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Sunday 17 November 2013

   

King of phone hackers was tabloids' go-to guy

As the 'News of the World' trial carries on, an unfamiliar name keeps coming up. Ruth Dudley Edwards profiles him

There were excellent reasons why a popular go-to man for the tabloid press was private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, whose cleverness and thoroughness in phone hacking and tracking targets made him a prized resource of the News of the World (NOTW).

As the trial of ex-NOTW editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulsonand various associates continues in the Old Bailey, it is Mulcaire's name that crops up over and over again. Had he not already pleaded guilty to phone-hacking-related charges, he would be in the dock too. He already did time in 2007 for illegally intercepting phone messages from Clarence House, the home of Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry. This trial demonstrates his indefatigability.

Consider Hannah Pawlby, a victim of the Westminster gossip factory. In a 2005 note to Coulson, the features editor said there had been a tip-off that the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, was "having an affair with his blonde, attractive special adviser Hannah Pawlby". The chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck (who has also pleaded guilty), had a miserable time watching Pawlby's flat and observing nothing incriminating. Mulcaire got hacking, with the unintended consequence that when Coulson rang Pawlby twice to ask her about a story he was running, the messages had already been listened to and she never heard them.

In court, Pawlby was shown pages of Mulcaire's notebooks and identified information relating to her grandparents, parents, friends of her parents, the person who had lived in her flat before her, and an upstairs neighbour. There was no affair and a Sun confrontation resulted in Clarke threatening to sue, so that was that.

Mulcaire had had better luck with Clarke's predecessor, David Blunkett, who had resigned over his affair with Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn. In 2005 he was busy with the phone of Sally Anderson, an estate agent whom Blunkett had met at Annabel's nightclub, and had information about her partner, ex-boyfriend, grandmother, aunt, parents, brother, cousin, a close friend, her osteopath and two of Blunkett's special advisers.

The unfortunate Blunkett, wrongly accused of being her lover, left incandescent messages on her phone, one of which said: "They're real bastards. They're doing it for money and they're doing it for themselves. It's a sick world." It was a sicker world than he realised, for Anderson allowed the celebrity publicist Max Clifford to record some of Blunkett's messages and sell them to the Sunday People. Blunkett would win a libel case, and a public apology from Anderson.

Perhaps the seediest story of last week was about Lorna Hogan, a glamour model paid liberally to pass on information about celebrities she met in nightclubs. Although Mulcaire already had the mobile number of George Best's son Calum, she provided the paper with an account of their brief relationship and scans of the baby she was carrying to illustrate the story "I'm Having Calum Best's Baby". Mind you, Best admitted in court selling the NOTW for £2,000 a story of a sexual encounter between him and Elizabeth Jagger.

The only evidence that slightly cheered me came from Patricia Tierney, a Liverpool massage-parlour receptionist and cleaner, alleged in the NOTW and other tabloids to have had sex with Wayne Rooney, a Mulcaire target (whose phone password was "Stella Artois"). She had been with her husband for 28 years, said Mrs Tierney, and she told Rooney "to put his hat down, get out of the massage parlour before he was destroyed and his career was over".

A list of alleged hackees includes royal intimates, the cook Delia Smith and Angelina Jolie's stunt double. There's plenty of unedifying evidence to come, and Mulcaire's testimony on who-knew-what will be crucial.

Raised in a council tower in Chelsea, the son of a "volatile" Irish father, he was a successful youth footballer who tried to join the Special Forces but was rejected as too young. After his career was destroyed and he was jailed, he determined to leave that world behind, began a law degree and now specialises in employment law. He received a large payoff from the NOTW for non-disclosure, but subsequent legal developments have made that irrelevant. He has five children, faces civil actions for breaches of privacy and fears another jail term. Expect a co-operative witness.

 

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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