White received a "very creepy" threat while working on Hurley story
The News of the World’s Los Angeles correspondent, Stuart White, received a death threat from an anonymous telephone caller while working on last weekend’s splash on billionaire Steve Bing and mum-to-be actress Liz Hurley.
Bing is said to be considering asking Hurley to prove he is the father of the unborn baby.
White had been working from a room in the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and says that only a handful of people knew his room number.
White called in hotel security and the Los Angeles Police Department, which took the threat so seriously it logged it as a "terroristic" call.
Last Friday, at around 10pm, he says he was informed by an electronically distorted voice: "Unless you stop bothering Liz Hurley and Hugh Grant you will be killed."
White’s first reaction was to burst out laughing and say: "It’s a joke, right?" But the caller replied: "This is not a joke. If you carry on bothering them you WILL be killed".
A seriously concerned White told Press Gazette: "I have had my life threatened before in places like Bosnia and Zaire, but then it was in an atmosphere of anarchy and war. This was very, very creepy." He says he knew the Duchess of York, Hurley and Grant were all staying at the hotel and contacted security, who told him: "This is an absolutely serious matter. This is a terroristic death threat."
The security officers changed his name, his room and kept a watch on the floor. Police warned him to vary his movements and avoid establishing any sort of pattern.
White had previously received hoax calls to his original hotel room and had asked for his calls to be screened. He now believes these were designed to harass him into abandoning the story.
He carried on but said: "To some degree the threat was successful –you just can’t sleep. I found it very sinister, very spooky. I have been in the US for seven years; it is a place of violence where guns are prevalent and people get killed.
"In LA, for $500 you can hire someone to kill somebody -it’s done all the time.
"I think that when the harassment didn’t work, these people decided to get nasty."
Gary Thompson, News of the World assistant editor (features), said: "Like all newspapers, we get threats from time to time. As a matter of course, we inform the police, as we did on this occasion, more as a precaution than anything else." The office keeps a record of threats on file in case of further incidents.
By Julie Tomlin