A former news editor at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper was one of two men arrested by London police as part of an expanded probe into phone hacking.
Ian Edmondson, who was fired by the paper in January, voluntarily submitted to questions at a police station today, his lawyer, Eddie Parladorio, said in an e-mail. The second man arrested was Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World’s chief reporter, a person familiar with the situation said.
“At last we see that the police are taking this seriously,” said Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing people who claim their voice mails were hacked by the paper. “The latest statement of cooperation from News of the World is a far cry from their editorial about one ‘rogue reporter.’ The enquiries now have to proceed so that we can get to the bottom of this.”
News of the World, owned by Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWSA), has been dogged by allegations reporters listened to private voice-mail messages for stories since a former editor and a private investigator were sent to jail in 2007 for hacking into members of the royal household’s mobile phones. Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s head of communications in January over claims the practice took place while he was at the paper.
In the same month police started their third probe into phone hacking, saying News International, News of the World’s parent company, turned over “significant new information.” Keir Starmer, the U.K.’s head prosecutor told Parliament today that legal advice from his department didn’t limit the scope of the first police investigation.
The newspaper is facing more than a dozen lawsuits filed by celebrities, including actress Sienna Miller, alleging the newspaper hacked into mobile-phone voice mails. Miller, in her lawsuit, alleged that Edmondson approved a contract with an investigator to eavesdrop on personal messages between her, her friends and business associates.
Edmondson hasn’t been charged, Parladorio said. Thurlbeck didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Police have searched Edmondson and Thurlbeck’s homes, the Guardian Newspaper reported.
Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator that worked for the paper, in 2006 admitted five other counts of phone hacking relating to soccer executive Gordon Taylor, soccer agent Sky Andrew, publicist Max Clifford, model Elle Macpherson, soccer player Sol Campbell and lawmaker Simon Hughes.
“In January, News International voluntarily approached the Met Police and provided information that led to the opening of the current police investigation,” the News of the World said in an e-mailed statement today. “News International terminated the employment of the assistant editor” at that time.
“News International has consistently reiterated that it will not tolerate wrong-doing and is committed to acting on evidence,” the statement said. “We continue to cooperate.”
The police said today they had arrested two men on suspicion of unlawfully intercepting mobile-phone voice-mail messages. The statement didn’t identify the men.
“It’s plan B now for the News of the World because their rogue reporter defense, which has perhaps been unsustainable to those in the know for six months, now is unsustainable,” said Duncan Lamont, a media lawyer at Charles Russell in London. “Clearly they must have some very real evidence.”
Separately, Miller today won a court order allowing Vodafone Group Plc to hand over research it did for police during the first probe into phone hacking at the newspaper. Vodafone, which didn’t send a lawyer to the hearing, didn’t oppose the request.
Ben Jackson, who filed a lawsuit seeking information from police on phone hacking records last month with actor Jude Law, filed a complaint against Newsgroup Newspapers and Mulcaire yesterday, according to court records. ICAP Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael Spencer has also asked police to look into whether his phone was hacked, Sky News reported, without saying how it obtained the information.
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