Ex-News of the World Reporter Said to Be Arrested in Phone-Hacking Probe
By Jonathan Browning and Erik Larson – Nov 30, 2011 6:54 AM ET
A former reporter at News Corp. (NWSA)’s News of the World was arrested by U.K. police as part of an investigation into phone hacking at the now-defunct tabloid, a person familiar with the case said.
Bethany Usher left the News of the World in 2007, said the person, who asked not to be named because the arrest isn’t public information. Police said they arrested a 31-year old woman on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voice-mail messages and wouldn’t identify the person.
It’s at least the 19th arrest this year since police opened three separate probes into phone hacking, police bribery and computer hacking at News International. New York-based News Corp. shuttered the News of the World in July to contain the five-year-old scandal, which involved reporters targeting celebrities, politicians and victims of crime and terrorism.
Usher didn’t immediately respond to a phone and e-mail message left at Teesside University where she teaches. Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News International, which published the tabloid, declined to comment. The arrested woman is in custody at a police station in Northumbria in northeast England, the Metropolitan Police said today in an e-mailed statement.
A separate judge-led inquiry into the ethics of U.K. newspapers heard testimony yesterday from a former News of the World reporter, Paul McMullen, who said phone-hacking at the tabloid was widespread and that editors knew of the practice and sometimes listened to messages.
‘Former Screws Journo’
“I managed to get plenty of bylines without breaking PCC,” Usher wrote yesterday on her Twitter account, referring to the Press Complaints Commission, a voluntary regulatory body for British newspapers. “I probably have a different perspective being a former Screws journo. He is not representative of the people I worked with.”
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, former editors at the tabloid, were arrested in July and haven’t been charged. Both have denied knowing about phone hacking.
The two-week-old inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, is hearing testimony from former Alastair Campbell, who was former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of communications. Campbell has sued News Corp. over claims his phone was hacked.
Leveson previously heard testimony that phone hacking may have extended to other tabloids, including News Corp.’s Sun, Trinity Mirror Plc (TNI)’s Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail & General Trust Plc (DMGO)’s Mail on Sunday. News Corp. has admitted liability in some cases, while the other publishers have denied the claims.
The News of the World’s former private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and ex-reporter Clive Goodman were jailed in 2007 for intercepting phone messages meant for members of Prince Charles’ staff and a handful of other public figures.
Police reopened the probe in January after revelations that phone-hacking wasn’t limited to Mulcaire and Goodman, as News International claimed. Since then, police have said more than 5,000 people may have been targeted, based on Mulcaire’s notes seized in 2006.
The evidence that led police to restart the investigation was brought to light in civil lawsuits filed by celebrities including British actor Sienna Miller, who was one of the first to sue News International for damages and accepted a 100,000- pound ($155,300) settlement.
Miller told the press inquiry on Nov. 24 that articles revealing personal details about her caused her to wrongfully accuse friends and family of leaking information to the press, when in reality her phone had been hacked. Similar claims were made by actor Hugh Grant and author J.K. Rowling, among others.
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