HACKGATE DAY 79: Will Andy Coulson now be questioned under caution?

In the light of new desk research conducted by The Slog, the Coulson testimonies look increasingly unbelievable.

Revealed exclusively in this first Part of an investigation into the two Andies Coulson and Hayman:

How Coulson mined convicted criminal Stephen Whittamore for stories while editor of the News of the World

Whittamore hacked the Princes’ phones for Newscorp years before Mulcaire did

Whittamore hacked and blagged into the phones and pcs of Claridges, Granada TV, Yorkshire TV, the Inland Revenue and many other official bodies – all on behalf of Newscorp

His invoices refer to all Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp titles – not just the NotW

Further evidence suggesting suspicion of  perjury by the former David Cameron aide


Andy Coulson joined the News of the World as deputy editor in 2000. On January 3rd 2003, he took over from Rebekah Brooks when (as a result of one of Rupert Murdoch’s less well-judged management decisions) she became Sun editor.

As a result of the FOI Act (and MP Tom Watson’s shrewd request for further information) we know a lot more about the activities of one bent private detective during that same period. His name is Stephen Whittamore, and in 2005 he went to jail for umpteen misuses of other people’s computers – a practice known in Fleet Street (but rarely written about) as ‘blagging’.

For much of 2003-4, he was working for Newscorp as a freelance ‘detective’. And all that time, Andy Coulson was NotW editor. I have no doubt that, were he to be hauled before a jury/committee/TV programme today, Coulson would say that he ‘vaguely’ knew Whittamore’s name. This is one exchange between him and a Commons Select Committee about the matter in 2009:

Q1610  Mr Farrelly: Can you just remind me, when did you become Deputy Editor of the News of the World?

Mr Coulson: In 2000.

Q1611  Mr Farrelly: Let us just go to Operation Motorman then and payments to Stephen Whittamore. Were you aware of any relationship between the News of the World and Stephen Whittamore?

Mr Coulson: This is a long time ago so I am not going to pretend that I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what went on at the time but I will do my best. The Motorman inquiry, as you know, was industry wide. The reaction to it, I think, was industry wide. As for the involvement of individual News of the World journalists, I knew very little about that. I knew only what was published. I cannot remember the exact date but in 2006 I think I am correct in saying the What price privacy now? report, or possibly it was the second report, detailed a number of reporters. It also published a league table and I think the News of the World was fifth in that league table and The Observer, from memory, was ninth.

Q1612  Mr Farrelly: We know this.

Mr Coulson: Forgive me for repeating it.

Q1613  Mr Farrelly: Just for a moment, had you come across that name Stephen Whittamore before?

Mr Coulson: My recollection of our reaction to Motorman was to tighten procedures internally and was to look at the PCC Code more forensically. I think I am right in saying that the code changed as a result of the Motorman inquiry and we reacted accordingly. As I said in my opening statement, we worked hard, I have to now accept perhaps not hard enough, to ensure that our reporters knew what the PCC Code was and what it meant and what it meant in terms of their day to day job.

Q1614  Mr Farrelly: Had you heard the name Stephen Whittamore before the story?

Mr Coulson: No.

Q1615  Mr Farrelly: You had never heard it?

Mr Coulson: No.

Q1616  Mr Farrelly: If while you were Deputy Editor, Editor or a senior journalist on the News of the World had anyone used an enquiry agent such as Stephen Whittamore would you have insisted before the fact that their use of such an enquiry agent, if it involved anything potentially illegal would be accompanied by a public interest defence?

Mr Coulson: I think every reporter knew that they had to work within the PCC Code. The PCC Code is very clear about the public interest defence. On that basis I felt that it was covered.

Q1617  Mr Farrelly: So you would not have specifically insisted?

Mr Coulson: No.

Q1618  Mr Farrelly: Or specifically known whether anybody had access—

Mr Coulson: I do not recall ever doing so. I do not recall any conversations specifically about Whittamore. I really do not think that I knew the name until it came out in the proceedings.

First and foremost here, note that Coulson has to be asked the question three times before finally caving in and suggesting the highly unlikely: that he not only didn’t know Whittamore, he didn’t even hear his name until things hit the fan. And yet, note how well briefed he is on what other newspapers were doing: ‘I think I am correct in saying the What price privacy now? report, or possibly it was the second report, detailed a number of reporters. It also published a league table and I think the News of the World was fifth in that league table and The Observer, from memory, was ninth.’

Here we have a man – an experienced journalist known for his anal attitude to checking the provenance of stories – who wants his interrogators to accept that he knows the goal-difference for every team in the Premiership, but has never heard of Manchester United.

Does it smell like a man lying? To many readers, I suspect it will.

Now let’s drill down into the stuff that Mr Whittamore was up to. The first, blindingly obvious thing to hit one in the FOI data (quoted here from website whatdotheyknow?) is that the heading for all invoices was not ‘News of the World’ but

Times Sun News of the World,Sunday Times,,,

Thus Stephen Whittamore did NOT see himself as working for the News of the World alone – he saw himself as a supplier to the full range of UK Murdoch titles. This goes beyond circumstantial evidence: as both a commissioner of and supplier of services over 35 years, I have never addressed an invoice for, say, the Central Office of Information, to Her Majesty’s Government.

Proof positive the whole accounts department at Newscorp knew that the first, risible ‘one rogue reporter on one rogue title’ Murdoch defence was utter bollocks. But clearly not a proof of any interest to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who approved the takeover of BSkyB by this ingenuous and routinely mendacious corporate entity.

Such obvious matters aside, take a look at this short extract of what Whittamore was up to – my highlighting. 

Paris Hotel Blag,Hotel Costs,,,,,RP12 Page 11,#REF!,Stephen,WHITTAMORE

S.Times,”Hillingdon Council blag,not sucessful”,,,,RP12 Page 3,#REF!,Stephen,WHITTAMORE

Stephen,WHITTAMORE,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Granada blag Aug 99 to Dec 99,York TV this Morning,,,,,RP12 Page 5 ,#REF!,Stephen,WHITTAMORE

Times Sun News of the World,,,,Misc,,,Stephen,WHITTAMORE,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Revenue blag,,,,

Here we can see the eclectic range of illegal espionage in which Newscorp was engaged: In these and other operations, Whittamore is hacking into and blagging the pcs and phones of quangos, hotels, rival TV stations to Sky, local government offices, and the Inland Revenue as was. Just the small fragment examined in detail by The Slog ran to over a thousand entries.

But this one in particular stands out from the rest:

Times Sun News of the World,,,,XD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,98-01,from parents at treetops,,,RP12 Page 2,#REF!,Stephen,WHITTAMORE

Infuriatingly, most of the entries aren’t dated – although the overall header relates mainly to 2003-4. But there can be no doubt that this is a hacked mobile phone message from Royals staying at their favourite Kenyan getaway between 1998 and 2001 – most likely to Princes William or Harry – between ten and thirteen years ago.

This is the first evidence I have seen showing how other Newscorp detectives apart from Glenn Mulcaire hacked into Royal conversations such a long time ago. And so this too blows a whopping hole in the ‘one rogue detective’ lies. Also note again that the whole range of UK Murdoch titles is mentioned here. And also remember the Slog’s recent story from March 2nd 2011 about the Sun hacking Princess Eugenie’s phones….at precisely the time Rebekah Brooks was editor of that Murdoch title.

Stephen Whittamore was submitting material to the full range of Newscorp titles, without in one single case ever specifying only one newspaper in the stable. He was supplying almost an ‘Associated Press’ style espionage service to Murdoch editors across the piece.

And – now that a mountain-range of emails has been ‘rediscovered’ by Murdoch’s IT team – there will almost certainly be e’s to and from him, both confirming that assertion and incriminating shoals of Murdoch journalists. The Slog will be asking lots of questions should the Met’s investigator Sue Akers and her chaps not press charges against the recipients of Whittamore’s largesse: for having sent the monkey to jail, it does seem a little strange to pardon the organ-grinders.

Should the Akers team decide so to do, they could do a lot worse than reverse-wind to Andy Coulson’s testimony under oath at the trial of Tommy Sheridan, the Left-wing Scottish politician, during October last year. Having denied any acquaintance with – or even memory of – Stephen Whittamore during 2003-4, the obsessive detail-checking News of the World editor now calmly gave evidence helping to damn Sheridan to prison. One Court transcript excerpt I find especially intriguing runs as follows:

‘Mr Sheridan asked the witness if he knew of Mr Goodman’s association with Greg Mulcaire. The witness told the court that he had never had any contact with Mr Mulcaire and had not even known his name until Mr Mulcaire had been arrested….Mr Sheridan then asked about a NotW journalist Dan Evans, and Mr Coulson agreed that he knew him. Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if he was aware that Mr Evans had been suspended for phone hacking. Mr Coulson replied that he was not aware of the details and had only seen newspaper reports…..Mr Sheridan then said that Steve Whittamore had been convicted in 2005 and this had happened “under your watch”. Mr Coulson said he had not been involved with Mr Whittamore “in any way, shape or form”……Mr Coulson also stated that Mr Whittamore’s services were used “across the industry, including the Guardian group….’

Here we go again: Andy Coulson knows nothing at all about Whittamore showering his own newspaper in invoices, but he does know that the bloke works with the Guardian. When it comes to his own guilty journalists, however, he has only seen newspaper reports.

Bu in this next extract, the testimony Coulson gave begins – in the light of recent events – to look not just rocky, but decidedly cocky:

‘Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if there were any emails between him and Clive Goodman, the former Royal editor of the NotW. Mr Coulson replied, “yes he was a reporter on the paper” Mr Sheridan asked if Mr Coulson had emailed Mr Goodman asking him to “take the blame for the good of the paper” Mr Coulson responded “No, I’m positive – do you have that email Mr Sheridan?”…..’

That is a bit of triumphalist rhetoric Coulson may live to regret, as it is entirely possible that the Met’s Sue Akers does indeed have such an email.

Once again, do these answers sound truthful six months later? Not really. And there’s no need to simply rely on such testimony alone.

Former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, who has publicly admitted his part in phone hacking, told Panorama: “It was endemic, you know, it happened. People were scared. So if you’ve got to get a story, you’ve got to get it and you have to get that by whatever means. That is the culture of News International.”

Hoare additionally told the New York Times that, as a showbizz writer, he’d been ‘frequently encouraged’ by Coulson to hack celebrity phones. But Coulson says he’s lying. In fact, Andy Coulson says everyone is lying – except him. Look around Fleet Street and the Courts: outside of desperate Newscorp loyalists fearful for their one hides, you will not find a single journalist who supports Coulson’s account.

The Newscorp ‘do what you have to do’ culture permeated every sweat gland in Andy Coulson’s body. But of the main element in that culture – the one thing that made it possible – he apparently knew nothing.

One senses that, should Mr Coulson one day require the services of a biographer, he need look no further than British historian David Irving. He’s out on bail now and, I’ve no doubt, is short of commissions. For if Andy Coulson knew nothing about any of the heinous activities outlined above, it is a reasonable contention that Hitler know nothing of the Holocaust. Hitler may even have  been a Mossad agent before Mossad was formed. Because in Andy Coulson’s universe, anything – no matter how incredible – must be accepted as very probably the truth.

Other reporters from that era have also spoken on the record. Paul McMullan, who was a deputy features editor, told the Guardian that he had personally commissioned several hundred illegal acts from private investigators – and that his deputy editor, Andy Coulson, must have known about it. Deputy information commissioner David Smith says about the Whittamore case in particular, “There’s absolutely no doubt that a lot of the information that was being sought, and was obtained, could only be obtained illegally.”

But Coulson denies any knowledge of any of it.

As for Steve Whittamore, he isn’t talking to anyone. Ironically, his phone number gives an unobtainable signal – a very recent development, I’m told.

Who, I wonder, has rendered him unobtainable? Could it be the same folks who paid for Max Clifford’s silence?


Where do we go from here?

Where Sue Akers and the CPS/DPP axis will probably go – fairly swiftly in the light of this data – is to the formal inerrogation of Andy Coulson under caution……on suspicion of both misuse of technological surveillance, and suspected perjury.

After that, somebody – I’m not a lawyer – should subpeona Stephen Whittamore. He has spoken a great deal about how he’s been made ‘a patsy’ (a difficult plea given the hard invoice evidence against him) but not about whether he ever telephoned, met or emailed Coulson.  The one word “Yes” would ensure at the very least an appearance by the former NotW  editor at the Old Bailey.

But as The Slog posted yesterday, there is another Andy in all this – former anti-terrorist cop Andy Hayman – the man originally charged with the investigation of News of the World practices….and yet also a bloke who knew its editor, Andy Coulson, on several levels. Coulson denies this too.

Coming soon at The Slog: the life, times and misdeeds of Andy Hayman

In the meantime, bone up on the full story at Hackgate


Footnote: Following the What Price Privacy Now? report of 2006, the Daily Mail was shown to have asked the Whittamores of this world for investigative help no fewer than 850 times. Executive Mail editor Paul Dacre banned the use of private investigators after the case. In the 18 months following that decision, fully eleven Mail journalists (and the Sunday Times hack Holly Watt) joined the Telegraph Group.

Holly Watt has since taped Vince Cable for the Daily Telegraph – without his knowledge. Not one of the refugees from the Dacre Mail has ever filed a Hackgate scoop since joining the Telegraph titles.