Pressure continues to mount on News International executives

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by a Newsnet reporter

The private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal yesterday released a statement in response to the recent revelations that the mobile phone of Sara Payne may have been hacked.  Some sources close to the now closed News of the World had claimed that this development supported their claim that senior executives did not know of the extent of the illegal activities within the paper.

Evidence that suggests that Mrs Payne may have been amongst the victims of the newspaper was found in pages of notes made by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was convicted in 2007 in connection with the phone hacking scandal after the first investigation.  With this first inquiry now seen as discredited, police are re-examining the notes made by Mulcaire in order to determine the true extent of criminal behaviour at the newspaper.

In a statement released last night by his lawyers, Glenn Mulcaire stated that between 2002 and 2007 he was “effectively employed” by the News of the World as a private investigator.  The statement continued: “As he accepted when he pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of phone interception he admits that his role did include phone hacking.  As an employee he acted on the instructions of others.”

By releasing his statement Mulcaire puts the spotlight back on executives at News International and the News of the World.

In a further development, former Detective Chief Inspector Martin Underhill, has claimed that he also has reason to believe that his phone was hacked by people acting for the News of the World.  Speaking on BBC Newsnight on Friday, the retired Det. Chief Inspector said that he had been called by a “senior executive” at the paper in connection with a story the News of the World planned to publish the following Sunday.  Mr Underhill was the police officer in charge of the investigation into the abduction and murder of Mrs Payne’s daughter Sarah.

The story apparently made certain allegations which would have been hurtful to the families of both Sara Payne and the police officer.  Mr Underhill strongly denied the story, and informed the executive of the paper that he would sue if it was published.  Mr Underhill said: “It was completely and utterly untrue and I was flabbergasted. I said to them: ‘This is not true – if you print it I will sue you.'”  The story was not published.

Mr Underhill declined to mention the details of the story, but said be believed that it could only have been based upon illegally intercepted messages.  He also declined to identify the “senior executive” who had called him, but confirmed that the person had already been named in public in connection with the scandal and stated that he had identified the person to police officers of the Wheeting investigation into the phone hacking.