Murdoch editors knew of hacking, ex-reporter testifies

Ex-News of the World reporter Paul McMullan said Rebekah Brooks, seen here with Rupert Murdoch, knew of phone hacking.

Story highlights

  • Paul McMullan says the public and celebrities are complicit in tabloid culture
  • The ex-journalist names a former David Cameron aide as knowing about hacking
  • He is testifying at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics
  • Police say about 5,800 people were targeted by phone-hacking journalists
The editors of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid knew that their reporters were hacking phones in search of stories, former News of the World journalist Paul McMullan testified Tuesday.
He named Andy Coulson, who went on to become an adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Rebekah Brooks, a Murdoch protege, as editors who were aware of the practice.
Coulson resigned as editor of the tabloid in 2007 when one of his reporters went to prison for hacking the voice mails of Prince William's staff, and he later became Cameron's communications director.
Coulson has always denied knowing about phone hacking, saying he quit the paper because he was ultimately responsible for the actions of his staff.
McMullan was testifying before the Leveson Inquiry, a probe Cameron established in the face of public anger at the news that the News of the World hacked the phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler.
The Leveson Inquiry has been hearing from high-profile figures for more than a week.
McMullan said phone hacking was widespread at the tabloid and described being caught out himself while trying to hack David Beckham's phone.
The soccer star shocked him by answering the phone before McMullan could dial the code to access his voice mail, forcing the journalist to hang up quickly, he said.
He argued that the public was complicit in the country's tabloid culture, saying newspapers publish stories about stars because "there is a taste for it, there is a market for it."
Celebrities also use the tabloid press to increase their exposure, he said, describing how model Katie Price, better known as Jordan, gave him the finger through a window.
He snapped a picture of her, thinking, "Thanks, love," and sold it for 2,000 pounds ($3,100).
"She knew exactly what she was doing," he said.
He also defended the tabloids' methods as part of a free society, saying he would not want to live in a country where only the secret services were able to hack phones.
His defense of the tabloids came a day after singer Charlotte Church blasted the News of the World tabloid for its decision to publish a lurid story about her father having an affair while her mother was getting treatment for mental illness.
"They knew how vulnerable she was and still printed a story like that, which is just horrific," she said.
The former child star also spoke of her anger at finding out her phone may have been hacked by a private investigator working for the Rupert Murdoch tabloid.
The investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, had details of her phone and those of her parents, friends and former boyfriends, Church said police had told her.
Mulcaire went to prison for hacking royal staff voice mails along with News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman.
Celebrities who have already testified before the inquiry include "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and "G.I. Joe" actress Sienna Miller, who both complained of being hounded by paparazzi.
Actor Hugh Grant also appeared before the panel, and he implied that police leaked information to the tabloid press. He also accused the Mail on Sunday of hacking.
Police investigating phone hacking by journalists say that about 5,800 people, including celebrities, crime victims, politicians and members of the royal family, were targets of the practice by journalists in search of stories.
It involves illegally eavesdropping on voice mail by entering a PIN to access messages remotely.