Neville Thurlbeck: 'I'm upset they think I've let them down'

Ex-'News of the World' reporter tells Paul Cahalan why he is suing his old boss

It's hard not to think in headlines when you meet Neville Thurlbeck. "Is this the most hated man in Britain?" springs to mind. Fairly or not, the former News of the World hack is the name most closely associated with explosive revelations about phone hacking and other tabloid dark arts, which have so far shut down one Sunday tabloid and any number of careers.

And yet the man himself seems weirdly disconnected from the storm. "Until the moment of my dismissal, I was always held in very high regard. I got dismissed, yet I don't think I received a bollocking in my life," he tells me in the Surrey home he shares with his wife and two children. Ejected unsentimentally from the News Group Newspapers family, he still talks of Rupert Murdoch as a father figure whom he will embrace once more when this scandal is over.

Why is he talking now? He set two conditions for agreeing to this interview: we had to mention – a charity that provides support for troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (he is now its PR manager). And we say: "Mr Thurlbeck asked us to stress no payment was sought or received for this article." But perhaps he also thinks that he can use the interview to reach out as his beloved former employer launches a new Sunday newspaper.

Once one of Mr Murdoch's fiercest rottweilers, he and his colleagues sowed the seeds that News Group Newspapers is now reaping, most recently last week with the settlement to the singer Charlotte Church.

He started at the NOTW in 1988 and worked there until last year, minus four years at the Today newspaper. He loved the paper and it loved him: there was almost nothing he would not do, of which more later.

The beginning of the end came in 2008, when he was told of an email containing transcripts of 35 hacked voice messages titled "For Neville". He was sacked and arrested for phone hacking (which he denies) last year.

Clad in his customary suit and tie, he feeds the log fire. He is courteous to a fault and apparently totally untroubled by introspection. He admits his name does appear "hundreds of times" on the thousands of pages of notes produced by Glenn Mulcaire – the private investigator at the centre of the hacking row who kept notes on the phones he was asked to intercept – but insists he never commissioned them. "The very words 'for Neville' implies it was ordered by Neville. But I am absolutely certain that when the truth finally comes out this will be demonstrated to be false and others will be responsible," he says. "I provided the evidence and information to the editor on who was involved. That is why I was not dismissed. I have since found further evidence showing the involvement of others."

So what about appearing in court charged with bribing a policeman? "The case was dropped because I didn't do anything wrong." But what about the time he was accused of making up a story and appeared naked on the internet in a video that led to him being labelled "Onan the Barbarian"? "The Press Complaints Commission cleared me," he says – adding that he can talk about that only off the record.

So, even though he is now suing his former paper for unfair dismissal and breach of contract, he insists he is not driven by bitterness. He feels he is owed some loyalty: he refused to testify against those who fingered him over phone hacking – despite being offered immunity from prosecution.

"I'm upset they [the Murdochs] think I let them down because I can promise them I never let them down. It will eventually come to light one of their longest members of staff never let them down. I think they will be big enough to acknowledge that. I'm happy to let that be water under the bridge and we will shake hands."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little