Thurlbeck rounds on NoW executives in new evidence - Press Gazette

Thurlbeck rounds on NoW executives in new evidence

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has told MPs about a culture of "suppression" and "paralysis" at the News of the World which he says had "catastrophic consequences" for the paper.

It follows a request from the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that he expand on claims first made exclusively in an article for Press Gazette published on 16 November.

Crucially he has gone into more detail about the evidence he says he gave to then editor Colin Myler and legal manager Tom Crone on 11 July 2009 in the wake of Guardian revelations about the existence of a transcript of mobile phone messages intercepted by the NoW and headed: 'Transcript for Neville'.

Thurlbeck claims he was told the exposure of the 'For Neville' email meant he had to resign and that a generous settlement would be made.

The transcript of Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor's voicemail messages dated back to 2005.

Thurlbeck states in his evidence that he worked on the Gordon Taylor story for two or three days and that he was instructed by a newsdesk executive.

According to Thurlbeck, that executive had denied any knowledge of the Gordon Taylor story to Myler and Crone. But Thurbleck said he produced emails and newsdesk records to prove this was a lie.

He kept his job and was not disciplined. The unnamed newsdesk executive was 'admonished', Thurlbeck says, but he was not disciplined.

Thurlbeck has also expanded further on how he called up Ross Hall on 19 July, the reporter who had typed of the 'For Neville' transcript and who was at that time travelling in Peru.

Thurlbeck taped the call and said that it "exonerated me and incriminated the executive".

"I immediately called Mr Crone to tell him this as it was final proof to News International, the police and Parliament, that I had not hacked Gordon Taylor's phone. Up to this point, I thought Mr Myler and Mr Crone were on a genuine mission to find the proof that their chief reporter was innocent.

"He was unpleasant and extremely angry. He told me, 'I have to go in front of the committee in a few days time and defend everybody. No I don't want the bloody tape.'

'Up to this point, I thought Mr Myler and Mr Crone were on a genuine mission to find the proof that their chief reporter was innocent.

"It was at this point when I realised there was no such mission to find the proof of my innocence. This was because the only proof available would lead to the sacking and possible prosecution of another topexecutive.

"This would fatally damage the 'rogue reporter' defence which was being advanced at the time.

"This is when it appears to me that Mr Myler and Mr Crone formulated their policy of leaving me to dangle as a suspect for the next two years. It wasn't ideal, but it was a more advantageous corporate strategy to have me as a suspect than one of their top executives as a convict."

Thurlbeck notes that Myler and Crone made no mention of the information he had provided to them when they gave evidence to MPs on 21 July, 2009.

Thurlbeck said that in December 2010 and January 2011 he was provided with new information about the 'industrial scale of hacking at the News of the World".

He said: 'On two occasions, I made an appointment to see the managing editor. During these meetings, I informed him that I had information which had the potential for 'catastrophic consequences' for the newspaper.

'And that the information was so sensitive, I needed to discuss it with the editor and with Rebekah Brooks.They failed twice to take me up on my offer. And I was denied access to Ms Brooks."

Thurlbeck has told MPs how in April 2011 he obtained further evidence of his innocence in the Gordon Taylor affair during a taped phone-call with another executive. He said that tape also incriminated an un-named newsdesk executive.

'He seemed to panic and refused to even take possession of it – even to simply hand it to the police. I made a further request for Rebekah Brooks to be informed of these developments. Again, this was denied."

Thurlbeck contends there was a 'united effort at the top of the News of the World to deny me access to senior News International executives".

He said: 'The pattern of non-disclosure ultimately led to a critical state of paralysis at the very top of the News of the World.

"A condition which rendered News International ill-prepared to deal with the torrent of allegations this summer which had a catastrophic effect on the newspaper, all its employees, on News International, News Corporation and the Murdoch family themselves."

A News International source told Press Gazette: "Our hands are tied because of the police investigation and Neville Thurlbeck's civil actions, so we can't go into detail. But it is safe to say there are serious inaccuracies in his claims."

2.30pm UPDATE: Neville Thurbeck told Press Gazette: "It has taken News International all of a month to dispute my claims. Colin Myler and Tom Crone have not disputed a word of what I have said.

"If anyone has any trouble recalling these events, perhaps my memos and my tapes will refresh their memory."

Sacked for 'legal reasons'

Thurlbeck said that when a false allegation was made against him in the summer of this year (by Glenn Mulcaire) he was dismissed "for legal reasons". He is currently pursuing a case for unfair dimissal as part of a bid to recoup around £250,000 which he would have been paid in redundancy following the closure of the News of the World in July..

MPs on the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee are currently weighing up whether or not News International boss James Murdoch was told about the existence of the incriminating 'For Neville' email during a meeting with Crone and Myler in May 2008 to authorise a legal settlement with Gordon Taylor.

Murdoch insists he wasn't told about the email – which proved involvement in phone-hacking was more widespread at the News of the World. Myler and Crone insist he was.

According to Thurlbeck: 'If Mr Murdoch had been told of the existence of the email, he would have asked questions of me. He didn't."

He added that Murdoch would also have intiated an internal inquiry, but he didn't.

Thurlbeck said it 'grieves him'to conclude that Myler and Crone did not tell James Murdoch about the email.

"It grieves me because I have known and respected Tom Crone for 20 years. I like him enormously. Colin Myler is also one of the most fair minded men I have worked for.

"But their strategy – which I challenged on numerous occasions – was ill-conceived and had become irrevocably defined by the suppression of facts. And it caused me two and a half years of severe criticism in the press and in Parliament, my arrest, the loss of my job and contributed to the closure of the paper."



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette