Ex-Murdoch reporter vows: hacking guilty will be named

 

Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter of the News of the World who was dismissed by News International last month, yesterday turned on his former employer by warning that there was much he could say "to the detriment" of Rupert Murdoch's corporation.

The 49-year-old, who was arrested in April on suspicion of intercepting voicemails, broke his silence on the affair in spectacular fashion, vowing that the "truth will out" and that "those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed".

Making it clear he believes he holds damaging information about his former employer, the reporter, who was responsible for some of the NOTW's most eye-catching and controversial scoops – including the revelation of a sado-masochistic orgy involving Formula One boss Max Mosley – added: "There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far have chosen not do so. Therefore, let us all retain a dignified silence until we meet face to face in a public tribunal."

The statement came after lawyers for Mr Thurlbeck, who declared his innocence, withdrew from an employment tribunal hearing due to take place yesterday, at which they were to make a bid to force NI to continue paying the veteran tabloid reporter's wages by claiming he was a "whistleblower" who had alerted his employer to wrongdoing at Britain's largest newspaper group. His solicitor Nathan Donaldson said his unfair dismissal claim was continuing.

NI confirmed this week that it had sacked the journalist for an unspecified offence. It did not inform Mr Thurlbeck of the reason for his dismissal. The decision represented a dramatic change of position by the company: after his arrest in April, NI sources insisted that Mr Thurlbeck had not been suspended from his duties and remained a full-time employee.

Mr Thurlbeck said he had now been told the grounds for his sacking by Scotland Yard but was prevented from revealing the details for legal reasons. He added: "I say this most emphatically and with certainty and confidence – that the allegation which led to my dismissal will eventually be shown to be false."

The journalist, who had worked for the NOTW for 21 years, insisted that the company had accepted for two years that he was not implicated in "the matter in question" and there was no valid reason for its "sudden volte face".

Mr Thurlbeck was dragged into the hacking scandal in 2008, when NI was provided with an email containing transcripts of voicemails left by and for footballers' union boss Gordon Taylor, who later obtained a £700,000 settlement for the hacking of his phone by the NOTW's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The email, which was written by a junior NOTW reporter and provided the first evidence that voicemail interception went beyond a single "rogue" reporter, was entitled "for Neville". The newspaper has confirmed that its sole employee of that name was Mr Thurlbeck but he has always insisted he never received the email and had no knowledge of it.

In his statement, he said: "At the length, truth will out. I await that time with patience but with a determination to fight my case to the end."

In a carefully-worded dash for the moral high ground, Mr Thurlbeck, a veteran of Fleet Street's use of undercover tactics, accused his former employer of the "unseemly practice" of giving "off the record" briefings about him.

Mr Thurlbeck, whose police bail has been extended until next March, is the latest former NOTW employee to sue NI. Mr Mulcaire and former editor Andy Coulson are suing the company to force it to continue paying their legal fees while Ian Edmondson, the paper's former head of news, has launched proceedings for unfair dismissal. Both Mr Coulson and Mr Edmondson have been arrested by officers from Operation Weeting, the Yard's continuing investigation into phone hacking.

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