Panic, cover-up and a 'shameful lie': Murdoch's final outing with Leveson

Media baron says he was kept in the dark – but furious former legal chief denies it

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch woke up in his London apartment yesterday morning to find "20 or so paparazzi" waiting for him. A different kind of harassment was waiting for him at the Leveson Inquiry.

On day two of his appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice, the global media boss admitted he'd "panicked" when he closed the News of the World last year – but said he was glad he had.

He might have looked more vulnerable and confused than he did on Wednesday, but during what could well be his last major public outing in the UK, his excuses and desire to blame others for what happened inside Wapping continued along much the same lines.

Cover-up

Rupert Murdoch yesterday claimed that phone hacking within the NOTW was covered up by a "clever lawyer" and "one or two very strong characters" who prevented others from revealing what was going on to News International's (NI) senior executives.

The global head of News Corp claimed he had been "shielded and misinformed" about the extent of criminal wrong-doing within the Sunday tabloid. The alleged cover-up prevented reports of hacking reaching NI's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and his son James, the executive chairman.

Last night, NI's former legal manager, Tom Crone, claiming that Mr Murdoch evidence "can only refer to me", branded Mr Murdoch's assertion of a cover-up "a shameful lie".

Mr Crone said it was also a lie that he had misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that he had forbade people from reporting to Mr Murdoch and Ms Brooks.

Mr Murdoch also directly criticised the appointment of Colin Myler as editor of the NOTW after the departure of Andy Coulson. Mr Myler had been appointment with a brief to find out what was going on after the jailing of former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator commissioned by the paper. Both men were found guilty of illegally accessing mobile-phone messages.

Mr Murdoch yesterday said Mr Myler – now editor of The Daily News in New York – had not done what he was supposed to do and reported nothing back.

Mr Crone said: "It is perhaps no coincidence that the two people he [Mr Murdoch] has identified in relation to his cover-up allegations are the same two people who pointed out that his son's evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee last year was inaccurate. The fact that Mr Murdoch's attack on Colin Myler and myself may have been personal as well as being wholly wrong greatly demeans him."

Early hacking investigation by lawyers still gagged

Robert Jay QC, the inquiry's counsel, said there had been a "consistent theme" of cover-up involving the police and lawyers NI appointed to initially investigate the prevalence of phone hacking at the NOTW.

Lord Justice Leveson revealed that NI had still not given the law firm, Burton Copeland, permission to fully reveal to the inquiry what it had found during a nine-month investigation of hacking that began in 2006.

Last year, Linklaters, the firm now handling NI's legal affairs, claimed the Burton Copeland probe had not investigated hacking and their role was centred on helping the police investigation. Mr Crone, however, is on record as saying that the firm's remit included looking at everything. He described four files involving payments to Mulcaire.

During yesterday's hearing, after Mr Murdoch said "we were wrong about Burton Copeland", a senior partner from Linklaters, John Turnbull, stormed out of his seat and spoke privately to NI's barrister at the inquiry, Rhodri Davies.

Lord Justice Leveson told him: "Would you please sit down! I would be grateful if you did not do that again."

Last night NI were making no comment on Mr Turnbull's actions.

Blackmail

Mr Murdoch was shown a letter sent to NI by Max Mosley, who had been the subject of a NOTW exposé involving prostitutes. A High Court judge, Mr Justice Eady, said it was remarkable that the NOTW was not concerned that the reporter who had written the story, Neville Thurlbeck, had sent a letter warning the women to speak out about the session with Mr Mosley or face exposure.

Although claiming not to have seen the letter or Mr Justice Eady's comments, Mr Murdoch said he was not shocked, and claimed this wasn't really blackmail, it was just a journalist trying to do a deal with a prostitute.

Lord Justice Leveson told him: "I find that approach somewhat disturbing. I don't think Mr Justice Eady was using too strong a word if he described this as blackmail."

Mr Murdoch eventually apologised.

Wendi shushes the Sun King

Having slapped the flan thrower who attacked her husband in the Commons with a foam pie last year, Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, used her Yale School of Management nous to help him through another ordeal yesterday.

On leaving the Leveson Inquiry courtroom, Mr Murdoch looked tempted to offer a few words of wisdom to the small press gallery. Ms Deng, however, simply ushered him forward, putting a finger to her lips, to suggest silence might be advisable.

Friend or foe? Mogul passes judgement

The Independent, which has investigated the illegal newsgathering techniques used by News International. Robert Jay, the inquiry's QC, asked Murdoch: "Were it not for The Guardian, do you accept, the phone hacking story would never have entered the public domain?"

Rupert Murdoch "I don't know. The Independent seemed to be pretty active."

Dial M for Murdoch, the book about phone hacking, co-authored by The Independent's Martin Hickman, Rupert Murdoch, to laughter: "I'm not planning on reading it."

Philip Townsend Murdoch's former butler who claimed in a Dispatches documentary last year that Murdoch had told his editors to target the TV presenter Anne Diamond (who had criticised Murdoch).

Rupert Murdoch "I know who made that claim, and it was my housekeeper, a very strange bird indeed. Though he did keep it [the house] clean."

Vince Cable The Business Secretary, who was stripped of deciding the BSkyB takeover after being secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on the Murdoch empire.

Rupert Murdoch "We were shocked by both what Mr Cable said and the unethical means in which that was deleted from the story in the Telegraph, who were clearly running the paper for their own commercial interests."

Alastair Brett The News International lawyer who misled the High Court by suggesting The Times had unmasked the blogger Nightjack by honest detective work.

Rupert Murdoch "I'm not as shocked as he is by that [Mr Justice Eady about the threatening email to the women paid by Max Mosley]. I'm much more shocked by the behaviour of Mr Brett in not telling him the truth of a lot of things."

Fred Michel The News Corp lobbyist who received inside information about the BSkyB takeover from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Rupert Murdoch I didn't see anything wrong with his activities. Was I surprised that it had gone on so long and there were so many emails? Yes, sir."

Rebekah Brooks The News International chief executive and Murdoch protégé who resigned over the scandal last July.

Rupert Murdoch (asked why he had said she was his priority rather than "We need to clean up my company" last July) said: "Because I was concerned for Rebekah Brooks, who was seeking to resign under great pressure and I was seeking to keep her confidence. I mean, her self-confidence."

James Murdoch His son, who in 2008 signed off the £425,000 settlement to phone-hacking victim Gordon Taylor.

Rupert Murdoch "He was pretty inexperienced at the time, he'd just been there a few months, and Mr Crone and Mr Myler came to him and put it to him in a relatively short conversation."

Max Mosley Who was awarded £60,000 damages over the News of the World''s false allegation that he had taken part in a "Nazi" orgy.

Rupert Murdoch [repeating the slur] said: "I am aware now, and with great respect to [the judge] Mr Justice Eady I think he suggested that one of the ladies in the picture of this Nazi orgy had been offered to have her face pixelated out if they would co-operate with the story."

Colin Myler Who was appointed editor of the News of the World in 2007 and is now editor of the Daily News – a rival to Murdoch's New York Post.

Rupert Murdoch "He would not have been my choice... I could think of some stronger people who were on The Sun."

Andrew Neil Editor of The Sunday Times 1983-1994, who said that Murdoch had created the "do what it takes" culture in which phone hacking was done industrially with impunity.

Rupert Murdoch "Mr Neil seems to have found it very profitable to get up and spread lies about me, but that's his business."

David Yelland Editor of The Sun 1998-2003, who said Murdoch's editors "look at the world through Rupert's eyes."

Rupert Murdoch "I think you should take it in the context of Mr Yelland's very strange autobiography, when he said he was drunk all the time he was at The Sun, which we didn't notice."