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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower