Journalists at the News of the World, the British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, have been accused of illegally intercepting telephone messages since 2005. FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the key figures in a case that has gripped Britain.
Journalists working for the News of the World, a British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, have been accused of illegally intercepting the private telephone messages and voice mails of politicians, celebrities, members of the royal household, families of the victims of the July 7 bombings and most recently, the missing victim in a high-profile criminal case.
The scandal originally broke in 2005, when the News of the World published a story about Prince William’s knee injury, prompting fears that his aides' voicemail messages had been intercepted and leading to a police inquiry.
The increasingly complex, far-reaching scandal has unravelled over the past few years, with implications for the media, the police, politicians and the privacy rights of ordinary Britons.
FRANCE 24 takes a look below at some of the key figures involved in the allegations.
Rupert Murdoch: As chairman and CEO of his News Corporation media conglomerate, the influence of the Australian-American mogul who owns News of the World’s parent company cannot be overestimated; among his other holdings, Rupert Murdoch owns The Wall Street Journal and founded the US-based Fox Broadcasting Company. He took a strong position after reports surfaced of the journalists’ alleged phone-hacking practices, apologising “unreservedly” in April for “past practices” and vowing to compensate victims. Murdoch has also issued apologies throughout the UK press and met with the family of Milly Dowler to apologise in person.
James Murdoch: Until the phone-hacking scandal broke, James was widely tipped to be the heir to his father’s media empire. However his clumsy handling of the escalating crisis and public admission to paying off victims of hackings could see him arrested, even jailed. On July 19 he will face a parliamentary hearing along with his father and former colleague Rebekah Brooks.
Milly Dowler: Milly Dowler disappeared on the way to her home in Surrey on March 21, 2002. As the case of the missing 13-year-old made headlines across Britain, News of the World journalists hacked into Dowler’s full voicemail inbox and read her messages before deleting them, sparking false hope that the girl was alive. Police now fear that vital evidence may have been destroyed in the process. Dowler’s body was found in September 2002; a convicted serial killer, Levi Bellfield, was jailed for life earlier this year for her murder.
Neil Wallis: The deputy editor of the now-defunct tabloid News of the World under Andy Coulson from 2003-2007, he was nicknamed the “wolfman” by fellow journalists for his facial hair and foul temper. After leaving journalism in 2009, Wallis moved into PR and his company Chamy Media was used by the Metropolitan police from October 2009 to September 2010. Over the weekend of July 16-17, it emerged that Sir Paul Stephenson, head of the Metropolitan police, accepted a 12,000 GBP stay at Champneys Health spa, a company which then employed Wallis for PR work. Stephenson promptly resigned over the allegations. Wallis has been arrested as part of the continuing investigation into phone hackings at the News of the World.
Elisabeth Murdoch: Rupert Murdoch’s daughter is seen as the most likely heir to her father’s empire after revelations surfaced that she urged Rebekah Brooks’s resignation – despite the insistence of her brothers James and Lachlan that Brooks merely take a leave of absence.
Sir Paul Stephenson: As Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, known as Scotland Yard, Sir Paul Stephenson was Britain’s top law enforcement official. On July 17, he announced his resignation, citing “the ongoing speculations and accusations relating to the Met’s links with News International at a senior level”. Stephenson maintains that he’s innocent and did not know that Neil Wallis was a suspect in the phone-hacking scandal.
John Yates: John Yates, Scotland Yard’s number two and its top counter-terrorism officer, stepped down on July 18, a day after Sir Paul Stephenson quit the force. Yates was specifically criticised over his decision in 2009 not to investigate evidence into voicemail hacking at the News of the World, and over the recruitment of Neil Wallis. Yates faced a parliamentary grilling on July 12, after which MP Keith Vaz called his testimony “unconvincing”. His resignation came after he was informed that he would be suspended from his position.
Les Hinton: One of Rupert Murdoch’s closest advisors over the last 50 years, Hinton resigned from his positions as chief executive of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal in July 2011 amid questions over how much he knew about phone hackings.
Andy Hayman: The former head of the original investigation into the hacking scandal in 2006, Hayman left Scotland Yard in 2007 following questions over business expenses he had filed for lunches with News International reporters. After leaving his police post, Hayman was hired as a reporter by News Corporation’s daily The Times. On July 12, Hayman faced questions by lawmakers for failing to investigate the phone-hacking allegations sufficiently.
Glenn Mulcaire - the private detective at the heart of the scandal
Glenn Mulcaire: A former football player and private consultant who was repeatedly hired by the News of the World, Glenn Mulcaire was sentenced to six months in prison in January 2007 in connection with a phone-hacking scandal involving voicemail messages left for members of the royal household. He has since been implicated in hacking the mobile phones of several celebrities and public figures, as well as in the Dowler case. Mulcaire has been arrested once more and released on bail until October.
Brian Paddick: The former deputy assistant commissioner for London’s metropolitan police, Brian Paddick is seeking a judicial review of how police handled the initial reports of phone hacking. Paddick says he believes his phone has also been hacked by a newspaper.
Sienna Miller: In June 2011 the British actress settled a case against the News of the World for £100,000 ($160,000) in damages and costs after the paper admitted liability in hacking her mobile phone. The paper formally apologised for causing Miller “harassment and distress”.
Paul Gascoigne, Chris Bryant, Jude Law, Sky Andrew: Former footballer Paul Gascoigne’s civil suit against News Group Newspapers, the News Corp subsidiary that owns the News of the World, will go before the High Court in January 2012 as one of the test cases that could pave the way for suits to be brought by scores of other alleged phone hacking victims. Former Labour Party minister Chris Bryant, actor Jude law and sports agent Sky Andrew are also bringing test cases against News Group Newspapers over phone hacking claims.
Max Clifford: The celebrity publicist brought a private suit against the News of the World in a 2008 phone hacking case and reportedly received a settlement worth £1 million.
Date created : 2011-07-06