British police arrest reporter in phone-hacking case

Danny Kemp
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James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's younger son stepped down last week as executive chairman of News International

File photo of police outside the offices of News International in London. British police investigating phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World arrested the former chief reporter of the tabloid for allegedly intimidating a witness

British police investigating phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World arrested the former chief reporter of the tabloid for allegedly intimidating a witness.

Neville Thurlbeck was initially arrested on suspicion of the illegal interception of mobile phone voicemails in April last year and has been on police bail ever since.

Scotland Yard said a 51-year-old man was arrested by appointment on Wednesday at a central London police station "on suspicion of intimidation of a witness... and encouraging or assisting an offence".

Thurlbeck was later released on bail until April pending further enquiries, according to police.

It confirmed he had originally been arrested on April 5, 2011 and identified him as Suspect A in Operation Weeting, the force's phone-hacking investigation. Thurlbeck was identified at the time as Suspect A.

Thurlbeck last week wrote a blog publishing the street address of Will Lewis, a senior executive at News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's US-based News Corporation empire.

He later removed the address, saying he accepted that it was "distressing to his family" and that he "would like to apologise to Mrs Lewis for any distress".

News International said it had no comment on the arrest.

Thurlbeck has sued the company for unfair dismissal.

The former reporter issued a statement late Wednesday in which he "vigorously denied the allegations of any wrongdoing", calling the claims "extremely far-fetched."

"A complaint had been made and acted upon very swiftly indeed," he wrote. "It really didn't feel like England today!

"I will continue with my blog and my work regardless of today's events."

Thurlbeck added that Scotland Yard had got his age wrong, and that he was in fact only 50 years old.

His arrest came a day after police arrested former News International chief executive and ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks, a close friend of Prime Minister David Cameron, on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July after evidence emerged of widespread phone hacking at the tabloid, but his British newspapers continue to be dogged by allegations they covered up the practice.

Thurlbeck is at the centre of the scandal because of an email addressed to him that allegedly shows that phone-hacking at the News of the World was more widespread than previously claimed by newspaper executives.

James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's younger son who stepped down last week as executive chairman of News International, insisted on Wednesday that he had not misled parliament when he testified on the scandal.

"I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing," he wrote in a letter to parliament's media committee, which is preparing a report on the hacking scandal.

"Whilst I accept my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing sooner, I did not mislead parliament and the evidence does not support any other conclusion."

"Clearly with the benefit of hindsight, I acknowledge that wrongdoing should have been uncovered earlier," he wrote.

"I could have asked more questions, requested more documents and taken a more challenging and sceptical view of what I was told, and I will do so in the future."

He also referred to the notorious "For Neville" email, saying that he had not been shown a copy of the mail in 2008 when it surfaced in the hands of a victim of phone-hacking, and therefore was not guilty of a cover-up.

Until last year, the News of the World had maintained that hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter -- former royal editor Clive Goodman -- and private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who were both jailed in 2007.