Prostitute at centre of Osborne story gives interview
And Gordon Brown urges police to investigate alleged computer hacking by Murdoch reporters
Sunday 11 September 2011
The phone-hacking scandal is set to be reignited this week when Natalie Rowe, a former prostitute, is interviewed on Australian television. Ms Rowe, who came to prominence in October 2005 when a picture of her at a dinner table with George Osborne was published on the front of two red-top Sunday newspapers, has been told by police that she was targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, later convicted for phone hacking while being paid by News International, owner of the News of the World. Mr Osborne has received the same notification.
On the table in front of the pair is a roll of paper and a line of white powder, which Ms Rowe has claimed is cocaine. Mr Osborne vigorously denied that he had taken drugs with Ms Rowe, who had a child by a friend of Mr Osborne from his days at Oxford. There has been speculation as to why Mr Osborne later recommended the News of the World's editor, Andy Coulson, to be David Cameron's media chief, despite his apparently unfortunate experience at Mr Coulson's hands. At the time, unnamed Tory sources spoke of Mr Osborne having "admired Coulson's professionalism" in his handling of the story, and Coulson's subsequent performance in the post was generally well regarded.
The ABC interview, conducted by the network's Europe reporter, Emma Alberici, is being kept under wraps, and no one at the broadcaster would comment on the programme, but it could be broadcast as early as tomorrow. Attention at Westminster is likely to focus on any light it might shed on the Chancellor's relationship with Mr Coulson, who resigned from his job at No 10 in January following pressure over phone hacking. "Why put someone forward for a job, as Osborne did, when you know what a disservice they have done you?" said a broadcasting source.
In another development, the former prime minister Gordon Brown is believed to have urged the Metropolitan Police to widen the scope of Operation Weeting, its investigation into phone hacking, to include a Newcastle-based company, Abbey Investigators, which has been named in court as having been involved in the hacking of the police national computer to search for information about Mr Brown.
The Met recently confirmed to Mr Brown that Weeting is examining the full record of work carried out by Southern Investigations, run by Jonathan Rees, a convicted criminal, but he is also said to want police to investigate Barry Beardall, who has worked for The Sunday Times and who appears on a tape – that Mr Brown has sent to the police – apparently discussing unlawful intrusion into Mr Brown's private life.
Mr Brown is understood to be furious at on-going Sunday Times investigations into his financial affairs and has vehemently denied any suggestion that he has received any money for his charity work. As regards writing books and giving speeches, Mr Brown says: "I can state categorically that I have not earned one penny for myself and I have not received one penny. No money from speeches comes to me nor does any money come to me from my writings, which all goes to charity."
Meanwhile, a further apparent discrepancy has emerged in evidence given by News International employees to the culture, media and sport select committee last week about payments made to the former royal reporter Clive Goodman, convicted for phone hacking in 2007. In September 2009, Rebekah Brooks told the committee that there had been a single payment of £153,000 consisting of a year's salary, compensation and legal costs, paid in November 2007.
However, in April of this year, James Murdoch identified another payment of £90,000, paid earlier in 2007. Curiously, Daniel Cloke, who was a former human resources director at News International and gave evidence to the committee last week, admitted that he wasn't even aware of the earlier payment to Goodman in April 2007, which he says was authorised by Les Hinton, News International's former executive chairman.
Charlotte Harris, a media lawyer who is acting for several victims of phone hacking, said yesterday: "Why wasn't the committee told about this secret payment before and what was it for? We must hope that the Leveson inquiry can get to the bottom of it all."
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