Coulson 'has thrown his former staff to the wolves'

Andy Coulson was last night accused of throwing his former staff "to the wolves", after it emerged that the Downing Street spin doctor had spoken to police investigating allegations of illegal phone-hacking while he was editor of News of the World.

Paul McMullan, a former NoW deputy features editor, claimed that more than a dozen ex-colleagues had confessed to hacking into celebrities' voicemails with Mr Coulson's knowledge, before he resigned in 2007 to become David Cameron's director of communications.

Mr McMullan, who had previously defended the No 10 media guru over the phone-hacking allegations, said 13 former colleagues "have either said, 'Yes, I transcribed celebrities' messages and gave them to Andy', or 'I hacked into a politician who we may have thought was being corrupt on his say-so'." He added: "I am perplexed Andy Coulson keeps making absolute denials. Surely the best course would be to say, 'Some of my journalists hacked into people's phones because that is the best way to get... a decent investigation in the public interest about matters of corruption'."

Mr Coulson has strenuously denied the allegations, but Downing Street confirmed on Friday that he had spoken to the police as a witness after voluntarily meeting them at his lawyer's offices.

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, who is seeking a judicial review to force disclosure of the names of the 3,000 people whose telephone messages were allegedly intercepted by the NoW, said last night: "It is inconceivable that Andy Coulson would not have known anything about this. I think he will have to go in the end." Scotland Yard would not comment on the reports.