Ex-NOTW reporter arrested 'for intimidating witness'

Police make their latest move as James Murdoch writes letter to distance himself from wrongdoing

The former chief reporter of the News of the World was arrested
yesterday by police investigating the phone hacking scandal, on
suspicion of intimidating a witness.

Neville Thurlbeck, 50, who was also news editor on the defunct Sunday tabloid, was detained by appointment at a central London police station by officers from Operation Weeting a day after his former editor, Rebekah Brooks, was arrested with five others on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. He was later released on bail.

Yesterday's arrest came as James Murdoch used a letter to the House of Commons media select committee to distance himself once more from any wrongdoing inside News International (NI). He blamed two former trusted lieutenants, Colin Myler and Tom Crone, claiming there were "inconsistencies" in their evidence to MPs.

Mr Thurlbeck has been a central figure in the unfolding phone-hacking saga since being named in the so-called "for Neville" email. This showed voicemail interception went beyond a single "rogue" reporter at the NOTW. He was arrested last year on suspicion of conspiring to hack phones and eavesdropping voicemail messages.

During recent months, he has adopted a higher media profile, with broadcast appearances and the launch of a blog commenting on developments in the crisis enveloping NI. In a blog entry last week, Mr Thurlbeck revealed how Will Lewis, a key member of News Corp's Management and Standards Committee, which has been marshalling millions of internal NI emails to Scotland Yard, had hired a private security company to provide security at his home.

Mr Thurlbeck published the name of the security company, noting that it had spent several hours at Mr Lewis's home, and gave the name of the street where the NI executive lives.

In a subsequent blog, Mr Thurlbeck, who is suing his former employer for unfair dismissal, said his story had prompted approaches from lawyers and a public relations company representing Mr Lewis, asking for the removal of his posting. He claimed it was suggested to him that the details he had provided about the security company "somehow implied I had put [Mr Lewis's] home under surveillance. Bonkers!".

He added: "I accepted their point that printing the name of his street was distressing to his family and took this down immediately as I have absolutely no wish to do this. Although I have not been asked to do so, I would like to apologise to Mrs Lewis for any distress."

A spokesman for the Management and Standards Committee declined to comment last night on Mr Thurlbeck's arrest. Meanwhile Mr Murdoch has sought to influence the parliamentary report into phone hacking, which is expected to be published before the Easter recess, by telling the committee that he did not mislead them, that he never tried to hide wrongdoing at the NOTW, and that when he did ask questions about what was going on, he was given "false assurances" by senior executives at Wapping.

In a personal letter to John Whittingdale, chair of the media select committee, the former executive chairman of NI initially takes responsibility "for not uncovering wrongdoing earlier".

However, the limited apologetic tone of his seven page letter, in which he accepts that it "would have been better if I had asked more questions", also contains evidence of anger directed at former trusted lieutenants inside NI. He says he relied too much on people who assured him that investigations had been carried out and who claimed that further inquiries were unnecessary.

The former NOTW editor, Colin Myler, and News Group Newspaper's former legal manager, Tom Crone, are named repeatedly and described as offering "inconsistencies" to Parliament, while Mr Murdoch says his own evidence "has always been consistent".

The letter states: "The truth is that incomplete answers and what now appears to be false assurances were given to the questions that I asked." In summaries of earlier evidence to the committee, he says he was "never intimately involved with the workings of the NOTW"; and on key meetings that discussed how senior executives were dealing with the emerging hacking culture, he says: "I was given a narrower set of facts than I should have been given..."

He also says that if "Messrs Crone and Myler" had given him the highly critical private opinion offered in 2008 by NI's leading counsel, Michael Silverleaf QC, which described "widespread wrongdoing", then he would have "acted differently". He ends his letter by repeating that he neither knew about, nor attempted to hide, wrongdoing, and tells MPs: "The evidence does not support any other conclusion."

James Murdoch: What he wrote

"I take my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing earlier. However, I have not misled Parliament. I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing. I do not believe the evidence before you supports any other conclusion..."

"It has been said I did not ask enough questions. However, the truth is that incomplete answers and what now appears to be false assurances were given to the questions that I asked."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea