The phone-hacking scandal that rocked Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire spread from royals to politicians and celebrities over five years, before reaching a tipping point two weeks ago.
From August 2006 through July 4, the scandal remained largely confined to the U.K. The News of the World royal correspondent was jailed, Parliament ordered hearings and celebrities including Sienna Miller and Jude Law sued.
After July 4 -- when the Guardian newspaper reported that employees of the now-defunct News of the World hacked into the voicemail of a kidnapped schoolgirl who was later murdered -- the crisis escalated. The scandal led to the resignation of two of London’s top police officers; the arrest of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s former head of communications; an FBI investigation and questions about Murdoch’s leadership at New York-based News Corp., a business he built over six decades.
Here is a timeline of the phone-hacking scandal.
Clive Goodman, News of the World royal editor, is arrested on suspicion of intercepting Prince Charles’s phone calls and charged with breaking into phone messages on eight dates from January and May of 2006. Glenn Mulcaire, a former professional soccer player who was then head of a consulting firm, faces the same charges at a hearing in London.
Goodman is sentenced to four months in prison for conspiring to tap the phones of aides to the British royal family, after pleading guilty in November. Mulcaire gets six months on related charges of hacking into the messages of celebrities including supermodel Elle Macpherson.
Andy Coulson, News of the World editor, resigns hours after the sentence.
Les Hinton, then chairman of News International, the News Corp. unit that published the News of the World, answers questions at a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry. When asked whether he thought that Goodman was the only one who knew what was going on, Hinton says: “I believe he was the only person.”
David Cameron, then Conservative Party leader, names Coulson as the party’s director of communications.
News International pays an undisclosed amount to settle a case from Mulcaire, who despite never having been on the paper’s staff is suing for unfair dismissal, having had his contract terminated when he was jailed.
News International pays an undisclosed amount to Goodman to settle his unfair dismissal claim. He had been sacked when he was jailed.
Mark Lewis, a lawyer working for Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, obtains from the police documents that suggest News of the World reporters other than Goodman had been aware of successful interceptions of messages left on Goodman’s phone and those of two of his associates. Tom Crone, legal manager for the News of the World, advises Colin Myler, the paper’s new editor, and James Murdoch that the company should settle. Before the end of the year, Murdoch approves the payment of 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) to settle with the three plaintiffs, who sign non-disclosure agreements.
Rebekah Wade, now Brooks, is named chief executive officer of News International, effective Sept. 1. She is to report to Murdoch’s son James, CEO of News Corp.’s Europe and Asia unit.
The Guardian reports the payments to Taylor and his associates.
Cameron defends Coulson. “Of course I knew about that resignation before offering him a job, but I believe you should give people a second chance,” Cameron says.
Paul Stephenson, Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time, starts an investigation of the News of the World and the Sun, another News Corp. publication. Assistant Commissioner John Yates is assigned to the inquiry.
About eight hours later, Yates tells reporters that “no additional evidence has come to light” and “no further investigation is required.”
News International, answering to the Guardian’s report, says there’s no evidence of a “systemic corporate illegality” to suppress evidence and it’s untrue that, apart from Goodman, staff hacked into mobile phones. There’s no evidence that reporters accessed the voicemails of former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the company says.
Under questioning before Parliament’s culture committee, Myler says James Murdoch agreed the payment to Taylor. He and Crone insist that there is “no evidence” to suggest other reporters were involved. He cites in support a report by lawyers Harbottle & Lewis LLP that went through 2,500 company e-mails.
Taylor’s lawyer Lewis tells the committee that lawyers from News International have threatened to get an injunction to prevent him from acting against the company for other phone-hacking victims.
News International reaches a settlement with the celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who also had his phone hacked. Clifford refuses to comment on suggestions the company paid 1 million pounds.
A panel of lawmakers says it is “inconceivable” senior staff at News of the World weren’t aware of widespread tapping by its reporters. The cross-party culture committee says executives from the newspaper suffered “collective amnesia” during its inquiry. The company replies that the report has “materially diminished” the reputation of Parliament.
Metropolitan Police says it will examine new evidence of phone-hacking detailed in a New York Times article.
Actress Sienna Miller seeks damages from News of the World for hacking the voicemail on three of her phones to get personal information.
Ian Edmondson, news editor at News of the World, is suspended over phone hacking.
Coulson resigns as press chief of now Prime Minister Cameron.
Police start new inquiry after News International, under pressure from a growing weight of lawsuits, hands over a cache of documents. Assistant Commissioner Yates says there is “significant new evidence” that offered “promising lines of inquiry.”
Yates says at a parliamentary hearing that he may have met Neil Wallis, a former News of the World editor he’s known for “a number of years,” for lunch or dinner in February, the month after police began the latest inquiry.
Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck, the tabloid’s chief reporter, are arrested.
News International says phone-hacking was more widespread than it had previously acknowledged, and says it will settle cases with victims.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Prescott and actor Jude Law sue, following more than 20 actors, politicians and athletes.
Miller agrees to settle her lawsuit for 100,000 pounds ($160,000).
Law’s case is chosen to be one of the first heard. Designer Kelly Hoppen, sports agent Sky Andrew, soccer commentator Andy Gray and lawmaker Chris Bryant are also among the so-called test cases.
Prescott, former Metropolitan Police Commander Brian Paddick, lawmaker Chris Bryant and journalist Brendan Montague win a bid for a review of the initial police investigation of the phone-hacking probe.
The Guardian reports that a private detective working for the News of the World hacked into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a schoolgirl abducted and murdered in 2002.
Cameron presses News Corp. to respond to the “really appalling” allegations.
Murdoch says the allegations of phone hacking and police payments by News of the World are “deplorable and unacceptable.”
U.K. police say documents by News International show that payments might have been made to police officers.
News Corp. decides to close down the News of the World.
Coulson is arrested.
New International CEO Brooks says she had “no knowledge whatsoever of phone hacking in the case of Milly Dowler and her family, or in any other case during my tenure,” in a letter to the chairman of the U.K. Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee of lawmakers.
Murdoch says Brooks has his “total” support.
Murdoch, his son James and Brooks are summoned to be questioned before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on July 19.
Yates appears before Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee. Lawmakers laugh at him as he said the decision not to investigate further, taken after an eight-hour review, had been “poor.”
News International says legal manager Crone has left the company.
The FBI begins examining whether News Corp. employees tried to hack into phones of Sept. 11 victims. Rupert and James Murdoch say they won’t be able to attend today’s culture committee hearing. After a formal summons is sent, they change their minds.
Wallis, the former News of the World editor, is arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept phone calls. London’s Metropolitan Police also says that Wallis had worked as a paid communications consultant for the police in 2009 and 2010.
Hinton, the former News International chairman, resigns from his positions as chief executive of News Corp.’s Dow Jones unit and publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Hinton had started at News Corp. 52 years earlier at the age of 15.
British actor Hugh Grant sues the Metropolitan Police after he secretly taped Paul McMullan, former News of the World reporter. McMullan said hacking was committed on an “industrial-scale” under Coulson, Grant tells the BBC July 6.
Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, resigns.
Yates, the assistant commissioner and Britain’s top anti-terrorism policeman, resigns.
A man police said they believed to be Sean Hoare, a former reporter at the News of the World, is found dead at his home. Hoare was the first person to allege that Coulson encouraged phone hacking by his staff, the Guardian newspaper reported. His death is being treated as unexplained and isn’t thought to be suspicious.
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