Hacking officers and the 'champagne links' to Wapping

Senior Met figures questioned at Leveson Inquiry over close ties to NOTW – and why they decided to drop investigation

Two senior Scotland Yard officers who dismissed the true scale of phone hacking at the News of the World had a close relationship with some of its journalists who were later arrested for alleged crimes at the paper, the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday.

John Yates, the Met's former assistant commissioner, had eight meetings with Neil Wallis, the paper's deputy editor until 2009, between 2009 and 2010, six while he was looking into alleged phone hacking at Mr Wallis's former paper – none of which was declared in the Metropolitan Police's register of hospitality. Mr Yates also had several meetings with NOTW crime editor, Lucy Panton.

Andy Hayman, the assistant commissioner with oversight of the hacking inquiry in 2006, Operation Caryatid, which prosecuted only the paper's royal editor and its private investigator despite much wider evidence of wrongdoing, also had evening engagements with Mr Wallis and Ms Panton.

After the Met launched fresh investigations into the paper, detectives arrested Mr Wallis in July 2011 on suspicion of phone hacking and Ms Panton in December 2011 on suspicion of police corruption.

In a day of evidence highlighting the intimate professional and personal connections between senior Met staff and Rupert Murdoch's tabloid, the inquiry disclosed the meetings from notes they had made in their Scotland Yard diaries.

The inquiry asked Mr Yates about an email sent by the NOTW's news editor James Mellor to Ms Panton, the crime editor, on 30 October 2010, asking her to find out more from him about a bomb found in a printer cartridge on a cargo aircraft. Mr Mellor wrote: "John Yates could be crucial here. Have you spoken to him? Really need an excl [exclusive] splash [front page] line so time to call in all those bottles of champagne..."

Robert Jay, QC, the Leveson Inquiry's counsel, was particularly interested in meetings between Mr Wallis and Mr Yates, who in July 2009 decided not to reopen Scotland Yard's investigation into phone hacking after spending several hours reviewing the progress of the investigation carried out three years earlier. His diary showed a close connection to Mr Wallis.

On 3 June 2009, for instance, he had a "private appointment" with Mr Wallis, the property developer Nick Candy and the PR entrepreneur Noel Redding at an Italian restaurant in London. In September 2009 – while Mr Yates was beginning to look afresh at the hacking inquiry following new disclosures in The New York Times – he again met Mr Wallis (who had by then left the paper) at the Mayfair restaurant Scotts. Among many other meetings with the NOTW's staff, Mr Yates had dinner with its editor, Colin Myler, and Ms Panton at the Ivy Club, private rooms above the famous theatreland restaurant in London, on 5 November 2009.

Giving evidence by video link from Bahrain, where is he helping organise its police force, Mr Yates said Mr Wallis was "certainly a good friend" and had not declared the meals and drinks because they were "private engagements" for which he sometimes footed the bill.

He added that he could not have known at the time that Mr Wallis, the deputy editor of the paper in 2006 at the time its royal editor, Clive Goodman, was arrested for phone hacking, would later become a suspect.

Mr Goodman and the NOTW's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007 for intercepting the voicemails of a total of eight people – whereas police now suspect other NOTW staff were involved and that the total number of victims will be 829.

The inquiry produced minutes of a briefing from Scotland Yard on 9 July 2009, which indicated that Mr Yates may not have been told about the full scale of the evidence seized by police from Mr Mulcaire in 2006. One sentence read: "No evidence to support wider phones had been intercepted."

Mr Yates denied that he had "been plied with champagne by Lucy Panton", but agreed he had drunk champagne with her. Mr Hayman, who was the senior counter-terrorism officer in 2006, dined with Ms Panton on 8 November 2005 and met her again at Scotland Yard on 11 November that year. He said he knew few details about Operation Caryatid.

Sun's defence editor is arrested

The defence editor of 'The Sun' has been arrested on suspicion of paying public officials for information.

Virginia Wheeler, 32, appeared at a south London police station by appointment to answer questions related to evidence sent by News Corporation's management standards committee to Scotland Yard.

'Sun' publisher News International confirmed Ms Wheeler had been arrested in an email sent to its staff.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman later confirmed a 32-year-old woman had been bailed to a date in May.

Ms Wheeler had been abroad on extended leave. Police are understood to have wanted to question her for several weeks. Her arrest in connection with Operation Elveden follows those of 10 other former or current employees at 'The Sun'.

Ian Burrell

Murdoch briefed on terror by Met

Scotland Yard chiefs briefed Rupert Murdoch on terrorist operations, the inquiry was told yesterday. Peter Clarke, who headed the force's counter-terror division, told the Leveson Inquiry there was "scepticism" in the media that the capital was a target before the 7 July attacks in 2005.

He said he met Mr Murdoch when he was briefing senior journalists at News International's Wapping headquarters in August 2004.

NOTW reporter denies MP's claims

'News of the World' reporter, Alex Marunchak, who was accused by the Labour MP Tom Watson of knowing a murdered private detective was about to sell a story on police corruption shortly before he was killed in 1987, has dismissed the claims as an "Oscar ceremony" performance. Mr Maranchuk said he had never heard of Daniel Morgan, or his employers, Southern Investigations, under after his murder.

Leveson: I will stop more leaks

Lord Justice Leveson has criticised leaks from his inquiry, which may include the revelation that Scotland Yard loaned a horse to former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

He warned yesterday that he could restrict advance release of witness statements to core participants if the leaks continue.

The leaks would constitute a breach of confidentiality and could disrupt the inquiry, he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Frozen out: despite being filmed in Iceland, 'Fortitude' is set further north, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
tvGerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Life and Style
Carmen Khu from The Royal China Club pours a cup of Dai-Hong-Po tea
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
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