Neville Thurlbeck to fight sacking

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The Independent Online

The News of the World's former chief reporter broke his silence over the phone-hacking scandal today to insist he played "no part" in the matter that led to his sacking.

Neville Thurlbeck, 49, was fired by News International earlier this month after being arrested in April on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemails while working at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.



He issued a strongly worded statement in which he vowed to fight his unfair dismissal claim against his former employers "to the end".



Mr Thurlbeck's alleged role in the scandal has been closely scrutinised since details emerged of a June 2005 email headed "for Neville" which contained transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemail messages.



The email, which surfaced in April 2008, appeared to contradict News International's previous stance that phone hacking was confined to a single "rogue reporter".



Speaking out for the first time since his name was linked to the phone-hacking scandal through the "for Neville" email, Mr Thurlbeck said: "At the length, truth will out. I await that time with patience, but with a determination to fight my case to the end."



The Sunderland-born journalist alleged today that his former employers withheld the reason for his dismissal for nearly a month.



He said he found out why he was sacked from Scotland Yard, but did not reveal any details for legal reasons.



In a statement issued by his law firm DWF he went on: "I took no part in the matter which has led to my dismissal after 21 years of service.



"I say this most emphatically and with certainty and confidence that the allegation which led to my dismissal will eventually be shown to be false.



"And those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed."



Mr Thurlbeck has lodged employment tribunal papers against his former employers. A hearing in his case planned to take place at the East London Tribunal Service today was cancelled.



The journalist said for over two years News International accepted he was not responsible for the matter that led to his dismissal, and alleged there was "no valid or reliable evidence" to support their "sudden volte face".



Describing himself as a "loyal and long-serving former employee", Mr Thurlbeck called on the company to maintain a "dignified silence" until a full tribunal hearing in public.



"There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far have chosen not to do so," he added.



News International said in a statement: "News International is not able to comment on circumstances regarding any individual.



"As we have said previously, News International continues to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police Service in its investigations into phone hacking and police payments to ensure that those responsible for criminal acts are brought to justice."



MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee have said they will recall James Murdoch to give further evidence after two former News International executives contradicted his insistence that he was not told about the "for Neville" email in 2008.



Ian Edmondson, 42, the News of the World's former assistant editor (news), who was also arrested in April on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages, is bringing his own unfair dismissal claim against News International.



Here is his statement in full:



"Scotland Yard has now made me aware of the reason for my dismissal, a reason which News International has withheld from me for almost a month.



"For legal reasons, I am unable to go into the reason cited.



"However, I will say this. I took no part in the matter which has led to my dismissal after 21 years of service.



"I say this most emphatically and with certainty and confidence that the allegation which led to my dismissal will eventually be shown to be false.



"And those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed.



"For more than two years, News International has accepted I was not responsible for the matter in question and there is no valid or reliable evidence now to support their sudden volte face.



"At the length, truth will out.



"I await that time with patience but with a determination to fight my case to the end.



"I was saddened to hear that News International was giving 'off the record' briefings about me to the press this week.



"This has compelled me to speak for the first time since my name became linked to the phone-hacking scandal through the 'For Neville' email more than two years ago."



"I would request that News International abandon the unseemly practice of whispering behind the back of a loyal and long-serving former employee.



"There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far, have chosen not to do so.



"Therefore, let us all retain a dignified silence until we meet face to face in a public tribunal where the issues can be rigorously examined and fairness can eventually prevail."







News International said in a statement: "News International is not able to comment on circumstances regarding any individual.



"As we have said previously, News International continues to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police Service in its investigations into phone hacking and police payments to ensure that those responsible for criminal acts are brought to justice."

PA