With its dismissal of Ian Edmondson, News International abandoned the mantra it has chanted for four years: that phone hacking carried out by the News of the World was the work of a "rogue reporter". That was the line from January 2007, when the paper's royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for illegally intercepting the royal household's messages.
Andy Coulson, the paper's editor, agreed to resign while denying any knowledge of illegal activities. He didn't go straight away – when Goodman was jailed, Coulson simply promised to make a donation to a charity chosen by the royal princes. Four years later, dozens of alleged victims of the hacking – almost all high-profile figures – have lodged legal actions against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire in the High Court.
The rogue reporter theory is in tatters. Goodman did not act alone. His co-defendant, Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, contributed to 609 calls made to the phones of royal staff. But Mulcaire's £105,000-a-year contract was not authorised by the rogue reporter but by Greg Miskiw. Mr Miskiw would argue that he knew nothing of Mulcaire's methods, just as Mr Edmondson, who succeeded Mr Miskiw as head of the newsroom in late 2005, has maintained he is innocent of any involvement in phone hacking. But News International decided yesterday to fire Mr Edmondson, who was suspended from his role as assistant editor (news) in December.
Scotland Yard, which reopened its investigation yesterday, will examine fresh information along with documentation that includes Mulcaire's notes marked "For Clive", "For Ian" and "For Greg".
In December, the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned an investigation into allegations that Mr Coulson was personally involved in phone hacking as editor of the News of the World. But the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, announced this month that the CPS was conducting "a comprehensive assessment of the material in the possession of the Met... following developments in the civil courts".
Last week Mr Coulson resigned as director of communications for the Prime Minister. He still denied involvement in phone hacking.
News International's position has changed. One reporter, Dan Evans, was suspended last year on allegations of fresh phone hacking. He remains suspended. Yesterday the company concluded its inquiry into Mr Edmondson by sacking him. "News International reiterates that it will take swift and decisive action when we have proof of wrongdoing," it stated. The rogue reporter theory no longer holds water.