Panorama’s expose of Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, yesterday evening was, for many, must-watch TV. Recent images of Mahmood, that he had been so keen to keep from public view, were at last broadcast. And, most damning of all, running through the programme was the impression that crimes had been manufactured, and livelihoods trashed, merely to flog a few more newspapers.
Updated photo has duly arrived
But not all who heard the news of the screening were impressed: the latest disciple to be recruited to the service of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, was not backward in coming forward to denounce John Sweeney’s investigation. It should be noted at this stage that the Fawkes rabble has been gifted a weekly column by Creepy Uncle Rupe.
That would be the same person who owned the now-defunct Screws, for which Mahmood produced so many of his stings. “Literally not news” claimed Wickham when told that Mahmood’s identity would be revealed. At this point we may usefully ask why it would not be news to Wickham. Has he made Maz’s acquaintance? Or is he merely doing his master’s bidding and shouting “non-story”?
There was more: when Panorama told that it was revealing Mahmood’s identity to stop his entrapping more victims, Wickham retorted “You mean organised criminals”. Why would he say this? John Bryan wasn’t a criminal, far less an “organised” one. Nor was John Alford. Nor was Emma Morgan. And nor was Tulisa Contostavlos. There is a more straightforward explanation: Wickham is just lying again.
There is, contrary to Wickham’s attempt at deflection, much of interest in the Fake Sheikh modus operandi, and Mahmood’s links with less than savoury figures not just in the press, but also the world of private investigators. Panorama spelt out the link between Mahmood and Southern Investigations, home of Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, the latter having worked with Mahmood.
The similarity between Wickham’s deflection and that practised by his colleague at the Fawkes blog, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, when the phone hacking scandal came to light, is striking. What has just seen several of Murdoch’s formerly faithful retainers convicted was described by Master Cole as “this minor embarrassment from a few years back”.
To the Guardian’s Jackie Ashley, he sneered “The story is dead. Get over it. Move on”, while looking forward to Andy Coulson’s brilliant future at the right hand of Young Dave. Coulson is now in prison. Mazher Mahmood, for whom the Murdoch empire was prepared to shell out rather more to protect, is facing calls for Police to consider whether he may be equally deserving.
Alex Wickham’s behaviour only serves to increase that aura of suspicion.