From ruthless boss of his media empire to frail octogenarian

Rupert Murdoch has a reputation as a ruthless corporate boss feared by employees and politicians alike. But after yesterday's appearance he could as easily be described as an old man seemingly losing control of his empire.

Media pundits were united in their surprise at how frail the head of News Corporation looked when MPs faced down both the 80-year-old tycoon and his son James, 38. "What was really remarkable was the way Rupert came across as something of a doddery octogenarian rather than the giant corporation boss that he is usually portrayed as," said the publicist Mark Bukowski. "It was like watching Mr Burns [from The Simpsons] and the illegitimate son we never knew he had."

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, added: "Rupert claimed to have seen, heard and known no evil – a strategy that made him appear too doddery to run an international corporation. He refused to take responsibility. Everyone else is to blame for keeping him in the dark."

Psychologists said it was clear both men had been coached in how to deal with their inquisitors, though the confidence – and at times boredom – displayed by Mr Murdoch Snr was offset by his son's nervousness and robotic voice. "Even the tumbleweed moments between Rupert's answers were signs of dominant behaviour," explained Judi James, a body language analyst. "He had the whole room leaning forward to hear what he had to say."

Both men, she suggested, adopted a "choreographed, restraining hand position, with one hand on the other [that] implies helpfulness and openness whilst preventing gesticulation and giving too much away".

Darren Stanton, another body language expert, said that at times James Murdoch seemed deeply uncomfortable with the MPs' line of questioning, particularly when he was asked about the firm of media lawyers hired by News International to investigate some of the hacking. Mr Stanton said: "Signs of anxiety include blushing. On occasion, his blinking also increased dramatically, which is a sign ... that he did not want to discuss certain topics."

Louise Cooper, a market analyst at BGC Partners, said the questioning revealed that Mr Murdoch Snr lacked knowledge about what had taken place at his company. For example, he had not known that Rebekah Brooks told a Commons select committee in 2003 that The Sun and News of the World had paid bribes to police.

Ms Cooper said: "The Labour MP Tom Watson had Rupert on the ropes and showed how little he really knew about what was going on at the News of the World. Those critics of corporate governance at News Corp have been given plenty of ammunition."

Last night, there was further speculation about whether Rupert Murdoch or his son would also be forced to step down. Michael Woolf, a biographer who knows the family well, told the Bloomberg news agency he believed James to be particularly vulnerable.

"I think [James] is finished," he said. "Cooked. Over. Toast. He has no credibility. You don't go through this whole period saying one thing, then have the other proved to be true and have any credibility at the end. James ... was in charge of the management of the scandal, in charge of the people who committed these crimes. He is the directly responsible executive."

Many MPs were angry that Jonathan May-Bowles managed to attack Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie. Kris Hopkins, Tory member for Keighley and Ilkley, said: "This House summoned somebody to a committee, we've failed to protect them and they've been assaulted. Regardless of the politics and the accusations, we have a responsibility to look after them and we have failed."

Voices
Numbers of complaints about unwanted calls have trebled in just six months
voices
News
people
Arts & Entertainment
Picture of innocence: Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington in ‘Derek’
tvReview: The insights of Ricky Gervais's sweet and kind character call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf podcast observations
Life & Style
Looking familiar: The global biometrics industry is expected to grow to $20bn by 2020
tech
News
Higher expectations: European economies are growing but the recovery remains weak
newsThe eurozone crisis has tipped many into despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues economist Philippe Legrain
Arts & Entertainment
Tangled up in blue: Singer-songwriter Judith Owen
musicAnd how husband Harry Shearer - of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame - helped her music flourish
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
Arts & Entertainment
Paul Weller: 'I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting'
music
Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Foster and Hedison have reportedly been dating since last summer
peopleOscar-winner said to be 'totally in love' with Alexandra Hedison
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Life & Style
Balancing act: City workers at the launch of Cityfathers
lifeThe organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group boasting more than 3,000 members
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 to $250,000 for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Ian Herbert: Manchester United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

The size of the rebuild needed at Old Trafford is a task way beyond Ryan Giggs, says Ian Herbert
Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

The 41-year-old calmed his nerves to perform a classic 'Superman act' when he replaced Petr Cech in Madrid. One clean sheet later, he is now determined to become a club hero
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?