NOTW 'spied on detectives for suspect in murder case'
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Wednesday 29 February 2012
The News of the World tried to intimidate police detectives by placing them under surveillance in order to "subvert" a murder investigation whose key suspect had financial links to the Sunday tabloid, the Leveson Inquiry into the press and the police heard yesterday.
In the most emotional testimony yet heard by the inquiry, Jacqui Hames – a former detective constable who helped anchor the BBC's Crimewatch programme – accused Rebekah Brooks, the NOTW's former editor, of offering "pathetic" excuses after the surveillance operation was exposed.
Ms Hames broke down in tears in the courtroom as she tried to explain the fallout from the NOTW's operation that followed her then husband being given the job of reopening a murder investigation in 2002.
After the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan, who was found dead in a Sydenham pub car park with an axe in his head, four police inquiries had focused on Mr Morgan's former business partner in a private detective agency, Jonathan Rees.
All the inquiries had been discontinued. Then in 2002, Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook, Ms Hames's husband at the time, appeared on Crimewatch to launch another police investigation into the murder.
Mr Rees's agency, Southern Investigations, the inquiry heard, was making around £150,000 a year in commissions from the NOTW, mostly delivering illegally obtained information.
According to Ms Hames's witness statement the Metropolitan Police received intelligence just after Cook was tasked with heading the inquiry that one of the suspects "intended to make life difficult for him". In July 2002 the couple found themselves under surveillance after noticing two vans parked outside their home. After contact with other Met officers, it was discovered that the vehicles were leased to News International through one of NOTW's senior editors, Alex Marunchak.
Dick Fedorcio, the Met's public affairs head, contacted Ms Brooks asking for an explanation. Despite Hames and Cook being married for four years with two children, and a profile of them appearing in Hello! magazine, Ms Brooks said the paper suspected them of "having an affair with each other".
Mr Hames's statement described this as "utterly nonsensical". She told the inquiry : "I believe the real reason they placed us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try and intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation."
She added: "These events left me distressed , anxious and needing counselling and contributed to the breakdown of my marriage to David in 2010."
Following the Fedorcio meeting, Ms Brooks agreed to look into Mr Marunchaks' association with Mr Rees and Southern Investigations. Mr Marunchak was not given a warning, instead he was promoted by Ms Brooks. Mr Rees was cleared of the murder of Daniel Morgan last March.
Joanna Yeates case: Suspect says press were tipped off
Chris Jefferies, the landlord of murdered architect Joanna Yeates, said that Avon and Somerset Police identified him to journalists as their prime suspect in her killing.
Mr Jefferies told the Leveson Inquiry he believed officers passed information about one of his witness statements to reporters and tipped them off about their suspicions before his arrest.
The retired teacher, who played no part in the crime and is suing police, said he believed the press would not have been bold enough to print accusations about him if the police had not said he was "their man".
For a guide to who's who at the Leveson Inquiry click HERE
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