Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt tells court of paying Eton College pupils for stories in Windsor pub - Press Gazette

Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt tells court of paying Eton College pupils for stories in Windsor pub

A Sun reporter has told how he regularly paid Eton College pupils for stories in a local pub.

Jamie Pyatt, 51, the newspaper's Thames Valley district reporter, said a succession of sixth form pupils sold him tales of the latest scandal from the private boarding school.

He told Kingston Crown Court he maintained "excellent" contacts for years inside the school (pictured, Shutterstock), which is just outside Windsor.

"There were a number of Eton boys that used to drink in a bar in Windsor, in a back bar," he said.

"They knew I was a Sun reporter, and if they had Eton College stories they would approach me – they were paid."

He said the pupils involved changed from year to year, passing along his contact details to the latest sixth form recruits.

"It was transient, basically the boys concerned would [be] in the sixth form and when they moved on they would pass my details to the new sixth formers to get in contact with Eton stories."

Pyatt said he paid £1,000 for a 2002 scoop that a group of pupils at the school had drunkenly tried to climb into Windsor Castle, sparking a terrorist alert.

"They had triggered the alarm at Windsor Castle, police reacted quite correctly, armed officers had tackled them," he said.

"It was dark, late at night, and there could have been a tragedy.

"They were given a ticking-off and sent back to Eton for no doubt an interview with the headmaster in the morning.

"But it was no doubt a public interest story."

Pyatt is accused conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office by paying PC Simon Quinn and Broadmoor healthcare assistant Robert Neave for stories that were published in The Sun.

He is in the dock with The Sun's former managing editor Graham Dudman, 51, head of news Chris Pharo, 45, deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll, 38, reporter John Troup, 49, and picture editor John Edwards, who all face similar corruption charges.

But Pyatt denied paying PC Quinn for the Eton story, saying the money went to pupils from the college who leaked it to him.

He drew laughs from the court as he discussed his other contacts at Eton.

"I knew two headmasters during that period," he said.

"My wife was good friends with the bursar's wife, they worked together in nursing, and I got invited to cheese and wine parties where I had to make up a different occupation to avoid getting into trouble.

"I think I was an estate agent."

Pyatt, who worked permanently for The Sun since 1987, has admitted paying PC Quinn and Neave for 24 stories, but argues they were in the public interest and the public officials first approached him with information.

He said he first met PC Quinn when he offered "the basic heads-up that Mick Hucknall had been arrested and basic details of the allegation against him" in 2000.

"None of it was confidential, it was all out there," he said.

"It clearly involves at the time one of the number one superstars in the UK, very much a public figure and a role model.

"He was well-known as a bit of a playboy, a gigolo, and he mixed in very important company – he was one of the biggest donors to the Labour Party in this country.

"The fact he had been arrested on an allegation of rape was very much in the public interest, which I think is backed up by the fact so many other papers followed it up and wrote the same story."

But Pyatt said a story that a body being found in the search for missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler did not come from his police source.

The woman's body – not Dowler – was discovered in a river in April 2002, and was the subject of a Sun article headlined "Milly: Body found."

Pyatt said despite making two calls lasting 16 seconds and 22 seconds to Quinn while working on the story, he did not get help from the Surrey officer.

"I left a message, I would explain I had spoken to him a year and a bit before about Mick Hucknall, reminded him who I was and asking him to call me back," he said.

"PC Quinn had no involvement in this story, he was unavailable."

The pair spoke the following day after the story had  appeared, but Pyatt said a £500 payment made for the article was not to Quinn.

"I would be telling him I left a message on his answerphone the day previously, that the matter had resolved itself and we knew it wasn't Milly Dowler," he said.

"The original information came from a call-in.

"I was instructed to pay the caller, and £500 was paid to someone who rang in, not a public officer.

"They would send it [the money] out to Thomas Cook."

Pyatt said his story had not included any confidential information from the police files on the incident, and said that a large press pack had formed quickly at the scene once the body was discovered.

He said while Quinn and Neave have waived their rights to anonymity as a journalistic source, he would not identify others who fed him information.

Pharo, of Wapping, East London, denies four counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

O'Driscoll, of Windsor, Berkshire, and Dudman, of Brentwood, Essex, both deny three counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Edwards, of Brentwood, Essex, and Pyatt, of Windsor, deny two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Troup, of Saffron Walden, Essex, denies one charge of misconduct in public office. 

All six defendants have been cleared of an overarching conspiracy to pay public officials, while Pharo was found not guilty of paying a Sandhurst soldier.

The trial continues.



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