Ian Burrell: 'Hackgate' is a story that refuses to go away

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The Independent Online

When Rupert Murdoch came to England last October to deliver a lecture, there were some in the audience who raised eyebrows when the media mogul broke off from a paean to Baroness Thatcher to say of his journalists: "We will vigorously pursue the truth – and we will not tolerate wrongdoing."

The latter comment seemed to refer to the long-running phone-hacking scandal involving the News of the World, the tabloid he has owned for 41 years. Mr Murdoch's executives at his British headquarters in Wapping, east London, tried to draw a veil over the paper's own dirty secrets in 2007 and had no doubt assured him that the matter was history. Yet here was the boss, four years later, having to vouch for his organisation's honesty.

The news agenda changes fast in tabloid journalism but Hackgate has been a story that refuses to go away. When the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World journalist Clive Goodman were jailed for conspiring to intercept the voicemails of members of the royal household, Wapping quickly closed ranks. The editor Andy Coulson was obliged to fall on his sword – while denying knowledge of illegality – and Goodman was condemned as a rogue operator.

Mr Murdoch's close henchman Les Hinton assured MPs that the affair had been dealt with and when, two years later, Mr Coulson – by now director of communications for David Cameron – appeared before a renewed parliamentary inquiry he seemed confident of being fireproof. "We did not use subterfuge of any kind unless there was a clear public interest in doing so," he told MPs. When Scotland Yard concluded that, despite more allegations of hacking, there was nothing new to investigate, Wapping and Mr Coulson must again have concluded the affair was over.

But after an election campaign in which the Conservatives were roundly supported by Mr Murdoch's papers, a succession of further claimants against the News of the World has come forward. Sienna Miller, among others, seems determined to take her case to court, compelling Mulcaire to reveal his handlers and naming in court documents Ian Edmondson, once one of Coulson's executives. Mr Edmondson is now suspended. But the story is unlikely to end there.