News chief ‘was told to mislead’ on McCann diary story

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the former head of news at the News of the World has claimed he was told to deliberately mislead the McCanns’ spokesman about the newspaper’s plans to publish Kate McCann’s diary.

Mrs McCann has told the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards she felt “violated” and like “climbing into a hole and not coming out” when the intensely private journal appeared in the now-shut paper on September 14, 2008.

Former editor Colin Myler has said he would never have published the diary – which was obtained from a female Portuguese journalist – if he had realised she was not aware of what the paper was intending and claimed Ian Edmondson told him he had cleared the story with Clarence Mitchell.

The News of the World’s ex-legal manager, Tom Crone, has also told the inquiry he understood a representative of the McCanns gave the News of the World permission to publish the diary.

But the inquiry has heard a transcript of a phone call between Mr Edmondson and Mr Mitchell was “most clearly ambiguous”, and the spokesman denied Mr Edmondson ever told him what was really intended.

Mr Edmondson, who was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages last year and is on bail, yesterday said he had not made it clear, on the express instructions of Mr Myler.

“Tom gave his legal view which I am told I am not allowed to repeat but which dismayed, shall I say, Mr Myler,” he said. “So he decided to ask me to make a call to Mr Mitchell, not make it clear what we had, telling him in general terms, basically make it woolly.

“I think someone previously used the word ambiguous, that is absolutely spot on what he wanted. He was frightened that if Clarence knew what we had, he might take action.”

He also told the inquiry there was a culture of bullying at the newspaper, and said he had lodged an employment tribunal claim against News International.

The inquiry also heard Piers Morgan’s evidence on phone hacking called into question by the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney.

Chat show host Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor, previously said he listened to a voicemail message left to Heather Mills by Sir Paul, but refused to say when or where because he wanted to protect a “source”.

Ms Mills told the inquiry that in early 2001 she and Sir Paul had argued about a trip she was planning to India, and he left her a series of voicemails, including one in which he said “‘please forgive me’ and sang a little ditty”.

She noted the following morning that all the messages had been saved, which was unusual, but told the hearing she thought nothing more of it and deleted them.

But she was then called by a former Trinity Mirror employee – not a Daily Mirror journalist, nor anybody working under Morgan – saying they had heard the message.

She said she threatened to take legal action if the story was published, and it was not at the time. But in 2006, in a piece in the Daily Mail, Morgan referred to having listened to the message.

Yesterday, Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked her: “Did you authorise Mr Morgan to access your voicemail?”. She replied “never”. He asked: “Did you authorise Mr Morgan to listen to your voicemail?” “Never ever,” she answered.

The inquiry resumes on February 27.