The news that Wayne Rooney is considering taking legal action against the News of the World for breach of privacy might be a turning point for Newscorp. The Manchester United striker could well be the only man in Britain unable to raise either (a) sympathy for his plight, or (b) interest in what he might or might not say or text on his mobile.
As if to prove the point, this afternoon our Wayne used his Twitter account to confirm that the police had been to see him about potential hacking. The uber-talented footballer tweeted, “looks like a newspaper have hacked into my phone”. Any suggestion that he’d been hacked by several newspapers at once can be dismissed in favour of the obvious conclusion that Rooney is a semi-literate moron.
Meanwhile, financial results from BSkyB released today contained much to encourage shareholders in their desire to seek a substantial increase in Murdoch’s proposed 700p-a-share bid for the satellite broadcaster. An improved financial performance saw its free cash flow rise 60% over the first nine months of the financial year to £615m. Earnings per share were up 30% at 30.5p. None of this will be welcome news to he of the Dirty Digging.
Another thing which may be giving Rupert Murdoch the odd sleepness night is two apparently Siamese twins called Andy. Somehow – like Claude Eustace Teal and Simon Templar in the famous Leslie Charteris ‘Saint’ novels – Andy Hayman the cop and Andy Coulson the investigative journalist just keep on turning up at the same crime scenes.
Except that this is real life, not a detective novel: timelines are all-important, and we may not be talking coincidence here.
Like Andy Coulson, Andy Hayman is an Essex man. He began his career as a teenage bobby, and gradually worked his way through the ranks until, some twenty years later in 1998, he was promoted to the rank of commander in the Met – responsible for drugs, crime and complaints investigations. Then 2002 saw him appointed Chief Constable of Norfolk Police. He didn’t actually return to the Met until February 2005.
Andy Coulson joined the News of the World as Deputy Editor in 2000. His boss as editor during that period was Rebekah Brooks. My information is that in fact, Hayman probably met them during this first period at the Met.
Hayman has been, throughout his career, a man naturally skilled in his dealings with the media. A press corps member during his time in Norfolk told me six weeks ago:
“Hayman was very personable and frank with the media. He understood the benefits of media coverage for his career – and you were in no doubt that he was a very ambitious bloke. Norfolk was just a stepping stone for him. He stayed closely in touch with his London contacts. He never bought a house in Norfolk, but commuted every day from London.”
That’s one heck of a commute twice a day: but then Hayman is universally described as a 24/7 policeman. Says a former Norfolk colleague:
“He wasn’t someone to get on the wrong side of. But a very effective officer and totally zero-tolerance in his outlook. I remember thinking, ‘he’s quick on his feet, never stuck for an answer, and a total self-publicist’. A 120% good operator, no doubt about that – and fiercely seeking the Main Chance.”
At some point between 2000 and 2005, Andy Hayman apparently met (or was introduced to) a young journalist. Like him, he was a 24/7, driven obsessive, consumed with ambition……a man in a hurry to reach the top. He came from Essex. And he was self-made. The chances are that they got on like a house on fire.
And perhaps – like so many with their eyes on a quick chase up the ladder – they shared an emotion along the lines of ‘do whatever it takes’.
The journalist’s name was Andrew Coulson.
It seems pretty obvious that the Coulson/Hayman relationship was mutually beneficial: Hayman had ambitions to lead the Met, while Coulson’s newspaper thrived on tips about salacious crime and scandal: this had been the staple diet of News of the World readers for over eighty years. The NotW also had easily the biggest Sunday circulation; it was (and is) something of a national institution.
However, to be more specific about the exact mutual benefits, we need to go back to why Andy Hayman returned to run the Met’s anti-terrorist division in the first place.
Hayman took over from Peter Clark in February 2005, and the reason appears to have been simple: Clark’s botched attempt to ‘sex up’ a police raid on an Ilford flat went badly wrong. Claiming that the much-feared poison ricin was involved, many newspapers splashed the story, which rapidly unravelled. No ricin was ever found, and 8 of the 9 suspects were acquitted. Colin Powell and other prominent Bush aides continued to peddle the ‘story’ for years afterwards, but in reality there was no foundation to the ricin threat.
Hayman’s known media skills made him a natural to take over, but by this time a number of journalists (notably at the Independent, Guardian and Daily Mail) were forming the view that Met anti-terrorist ‘raids’ were motivated by the politics of WOMD. Says one:
“They [the Met] were floating all sorts of alarmist stuff at the time. The ricin case was the most obvious example. The security services here and in the US were involved. It didn’t feel right, and it made me think ‘whatever they brief us to think, I’ll dig behind it’.”
But Hayman may well have found a responsive channel in the shape of News of the World editor Coulson. Because fairly swiftly into the new anti-terrorist chief’s stint – July 2005 – a Met team allegedly headed by Andy Hayman shot dead an innocent Brazilian student, Jean Charles de Menezes. I say ‘allegedly’ there, because one CID source who spoke to me called that description “a matter of opinion, depending on whether you might be Sir Ian Blair or not”. Blair was Hayman’s boss, and the imputation very clearly from the source (and others) is that Hayman wound up being the fall guy for this botched operation.
All the key elements pointing a finger of blame at police sloppiness were covered up. Afterwards, the police complaints commission concluded that ‘the public were misled over the death of Jean Charles De Menezes’. For the IPCC, that’s pretty strong stuff. In more detail, the IPCC report and various news coverage of the time established that:
The Met insisted that De Menezes was a terrorist for 24 hours after they knew he was innocent.
The Met lied brazenly about several elements of the killing, notably that De Menezes had run into the Tube station, vaulted a ticket barrier, dashed onto a train, and worn a bulky jacket with wires protuding. All of this was completely untrue. Objective reconstruction by witnesses showed that De Menezes had in fact bought a newspaper in the station, used a ticket in the normal way, shown no signs of hurrying, and worn tight clothing with no wires (or anything else) protruding.
Media questions immediately began to focus on this. But the CCTV footage of De Menezes throughout the station and at the shooting got ‘lost’ – or corrupted.
The IPCC as good as fingered Hayman for the cock-up, by noting that his actions ‘”led to inaccurate or misleading information being released” by the police regarding the Brazilian. On the one hand, it smacks of a plot to dump on Hayman. But on the other, his desire for complete control of all media relations on his patch was already well-established.
However, one publication alone went out of its way to back up the Met’s original account of events. Just 72 hours after the incident, the News of the World splashed with a centre-spread banner headlined, ‘WHY DID HE RUN?’ The line was reputed to have been personally guided and approved by Andy Coulson. The long article went on to defend Hayman’s strategy and claims, as well as casting doubt on the dead man’s innocence. A classic example is this unfounded assertion from the feature:
‘Jean Charles de Menezes then made the decision that cost him his life: he vaulted over the ticket barrier and ran down the escalator’
Nor was this a one-off.
In July 2006 three Islamic men wound up being tried for attempting to acquire ‘red mercury’, having been arrested by anti-terrorist police following a tip-off…..from the News of the World. The NotW piece described red mercury as “a deadly substance developed by cold war Russian scientists for making briefcase nuclear bombs”. In fact, red mercury is a myth: an invention cooked up by person or persons unknown. The NotW used its undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood to carry out the sting in a Brent Cross hotel room. Andy Coulson was his editor. Andy Hayman was head of the Met’s anti-terrorist section. All the men stung by Mahmood were acquitted.
Astonishingly, Scotland Yard defended the investigation, and said that it would not rule out working with the NotW again. This must count as an official admission (I would have thought) that they had indeed ‘worked together’ on a case involving invention and dishonesty from start to finish. And again, we have to ask: was the release dictated by media-detail man Andy Hayman?
Despite several requests to talk about the case, Mazher Mahmood has failed to return The Slog’s calls. It’s also worth pointing out, I think, that Newscorp’s disappearance behind paywalls doesn’t help to search for relevant articles: however he uses Google, the researcher is sent straight through to a large pair of breasts encouraging him to subscribe to the paper. There’s nothing new in this – but specific examples began to worry me when I signed up for Newscorp’s archive site. For example, the known headline from 9 March 2008 ‘MI5 investigates four Met cops’ is greeted with ‘no articles contain those words’. This is clearly a mistake, or censorship. With the Murdoch Empire, you can never tell for certain which it might be.
What we can be sure about is that not long afterwards, Buckingham Palace made a complaint relating to the hacking of Prince William’s mobile phone. It was a very specific complaint concerning an article written in the News of the World. And it asked why details only known to the sender and the recipient had suddenly appeared in the NotW.
Andy Hayman now found himself in charge of an investigation into people with whom he was almost certainly familiar. The obvious question to ask is why he allowed himself to be put in that role given a potential conflict between personal and professional roles. To the best of my knowledge, this has never been answered.
The following year, Andy Hayman found himself under an extreme media spotlight. With disturbing regularity, stories began to appear of ‘inappropriate relationships’ with women officers, and ‘extravagant expenses claims’. In the mind of one former West End CID Inspector, there was no doubt that the leaks were orchestrated by senior Met officers.
“Hayman was seen by the cabal around [Ian] Blair as dangerous,” says the source, “Bitter about being hung out to dry over the Menenzes case, and a potential loose cannon with close ties to the media. There was definitely a move to get him out. But to be fair, there was also genuine doubt about whether his relationship with certain editors might be improper”.
Whether Andy Hayman’s relationship with the News of the World and its editor Andy Coulson was improper or not, he was obviously not the only senior Met officer wining and dining with senior Newscorp personnel in the middle years of the 21st century’s first decade. Set against this is the reality that, once he had retired from the police force in December 2007, he fairly rapidly gained employment with…Newscorp, as a crime columnist working occasionally with the Sunday Times.
If there is any more to this part of Hackgate than merely smoke, we have yet to hear about it. But it does seem highly likely that sooner rather than later, Andy Hayman will be called to answer questions in one forum or another. I will leave the last words to erudite anti-Murdoch campaigner and MP Tom Watson:
‘Fair-minded people will ask whether it is usual for the police to content themselves with writing to lawyers acting for criminal suspects – and then take no further action when the lawyers reply with a “robust legal approach” and information restricted to matters they themselves choose. Furthermore, it is claimed by lawyers acting for the targets that when asked to provide copies of Mulcaire’s notes with a view to litigation against NOTW, the Metropolitan Police have been uncooperative to the point of obstruction.
The impression of complicity in the concealment of crime is reinforced by the conduct of the NOTW itself. In at least two cases, NOTW has settled privacy actions brought by victims of its phone hacking for figures in the order of 100 times greater than any likely award of damages by a court. In each case, this settlement followed quickly upon a court order for disclosure and included a confidentiality clause and the sealing of court documents…’