The denial was as unequivocal as it was vehement: the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, as the BBC reported at the time, “When asked if he could be ‘100% certain’ the story was not based on information obtained from voice messages, he said: ‘I can be as confident as any editor... that phone hacking was not practised at the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail’”. So what was the story in question?
Ah well. Actor and campaigner Hugh Grant had claimed, in his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, that, as the Guardian also reported, “an article about Grant's love life might have been obtained by phone hacking”. The Vagina Monologue was incandescent. “Hugh Grant was obsessed by trying to drag the Daily Mail into another newspaper's scandal”.
Dacre was filled with Whataboutery on that day: “Dacre claimed that the opening testimony in the Leveson inquiry had made it ‘an extraordinary day … a unique occasion’. Grant was the ‘poster boy for the Hacked Off campaign’ who had deliberately brought out his allegations. ‘He knew the damage it would cause.’” Pretty poor reason for dodging the question, though - he supported Hacked Off, so his evidence didn’t count.
But that denial - claiming “phone hacking was not practised at the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail” - is now exposed as mere sophistry. There may not have been hackers in the building, but there were beneficiaries. We know this as Byline Media has secured access to former hacker Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks. And the evidence is damning.
It also follows the same path as both the Murdoch and Mirror Group hacking stories: first it was the Sunday paper - the Screws and Sunday Mirror - that were implicated. Attempts were then made to pretend it was only the Sundays. Then, slowly but surely, the evidence built, and it it then revealed that the dailies - the Sun and Daily Mirror - were at it too. The first title to be named is the Mail on Sunday. Will the Daily Mail be next?
The Byline investigation reveals “Notes, hand-written by Mulcaire - twice convicted of intercepting voicemails for Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World - suggest he also targeted an author and his ex-wife for Britain’s biggest mid-market Sunday newspaper”.
There is more. “Notes originally seized by Scotland Yard in 2006 … show what Mulcaire himself describes as evidence of a £600 agreement to unlawfully obtain voicemails and private phone data - the intended destination for which was … the Mail on Sunday … The evidence, say Mulcaire and his former Fleet Street handler Greg Miskiw, who have both spoken to Byline, includes an instruction spelt out in the private investigator’s spidery biro on a discoloured piece of plain white note-paper”. And the specifics?
“Alongside the page title ‘Mail on Sunday’, Mulcaire has recorded the personal private phone numbers of author Benedict Noakes and his family, numbers which Mulcaire says were illegally obtained by deception … Byline has dated the note to July 10, 2006. At the time, the paper was intensely interested in Noakes’s friendship with Heather Mills as her marriage to Sir Paul McCartney was in difficulties”.
Perhaps Paul Dacre would like to revisit the evidence he gave, with such confidence, to Sir Brian Leveson. After all, he wouldn’t want to be remembered as yet another editor who told the Inquiry a pack of lies, would he? Decisions, decisions.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at