harding vs Rebekah Brooks and Jamelah May vs Rebekah Brooks in ongoing civil actions at the High Court in London
- MS BROOKS denies knowingly commissioning illegal activity from private investigator Steve Whittamore, but;
- IN TWO previous instalments, we revealed discrepancies in her sworn responses to questions about PIs to courts and Parliament between 2003 and 2010, as now we:
- CONTINUE to analyse her testimonies in 2011 and 2012 – a key period in the timeline leading to her current court cases
RUPERT Murdoch’s most senior UK employee Rebekah Brooks gave differing accounts about her use and knowledge of illegal private investigators to Parliament and a public inquiry.
In the latest part of this special series, we are re-visiting the testimony the current Chief Executive of News UK has given about illegal Private Investigator (PI) services over a 17-year period.
Brooks – one of the most senior and recognisable figures in World media – is currently being sued by Doncaster handyman Tony Harding and former Page 3 model Jamelah May in two extraordinary cases at the High Court in London.
Mr Harding alleges Brooks hired a notorious private detective to snoop on his telecoms as part of her unlawful investigations into the private life of her former partner, actor Ross Kemp.
Brooks denies breaking the law, insisting she thought the detective would use legal means to ‘reverse search’ a mobile phone number to discover to whom it was registered.
We have sought comment from Brooks about this series of articles, but she has so far declined to offer any. If she does, we will be sure to report it.
But it is far from the first time Brooks has been forced to address her involvement with criminal surveillance techniques, and in this series we are comparing the evidence.
AT FIRST Brooks told the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport she only used them for the legitimate pursuit of paedophiles in a campaign for ‘Sarah’s Law’.
Then she told British MPs that she stopped using shadowy private investigators way back in 2003.
In the 2011 Westminster grilling, referring to her controversial campaign of naming and shaming of convicted child abusers, she insisted: “In the main, my use of private investigators while I was editor of the News of the World was purely legitimate and in pursuit in the main, as you know, of the addresses and whereabouts of convicted paedophiles through Sarah’s Law.”
“That is my majority – if not almost my exclusive – use of private investigators. But I respect that the News of the World also used private investigators for other stories.”
Doubling down on her evidence, Brooks added later: “I am saying that the very few occasions on which I used private detectives were on Sarah’s law.”
But this statement runs contrary to what happened in the case of Tony Harding and Jamelah May (both of whom allege Brooks set Whittamore on them for her own private reasons) when neither had anything to do with “Sarah’s Law”, which only ran for a few months in the summer of 2000, before it was halted, amid the vigilante-style targeting of paediatricians, and claims that it was driving monitored child sex offenders underground.
Brooks’ claim that “in the main” she only used PIs in a focused way in the summer of 2000 also conflicts with the increasingly comprehensive body of evidence of widespread illegal activity going on under her editorships at the News of the World and then The Sun over a near 10-year period, from May 2000.
Since 2015, phone hacking litigation has resulted in court orders for rolling disclosures of internal documents that prove just how extensively Brooks’ newspapers depended on criminal newsgathering to generate their most invasive and profitable content.
Incriminating invoices have emerged by their thousands from a mushrooming number of private investigators in Britain and the US, many of whom have criminal convictions ranging from data theft and police corruption to child porn, with one also acquitted of murder.
Among the private detectives on the payroll were:
Steve Whittamore – The Hampshire-based private detective was the subject of Operation Motorman, an investigation by the Information Commissioner into the large-scale obtaining of illegal data, including criminal records and ex-directory phone numbers for Fleet Street journalists, and Operation Glade, by the Met Police into illegal accessing of the Police National Computer, again for journalists. He was convicted of data protection offences in 2005.
Christine Hart – A specialist in the unlawful obtaining of medical information, once described by Brooks as The Sun’s “most valuable contact”. Hart allegedly posed as a psychiatrist to get access to personal documents and worked for The Sun and News of the World more than 1,000 times, targeting among others Liz Hurley, and Spice Girl Geri Haliwell and her newborn baby.
John Boyall – Alias ‘Goldfinger’ because of his high living and secret services contacts, Boyall was a private investigator whose company Legal Resource Intelligence (LRI), from the mid-90s, shaped the next generation of Fleet Street snoopers. Boyall worked for the News of the World news-desk, was a one-time lover of Christine Hart, and trained other key players in the world of newspaper espionage, Glenn Mulcaire and Andy Gadd.
Andy Gadd – Was paid more than £300,000 over five years working directly for the News of the World as an “investigative researcher” in the noughties, targeting among many others Lord Frederick Windsor, Tracey Temple (Lord Prescott’s former secretary) and the singer Kerry Katona. Giving evidence at the Old Bailey in 2013, Gadd claimed his work methods were all legal and based around checks on the electoral role and social media like Facebook. The legality of his methods is challenged by the hacking claimants in the News Group and Mirror Group litigation.
Glenn Mulcaire – A former footballer for London’s AFC Wimbledon who, after training with Boyall, became one of the NotW’s phone-hacking specialists, with a contract worth £100,000 a year. Mulcaire hacked voicemails of public figures for the paper’s journalists, leading to some of its most intrusive front page stories, and was implicated in the illegal surveillance on the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Twice convicted for his activities, Mulcaire has since gone on to become a whistleblower on wider newsroom criminality.
Jonathan Rees – A freemason whose company Southern Investigations was used extensively by the News of the World and The Mirror newspapers, Rees was jailed for attempting to frame a young mother by planting drugs in her car. Rees’s former business partner Daniel Morgan was murdered with an axe in 1987, with Rees charged but acquitted of conspiracy to murder when a criminal case collapsed in 2011 after a key piece of evidence was compromised. The case of Daniel Morgan has been mired in allegations of police corruption and is now Britain’s most investigated unsolved killing. Rees was paid some £150k-a-year to work for the NotW.
Sid Fillery – Morgan’s replacement as Rees’ business partner, former police Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery, was – remarkably – both involved in the investigation of the murder and a suspect in the murder. He was also employed as a PI by the News of the World and, was later convicted of possessing child pornography.
Lloyd Hart – The founder and owner of two private detective firms – called Express Locate International (ELI) and Trace Direct International (TDI) – which became hypermarkets for newspapers seeking illegal info. With a background as a bailiff, Hart made millions of pounds from his dealings with the UK’s national newspaper publishers, stealing phone, medical, and financial records to order. Abruptly closed down his UK businesses as the Police started to investigate phone hacking in August 2006 with the arrests of Mulcaire and NotW Royal Editor Clive Goodman, and relocated to Florida where he is now a real estate agent and investor.
Rachel Barry – Barry was among the first private investigators to be convicted of stealing and selling personal data. The News of the World, The People, The Sunday Express and The Mail on Sunday were all on her client list, and she continued to work for Brooks’ papers for many years after her conviction in October 1997 for Data Protection offences.
Jonathan Stafford – An actor by trade, Stafford was unmasked by Byline Investigates in January 2020 as one of the biggest players in illegal Fleet Street espionage. The voice-artist and mimic tricked thousands of people out of their most private personal information to-order for The Sun, News of the World and Sunday Mirror. Having made a career fortune from fraud and deception he has never been prosecuted. Today Stafford is listed as a ‘creative consultant’ for a West End musicals production company.
The payment trails tally with compromising emails, phone records, and hand-signed staff expenses forms – along with witness evidence from whistle-blower journalists – which shine light on a well-funded culture of professional criminality in Brooks’ newsrooms.
One private detective in particular linked to Whittamore, John Boyall, had a network of contacts who could provide confidential information. He recruited an assistant in the late 1990s to help in his work – one Glenn Michael Mulcaire, who became infamous for the hacking of the Royal household and of the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Throughout her three years at the helm of the News of the World, Brooks’ paper was paying Mulcaire more than £100k each year to provide phone hacking and data blagging services, making him one of the highest paid staff on the paper, although Brooks later claimed at her trial claimed not to know of his existence.
One of the most intriguing meetings, that took place during her paedophile campaign in the summer of 2000, occurred around three weeks after the name-and-shame began.
Brooks appeared at the door of the office of the covert Investigations Unit to ask her right-hand-man, news editor Greg Miskiw, if he was confident of having enough convicted paedophiles to name and shame in the next edition.
He said: “We have a man who is well versed in the ‘dark arts,’” meaning they could rely on this person to deliver the 100 or so names Brooks required.
The man he was referring to was Glenn Mulcaire, who performed nearly all of the private investigator checks for Brooks’ campaign.
Later, in court, Brooks never mentioned this incident – and denied knowing who Glenn Mulcaire was, saying she knew nothing about the illegal methods that were his, and her paper’s, bread-and-butter.
She did not say whether she knew that Mulcaire was working for the News of the World for at least three years before the paedophile campaign started, and for six years after it finished.
In 2001, Brooks also led a year-long investigation into Prince Harry, which involved illegal blagging by Mulcaire, and an attempted entrapment sting by her former Investigations Editor, the so-called ‘Fake Sheikh’ of Fleet Street, Mazher Mahmood, who was jailed in 2016 for witness tampering.
Shortly after the publication of that Prince Harry story, in January 2002, Brooks’ Head of News Greg Miskiw used Mulcaire on an unrelated inquiry into one of the murderers of toddlers James Bulger, whose identities are protected by life-long court orders.
During the course of this investigation, Miskiw claims he told Brooks specifically about Mulcaire’s illegal activities – an allegation Brooks denies.
On another occasion, Brooks emailed her ‘Number Three’ Sun executive Geoff Webster, and her favourite reporter Phil Taylor, to ‘blag’ the flight details of entertainer Michael Barrymore, a sophisticated and illegal tasking performed by Mulcaire. Brooks has not commented on this allegation, although News Group have denied it in the hacking litigation.
Brooks moved to The Sun in 2003… and so a couple of years later indirectly did Greg Miskiw (with Glenn Mulcaire doing the hacking and blagging) working on a freelance basis using, it’s been alleged, Webster and Sun Managing Editor Graham Dudman as conduits. News Group Newspapers and Webster deny this. Dudman has not commented.
The mass of evidence to emerge in the High Court phone hacking litigation since 2015 paints a compelling picture of criminal newsgathering so endemic and well-financed it would be surprising in the extreme were the top journalist in the company to be unaware of it.
The avalanche of disclosed documents relating to Brooks really stems back to 2003, when the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the home of Steve Whittamore, who ran the PI firm JJ services, and seized his records.
Under Operation Glade, dealing with illegal access to the Police National Computer, Mr Whittamore and three accomplices (including Boyall) were convicted in 2005 of Data Protection offences.
The material seized from Whittamore’s Hampshire home spawned a further investigation, Operation Motorman, and three years later two reports – ‘What Price Privacy?’ and ‘What Price Privacy Now?’ – from the Information Commissioner’s Office which described the illegal services Whittamore’s provided to scores of journalists on many tabloid titles.
However, when questioned about Whittamore under oath at the Leveson Inquiry into Press abuse, Brooks conflated her papers’ specific use of Whittamore with a “general debate” in the media provoked by the reports, and blurring the dates.
In 2012, she told the Inquiry: “I think after Operation Motorman and ‘What Price Privacy?’, there was a sort of a general debate going on in the media in terms of, particularly in 2003, which pretty much saw the end of the use of private detectives, certainly in the way that they had been for the last decade, and I think that that was something Operation Motorman and ‘What Price Privacy Now?’ will have been discussed with the relevant politician at the time.”
But Brooks’s generalised assertions here to the Inquiry are contradicted by independent evidence presented by claimants suing her and her company in Britain’s High Court that shows the News of the World and The Sun continued to use private investigators long after 2003, and at least as late as 2011.
Knowingly giving wrong or distorted evidence to a public inquiry – even if it doesn’t affect the outcome of that inquiry – is a criminal offence under the Inquiries Act 2005, punishable by a fine and up to 51 weeks’ jail.
MORE follows in Part 6 of our series when Byline Investigates reveals how Brooks’ top company lawyer also gave misleading evidence to the Leveson Inquiry