Pharmacy assistant in court over Sun cash probe

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aA SOUTH Yorkshire pharmacy assistant who worked for the Ministry of Defence has appeared in court following Scotland Yard’s probe into alleged corrupt payments by journalists.

Tracey Bell, 34, of Co-Operative Street, in Goldthorpe, appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with misconduct in a public office as a result of investigations under Operation Elveden.

It is alleged that Bell, who was employed by the MoD as a pharmacy assistant at Sandhurst Medical Centre, received £1,250 between October 17 2005 and July 7 2006 relating to five articles published in The Sun regarding matters at Sandhurst.

The Sun’s senior royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe, 37, also appeared in court and is accused of bribing two public officials.

Larcombe, 37, said he was “shocked and disappointed” to have been charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by officers working on the investigation into alleged corrupt payments by reporters.

Sun executive editor Fergus Shanahan also appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, having been separately charged with the same offence.

Larcombe, of High Street, Aylesford, Kent, is alleged to have paid more than £23,000 to John Hardy, 43, who served as a Colour Sergeant at the Royal Military Training Academy at Sandhurst, and his 39-year-old wife, Claire Hardy, for stories relating mainly to the Royal Family or matters at Sandhurst.

Mr and Mrs Hardy, of Millbrook Close, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, appeared alongside Larcombe in the dock. All three are jointly charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008.

Shanahan, 58, from Felsted, Essex, is separately charged with conspiring with a public official and a journalist to commit misconduct in a public office.

He is accused of authorising a journalist to make payments to a public official.

The defendants, who only spoke to confirm their details, were released on unconditional bail to appear at Southwark Crown Court on June 3.