Thursday 14 July 2011

News of the World phone hacking scandal: timeline

The key events in the phone hacking scandal, which has led to the closure of the News of the World and rocked the Murdoch news empire, threatening to derail News Corporation's bid to take over BSkyB.


Rebekah Brooks is appointed editor of the News of the World. Aged just 32 and the youngest national newspaper editor in the country, she begins a campaign to name and shame alleged paedophiles, leading to some alleged offenders being terrorised by angry mobs. She also campaigns for public access to the Sex Offenders Register, which eventually comes into law as "Sarah's Law."


Schoolgirl Milly Dowler, 13, disappears in the London suburb of Walton-on-Thames in March. Her remains are found in September. Her murder is one of the most notorious of the decade and her killer is convicted only last month.


Brooks becomes editor of daily tabloid The Sun, sister paper to the News of the World and Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper. Andy Coulson, her deputy editor since 2000, becomes editor of the Sunday paper. Wade tells a parliamentary committee her paper paid police for information. News International later says this is not company practice.


November: The Sunday tabloid publishes a story on a knee injury suffered by Prince William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson and second in line to the throne. That prompts complaints by officials of the royal court about voicemail messages being intercepted. The complaints spark a police inquiry.


January: The News of the World's royal affairs editor Clive Goodman is jailed for four months. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire is given a six-month prison term. Goodman and Mulcaire admitted conspiring to intercept communications while Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five other charges of intercepting voicemail messages. After the two were sentenced, News of the World editor Coulson resigns, saying he took "ultimate responsibility," though knew nothing of the offences in advance.

May: Harbottle and Lewis, News International’s lawyers, review internal emails between Mr Coulson and executives, but find “no evidence” they were aware of Goodman’s actions. The same month, Coulson becomes the Conservative Party's director of communications under leader David Cameron.


June: Rebekah Brooks becomes CEO of News International.

July: The Guardian newspaper says News of the World reporters, with the knowledge of senior staff, illegally accessed messages from the mobile phones of celebrities and politicians while Coulson was editor from 2003 to 2007.

September: Les Hinton, chief executive of Dow Jones and former executive chairman of Murdoch's newspaper arm in Britain, tells a committee of legislators any problem with phone hacking was limited to the one, already well-publicised, case. He says they carried out a wide review and found no new evidence.


February: The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee says in a report that it is "inconceivable" that managers at the paper did not know about the practice, which the legislators say was more widespread than the paper had admitted.

September: Members ask parliament's standards watchdog to begin a new investigation into the hacking allegations at the Sunday tabloid and its former editor Coulson.

Pressure for a new investigation grew after the New York Times reported allegations that News of the World reporters "routinely" sought to hack phones.


January: British police open a new investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the tabloid. Police had said in July 2009 there was no need for a probe into the hacking claims. The News of the World announces it has sacked senior editor Ian Edmondson after an internal inquiry. Coulson resigns as Cameron's communications chief.

April: News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone messages. They are released on bail. The News of the World admits it had role in phone hacking.

June: Levi Bellfield is found guilty of murdering Milly Dowler in 2002.

July 4: A lawyer for Dowler's family says he learned from police that her voicemail messages had been hacked, possibly by a News of the World investigator, while police were searching for her. Some may also have been deleted, to make room for more messages, misleading police and her family. Police later say that they have also been in touch with the parents affected by the 2002 murders in the town of Soham, where two 10-year-old girls were seized and killed by a school caretaker.

July 5: News International says that new information has been given to police. Reports suggest it related to emails appearing to show payments were made to police for information and were authorised by Coulson. The list of those possibly targeted includes victims of the London suicide bombings of July 7, 2005, and the parents of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in 2007. Companies begin pulling advertising at the NOTW.

July 6: David Cameron says he is "revolted" by allegations that investigators from the paper eavesdropped on the voicemail of victims of crime. Murdoch appoints News Corp executive Joel Klein to oversee an investigation into the hacking allegations. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Sunday tabloid hacked into the phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 7: News Corporation announces it will close down the News of the World. The July 10 edition was the last.

July 8: David Cameron announces two inquiries, one to be led by a judge on the hacking scandal, another to look at new regulations for the British press. Cameron says he takes full responsibility for employing Coulson as his spokesman, defending his decision to give him a "second chance." Coulson is arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and suspicion of corruption. He is bailed until October after nine hours at a police station. The News of the World's former royal editor, Goodman, is rearrested in connection with a police operation looking at alleged payments to police by journalists at the paper. Police search the offices of the Daily Star tabloid where Goodman freelanced. The Star is not connected to News Corp.

July 10: Rupert Murdoch flies into London to handle the crisis.

July 11: Murdoch withdraws News Corp's offer to spin off BSkyB's Sky News channel. This opens the way for the government to refer News Corp's bid for the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own to the competition regulator, Ofcom, who will carry out a lengthy probe. Cameron says that News Corp needed to focus on "clearing up this mess" before thinking about the next corporate move. Allegations surface on the same day that journalists at several News Corp papers have targeted former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Police confirm to Brown that his name was on a list of targets compiled by Mulcaire.

July 12: John Yates, Assistant Commissioner at London's Metropolitan Police, who was criticised for deciding in 2009 not to reopen the earlier inquiry, appears before parliament's Home Affairs Committee saying he has no plans to resign. Andy Hayman, a former Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, is pilloried by MPs as "more Clouseau than Columbo" as he faced questions about his handling of the 2005 phone hacking investigation. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, the officer leading Scotland Yard’s new inquiry, suggesta to MPs that the scope of the investigation could be widened beyond journalists at the NOTW to include the “criminal liability of directors”.


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