- The News of The World also ‘blagged’ MP Simon Hughes, at the same time.
- The voicemails of former Lib-Dem MP Simon Hughes were unlawfully intercepted in a smear bid over his sexual orientation.
- The Sun blackmailed Simon Hughes with unlawfully ‘blagged’ phone bills to nobble his leadership bid for the Liberal Democrat party.
- Glenn Mulcaire ‘monitored’ his electronic communications for the Mail on Sunday.
- Hacking-linked Surrey investigators Express Locate International got itemised billing data, which was passed to Murdoch’s top political hitman.
By Graham Johnson
Editor of Byline Investigates.
TWO of Britain’s most illegal private investigators locked onto MP Simon Hughes in a bid to smear him over his sexual orientation in a multiple tabloid sting.
The Mail on Sunday was sold illegally-obtained information from Glenn Mulcaire.
The Sun unlawfully commissioned a private investigator firm called Express Locate International (ELI).
Earlier this week we revealed how the News of the World also joined in the hacking spree.
Hughes’ political and private life was shattered by the repeated intrusions of criminal private detectives, paid for by three of Fleet Street’s most powerful newspapers.
The ordeal began in January 2006, when the leading Lib Dem MP decided to run for the leadership of his party, following the resignation of Charles Kennedy MP.
ELI is alleged to have obtained his itemised phone bills, showing calls to a gay chat line, and supplied them to the The Sun.
Trevor Kavanagh, the senior Political Editor of The Sun at the time, then confronted Hughes, telling him that his paper had proof that he was gay, and forcing him to do an interview with the paper to “get his side across”.
Hughes reluctantly agreed to talk to the newspaper.
The Sun then ran a homophobic story about Hughes.
The News of the World followed-up its stablemate’s exclusive splash, using its in-house hacker Glenn Mulcaire to listen to his voicemails.
Finally, the Mail on Sunday joined in – also relying on Mulcaire’s hacks – but this time using middleman Greg Miskiw, who fed the information to the MoS via a separate line of communication.
The Sun’s news desk instructed the ELI boss Lloyd Hart on 25 January 2006, to get them Simon Hughes’ itemised phone bill, so they could find out what numbers he was dialing.
ELI has been found by a High Court judge, to have been involved in the illegal supply of phone numbers, for the purpose of phone hacking.
Coincidentally, the Mail on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily Mail, spent £100k on ELI to carry out similar work, as revealed here.
Last year, Byline Investigates reported how a list of phone numbers, which had been dialed from Hughes’ landline, was relayed to The Sun news desk, which then passed it up the line to Sun bosses.
Some of the data was private, and although there was no legitimate public interest in including the material in a national newspaper, it was potentially embarrassing for Hughes.
This data eventually found its way to Rupert Murdoch’s top political hitman Trevor Kavanagh.
It is not known for certain, whether the veteran lobby journalist knew that the tip had been illegally sourced.
However, ex-Murdoch journalists have told Byline Investigates that is “inconceivable” that he would not have insisted on knowing the nature of the “proof” that he was putting to a leading MP, before running a high profile exposé, under his byline.
Kavanagh used the call data as leverage, to get Hughes to confess to having had a relationships in the past, with both men and women – something that Hughes regarded as a private matter.
The Sun then published a homophobic front-page story, boasting of how it had outed the MP and falsely labelling him as gay.
Hughes later told the Leveson Inquiry that he believed that being forcibly outed undermined his bid for the Lib Dem leadership.
On the day that The Sun story was published, the News of The World News Editor, Ian Edmondson, tasked Glenn Mulcaire to listen to Hughes’ voicemails.
Mulcaire recorded the intrusion into Hughes’ Orange network account on a handwritten note on 26 January 2006.
During the afternoons of 21 and 22 February 2006, Mulcaire hacked Simon Hughes a further four times according to Mulcaire’s own call data, later obtained by the police.
A month afterwards, on Monday, 27 February 2006, the News of The World’s Chief Reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, also tasked Mulcaire to hack Hughes.
Thurlbeck and Mulcaire discovered that Hughes had repeatedly made calls to a woman.
They suspected that Hughes was having an affair with this woman, and their excitement was piqued when they found out that she was married.
However, the assumption was completely wrong – the woman turned out to be a former work colleague of Hughes’.
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday and Chris Anderson said: “This allegation – which relies on the word of a convicted phone hacker, without any corroboration – is utterly baseless and categorically denied. Neither Chris Anderson nor the Mail on Sunday has ever commissioned anyone to hack phones, nor have they ever knowingly used information that was illegally acquired by Greg Miskiw.”
More follows in the next part of our MailBOMB series.