Murdoch knew extent of scandal, says former aide

 

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The Independent Online

James Murdoch was given "hard evidence" that phone hacking inside the News of the World went beyond a lone rogue reporter more than three years ago, one of his closest lieutenants said on oath for the first time yesterday.

News International's former legal manager, Tom Crone, told the Leveson inquiry that NI's chairman knew the illegal accessing of voicemails at the NOTW was "rife" when he authorised a record confidential damages settlement with Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, in June 2008.

Mr Crone, pictured, said the crucial email was held up in front of Mr Murdoch at a meeting on 10 June, and may have been passed across a table to him. The brief meeting has been discussed and dissected by MPs investigating the phone-hacking scandal. It has become central to Mr Murdoch's credibility and his chances of inheriting his father's media empire. In July this year, Mr Murdoch was asked by the Commons media select committee if he saw or was made aware of an email that contained a transcript of hacked voicemail messages before he signed off the payment to Mr Taylor. Mr Murdoch replied: "No, I was not aware of it at that time."

Two days later, Mr Crone and the Sunday tabloid's last editor, Colin Myler, wrote to MPs insisting they had informed Mr Murdoch of what became known as the "For Neville" email. This prompted Mr Murdoch to say the next day that he had "answered truthfully".

Last month, again in front of MPs, Mr Murdoch repeated his assertion that the suspicion of a "wider spread of wrongdoing" and a written opinion from the company's leading counsel were never mentioned to him when he authorised an increased offer to Mr Taylor. "I want to be very clear: no documents were shown to me at that meeting or given to me at that meeting, or prior," he said.

Mr Crone told Lord Leveson yesterday that he had not only shown the NI chairman a printout of the "For Neville" email, but had previously discussed the issue and shown him other documents before the 10 June meeting. Mr Crone said: "I cannot remember whether they were passed across the table, but I am pretty sure I held up the front page of the email... I am also pretty sure that he already knew about it... It had been described to him already."

Mr Crone told the inquiry that after he was shown the telling email, which destroyed the company line that only the jailed former royal correspondent had been involved in hacking, he spoke to four NOTW reporters.

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