Mystery of vital iPhone 'lost' by News International


Rupert Murdoch's News International has failed to recover one of four Apple iPhones issued to company executives and which are now being investigated by Scotland Yard's phone-hacking investigators.

The smartphones, whose existence was only publicly acknowledged by the company this month despite their being given to four senior figures – including the former executive chairman James Murdoch – in the summer of 2009, are the subject of an order from a High Court judge that the phones and their contents, including emails and text messages, must be preserved.

But News International has only managed to locate three of the phones, opening the possibility that emails and, in particular, text messages archived on the missing handset have been lost and cannot be scrutinised. The phones were "heavily used" by the executives, who ran up a bill of nearly £12,000 between them in the 11 months to this May.

The failure of NI to take possession of one of the phones was confirmed at the High Court in London by Hugh Tomlinson QC, the barrister representing victims of phone hacking by the News of the World in civil damages claims. Mr Tomlinson said three of the four phones had been located.

The loss of one of the devices would be embarrassing to Mr Murdoch's News Corp, which has pledged full transparency in the investigations. The existence of the phones was not disclosed to the Leveson Inquiry but NI has insisted the handsets were not "secret".

The company yesterday declined to comment in detail on its investigations into the iPhones. A spokeswoman said: "News International has complied fully with its disclosure obligations." The Labour MP Tom Watson, a leading campaigner on the hacking scandal, said: "In line with News Corp's promise to be transparent on this issue, I call on them to reveal which of the four iPhones that were issued to senior executives in 2009 they appear unable to locate."

Two of the phones, which were on a single contract with O2 rather than NI's normal provider, Vodafone, were issued to Mr Murdoch and Katie Vanneck-Smith, NI's chief marketing officer. Mr Murdoch, who oversaw the phone-hacking settlement with the footballers' union boss Gordon Taylor in 2008 and spearheaded News Corp's ill-fated 2011 bid for BSkyB, specified that he wanted a "white iPhone".

When The Independent called the number of the handset issued to Mr Murdoch it was still active and gave a message asking callers to contact his personal office at NI. But the phones issued to two other executives, including one individual who has since left the company, have been disconnected.

Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into phone hacking, is examining call records from the phones.

Text messages and emails sent and received by Murdoch executives and advisers from their BlackBerry devices have provided some of the most revealing evidence heard by the Leveson Inquiry. The period in which the iPhones were in use – and running up bills that reached up to £3,000 per month – covered climactic events for the company, including the closure of the NOTW last July.

NI has strongly denied that the existence of the phones, in particular that of Mr Murdoch, was shrouded in secrecy.

In a separate development, the High Court heard that 20 further civil damage claims are expected to be lodged shortly by phone-hacking victims, taking the total in the latest round of lawsuits to 70.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home