Rebekah Brooks and the stink that won’t go away

The Murdoch press has finally apologised to Jacqui Hames for subjecting her to a scandalous ordeal more than 15 years ago – but nobody should think that this marks the end of a case that still stinks of corrupt collusion between press and police.

Hames is a former police officer and Crimewatch presenter whose confidential personal records were stolen, whose phone was hacked and whose children were followed to school by the News of the World. The ordeal helped destroy her marriage and left her needing counselling.

However, though Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper company has paid damages and at last offered its ‘sincere apologies’ for intrusion and harassment, it has yet to provide a credible answer to the most important question of all: why did it happen?

The most compelling available explanation – and one which the company and its boss, Rebekah Brooks, have always been at pains to deny – is that the News of the World had been drawn into a deeply sinister campaign to obstruct the investigation of police corruption related to the Daniel Morgan murder of 1987.

Hames put it this way in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012: ‘I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.’ 

If she is right, that means that the hacking, the intrusion and the harassment to which the company has now admitted had nothing to do with journalism and that News of the World resources were used as part of a deliberate attempt to frustrate the course of justice.

Two years ago a whistle-blower who worked at senior levels on the paper, journalist Greg Miskiw, claimed that the hacking of Hames’s mobile phone was initiated, as Hames has always said, by a journalist called Alex Marunchhak. And Miskiw also said he believed that this was related to the Morgan murder affair. Marunchak was very close to the Southern Investigations company that was at the centre of that case, while Hames’s husband David Cook was the police officer investigating the murder.

The role of Rebekah Brooks

At that time in 2002 Rebekah Brooks (then Wade) was the editor of the News of the World, having worked her way up through the paper’s ranks since joining as a secretary in 1989. Though phone hacking was going on at the paper on an industrial scale, and though some of her most senior colleagues were convicted in relation to hacking, she has denied any knowledge of what they had been doing.

In relation to Jacqui Hames, however, she was certainly aware very early on that her paper was engaged in surveillance activity and when confronted at that time she claimed that her reporters were investigating a tip that Hames was having an affair with David Cook. This was a preposterous assertion, since Hames had by that time been married to Cook for four years.

Brooks has now been CEO of the Murdoch UK newspapers, with one brief interruption, since 2009. In all of that that time she does not appear to have established the real reason why one of her closest and most senior colleagues was using company resources to mount an intensive surveillance and intrusion offensive against the family of a serving police officer who was investigating his associates.

The agreed statement in court points out that Hames is ‘deeply upset that she may never find out the true extent to which her privacy was invaded’. Strikingly absent from the statement, however, is any explanation by the company for the actions to which it has now confessed. That is something we need, because the credibility of the police service as well as that of Brooks and the Murdoch press depends on it. 

To get that explanation and many others, and to clear the stink of corruption that surrounds so much of our corporate press, we now need Leveson 2.

For a fuller account of the truly shocking Hames case, read ‘The Triple Betrayal of Jacqui Hames’ by Martin Moore. 

For the evidence of Greg Miskiw and its implications, read ‘Miskiw confirms: News of the World subverted murder inquiry on behalf of murder suspects’, by Peter Jukes. 

For more about the Daniel Morgan case, listen to the ‘Untold’ podcast.