News International is employing a sports journalist who can be heard on a tape recording, broadcast on the website of The New York Times, being coached by the disgraced private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in hacking mobile phone voicemail messages.
The sports journalist, who now works for The Times, can be heard asking for advice on how to access the voicemail of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association. The Times said it had instructed the newspaper's managing editor, Anoushka Healy, to conduct a "thorough review" of the matter. The reporter was not working for The Times at the time of the recording and there is no suggestion that phone hacking has ever been done by the paper.
But the tape might be seen as further undermining the claims to MPs by News International senior executives that Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the royal editor of the News of the World (a sister paper of The Times), were "rogue" operators hacking in isolation. It now appears Mulcaire worked with other journalists.
On the The New York Times tape, seized by police from Mulcaire's home, he says: "You put his number in. It asks you for the pin. Then put his number back in and there's three messages on there from Tottenham, all right?" The journalist replies: "Fantastic. Thanks very much."
He later told The New York Times he had not obtained any story by hacking phones. The Independent's calls to the journalist were not returned. When the recording was first published, News International issued a statement saying the journalist concerned "is not and was not connected to the News of the World".
At the time the recording was made, he is believed to have been on the London Evening Standard. That paper, then owned by Associated Newspapers, has since been bought by the Lebedev family, which also owns The Independent. There is no suggestion that the Standard was aware that he had spoken to Mulcaire.
The Times said the journalist started work for them in August 2009, adding: "Since he joined the paper, he has been highly regarded for his professionalism and performance. We note that there has been no allegation of any wrongdoing related to his employment at The Times."
How it's done: Tapping tips from a rogue operator
GM: 'Allo mate, just a very quick one. Voicemail reset on Gordon Taylor and it's got Tottenham related issues on there.
Reporter: Great stuff. It's the same numbers?
GM: Same number. Do not delete anything. You've got the number haven't you?
Reporter: Can you just give me... what... you just put his own phone number in again?
GM: Correct, yeah.
Reporter: And what's the main number again, the Orange one?
GM: Yeah, you need to dial 07973.
Reporter: sorry 100?
GM: Correct. You put his number in. It asks you for the pin. Then put his number back in and there's three messages on there from Tottenham, all right?
Reporter: Fantastic. Thanks very much.
GM: All right, cheers. Just give me a text, make sure it works yeah?
Reporter: Will do.
GM: All right bye.