Back in September 2016, Zelo Street noted that two former Murdoch luminaries, legal man Tom Crone and Colin Myler, the last to edit the Screws before it was shut down, were to be censured by Parliament for contempt, or as ordinary people call it, lying. One name, however, got off on this occasion: Les Hinton, former Murdoch lieutenant, was cleared of misleading the Culture select committee, although there was a scepticism over his memory of events. It seems that scepticism was justified.
Les Hinton claiming he didn't know, honestly
Because, although Hinton “told BBC Hardtalk’s Zeinab Badawi that he knew nothing about phone hacking that was undertaken by journalists in the UK, but did not wish to ‘diminish the crimes that took place’”, the Beeb noting “Mr Hinton was the executive chairman of News International during a period where the voicemail of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and many others were illegally accessed”, there is a problem here.
And that is that Hinton, we now learn, appears to have known rather more than he admitted previously. Court records seen by the Byline Media team reveal “Coulson told News International CEO Les Hinton about phone hacking David Blunkett in 2004 for front page exclusive. But Hinton never told the police or reprimanded Coulson or Thurlbeck”.
Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street may recall that Colin Myler had told in a witness statement “I recall a meeting I had with Neville THURLBECK, the Chief Reporter of the News of the World … together with Tom CRONE, the newspaper’s legal manager … in or around July 2009 … I recall that the meeting took place on a Saturday”. The meeting happened the weekend after Nick Davies first broke the phone hacking story.
There was more. “Mr THURLBECK told Mr CRONE and me that some years previously he had hacked into David BLUNKETT’s voicemail messages. This had taken place when Mr BLUNKETT was the Home Secretary and allegations were published by the Newspaper about his personal life … Stories concerning Mr BLUNKETT were published in 2004, and ultimately he resigned his position as Home Secretary”.
This is what the Byline story is referencing. What their report adds is the assertion that Neville “Stylish Masturbator” Thurlbeck’s hacking of Blunkett was known not just to Myler, Crone, Neil Wallis and then Rebekah Brooks, but also Andy Coulson - which figures, as he was editing the Screws at the time - and yes, Les Hinton. Here’s the relevant passage.
“RUPERT Murdoch’s right-hand-man Les Hinton knew about phone hacking at the News of the World two years earlier than he stated in evidence to a Parliamentary Committee … was named at least six times at the Central Criminal Court in London as knowing about the paper’s hacking of former British Home Secretary David Blunkett … [the] The claims, made by the Sunday tabloid’s then editor Andy Coulson”.
But Hinton told MPs in 2007 “I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on”, adding in 2009 “There was never firm evidence provided or suspicion provided that I am aware of that implicated anybody else other than Clive [Goodman] within the staff of the News of the World - it just did not happen”.
It just did. And it’s now looking like his pants are on fire. Perhaps Damian Collins would like to invite him back to have another think about his story.