The fearless, shameless reporter at centre of storm

  • @iburrell

If there are former members of the News of the World staff who look back on their time at Britain's oldest tabloid with a sense of shame, then the paper's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck is unlikely to be among them.

In his long career, he has been a journalist for whom no story is too sleazy.

A "brothel creeper" par excellence, he has fearlessly gone into massage parlours and swingers parties and, in time honoured fashion, tried to remember to make his excuses and leave. That's not always been possible. One "kinky" couple whom he exposed for offering sexual services from their guest house claimed to have been set up, later releasing pictures of the naked and intrepid Thurlbeck to prove it.

"I am NOT ashamed of these pictures," the reporter hit back, as the NOTW pictured him in the buff with his face and privates blacked out. "As the Chief Crime Reporter at the News of the World, I have to operate at the very sharpest end of journalism to bring our readers the stories of crime, vice and deceit amongst the great and the good or the lowest of the low." Shortly afterwards, Thurlbeck was landing another scoop, outing a former Cabinet Minister as homosexual.

His doughty investigations into the sex life of the former England football captain David Beckham helped the News of the World under editor Andy Coulson to win Newspaper of the Year. Celebrating his contribution by winning Scoop of the Year for his Beckham exposé, Thurlbeck told the Press Gazette how he had done it.

He said he had devoted "three months of laborious investigation" in Australia and Spain to researching a tip. "People supplied me with evidence in terms of telephone numbers, sim cards, text messages, which proved so damning against David Beckham in the end."

In 2007, lawyers acting for Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, sued News International, publishers of the NOTW, for phone hacking and sent NI an email marked "for Neville" with a transcript of a hacked voicemail.

NI later paid Taylor £725,000 in a settlement for damages. Meanwhile, Thurlbeck was back brothel creeping, exposing the Formula 1 chief Max Mosley for his involvement in a sado-masochistic orgy. The newspaper sting was expertly prepared by Thurlbeck but the newspaper was later forced to pay Mosley a record £60,000 in damages for invasion of privacy. For Mr Thurlbeck, who was last week identified as a registered informant for the Metropolitan Police, it was all part of a day's work.