Private investigators commissioned by the News of the World to hack into computers and phones, were sometimes gathering information that would never make into the news pages of the Murdoch-owned tabloid. The allegation of the NOTW being used as a proxy for outside agencies interested in the politics and intelligence of Northern Ireland was heard at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.
Jane Winter, the director of the British-Irish Rights Watch which monitors human rights and the peace process in the province, told Lord Leveson that that he should investigate the interception of messages that were not used for publication and were clearly "not newsworthy".
Ms Winter was told only this year that email correspondence she had with Ian Hurst, a former Army intelligence officer in Northern Ireland who had run Republican informers, were found on computers seized by police in 2007.
There were echoes of Ms Winter's evidence in the heavily redacted testimony given by Mr Hurst. He served in Army intelligence in covert units operating between 1980 and 1991. He recruited, developed and ran a network of agents within the IRA which obtained "tactical and strategic intelligence". He told how a BBC Panorama investigation discovered his computer had been infected with a "Trojan" virus which disclosed private correspondence. Broadcast in March this year, the BBC programme gave details of a fax collected and forwarded to the NOTW's Dublin office which contained details stolen from computers belonging to him and his family.
The man who hacked into Mr Hurst's computer was a former Army intelligence colleague hired by a private investigator with long standing links to the NOTW. The inquiry chose not to identify him for legal reasons.
Anne Diamond, the former TV-am presenter and child protection campaigner, said that Britain's tabloid media had "trampled all over" her family's dignity when they appeared on her doorstep within an hour of her son's cot-death. She revealed an encounter with Rupert Murdoch, telling him his papers "ruined lives" and asked how he slept at night? She also believed Mr Murdoch had gathered his editors together and identified Ms Diamond as a person to be targeted. "From that moment onwards there were consistently negative stories about me," she said.
The former Bristol school teacher who last year became the subject of a "frenzied" media campaign to blacken his character during a murder hunt, spoke of his fears that he will never really be able to recover from the libel attacks. Chris Jefferies was the "creepy oddball" caretaker of the block of apartments where Joanna Yates lived.
Headlines effectively pointed to him as the killer. He told the inquiry: "The national media shamelessly vilified me. The UK press set about what can only be described as a witch hunt."
The Dutch engineer, Vincent Tabak, was convicted of the murder last month.