The News of the World has claimed an internal investigation “led by a team of independent forensic specialists” had determined that no phone-hacking took place within the newspaper last year, despite fresh reports to the contrary.
The embattled Sunday tabloid woke this morning to reports that new material suggested the paper attempted hacking into the phone messages of a public figure in 2010.
The BBC’s Robert Peston broke the story and NotW attacked the Corporation for its “misleading” report “without giving the News of the World an opportunity to respond”.
A High Court document revealed that Kelly Hoppen, an interior designer who is stepmother to the actress Sienna Miller, is suing the NotW and one of its feature writers, Dan Evans, for “accessing or attempting to access her voicemail messages between June 2009 and March 2010”.
The Guardian has been leading the investigation into the NotW but the scandal is now occupying column inches on the front pages of almost every national newspaper. That includes its News International stablemate the Times, which singled evidence against the fired news editor Ian Edmondson for its angle.
The Guardian has previously reported that Dan Evans was suspended in April last year. Nick Davies reported that “a senior News International executive has claimed that Dan Evans’s defence is that he phoned Kelly Hoppen’s number for legitimate reasons and accidentally accessed her voicemail when the keys on his phone got stuck”.
NotW said in a statement that it had carried out an “extensive investigation led by a team of independent forensic specialists” and “found no evidence whatsoever to support this allegation”.
NotW has always maintained that phone hacking was the offence of one rogue journalist back in 2007. Critics say that the accusation that it was still taking place last year throws their version of events into doubt and also puts the spotlight firmly on the Metropolitan police, which stands accused of sitting on evidence it recovered from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s home in 2007.
Meanwhile, NotW‘s News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch has abandoned plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, choosing instead to fly to England. His arrival coincides with NotW‘s decision to hand “new evidence” to the police as a result of its internal investigation of Edmondson, whose name appeared in phone hacking cases brought by the actress Sienna Miller and football agent Sky Andrew.
However, critics claim that Edmondson is merely the latest “rogue” reporter to take the heat and the Guardian has reported that “the names of other journalists at the red-top have also emerged in court evidence and parliamentary statements, including those of former news executive Greg Miskiw and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck”.