News Corp.’s position that phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid was limited to a rogue reporter became “shaky” after the discovery of a 2005 e-mail showed the practice was widespread, Rebekah Brooks, the former head of the company’s U.K. unit, testified today.
Brooks, 45, said that the e-mail, which mentioned tabloid reporter Neville Thurlbeck, demonstrated that more people knew about phone hacking than only one journalist and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, jailed in 2007. She said that she adopted a zero-tolerance to voice-mail interception when she became head of the U.K. unit.
The e-mail “showed that the emphaticness of the company’s statement that nobody else knew about Mulcaire was looking shaky,” Brooks said, referring to the 2005 message that became known as the “For Neville” e-mail, during her seventh day of testimony today.
Brooks is one of seven people standing trial on charges related to phone hacking and bribing public officials at the New York-based company’s U.K. newspapers. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World in 2011 amid a scandal over revelations journalists intercepted voice-mail messages on the phone of a missing teenager.
The e-mail mentioned Thurlbeck, the former News of the World Chief Reporter who has pleaded guilty to hacking charges. The e-mail contained 35 transcripts of messages left on the phone of Gordon Taylor, chief executive officer of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
The company had maintained that all hacking activities at the paper were confined to ex-royal reporter Clive Goodman and Mulcaire.
Mulcaire has pleaded guilty to phone hacking while Goodman is a defendant in today’s case.
The term “rogue exception” was coined by Colin Myler, the last editor of the News of the World, Brooks said. Between May 2007 and July 2009 the subject of phone hacking “went without any conversation,” at News Corp.’s U.K. unit, she said.
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