James Murdoch’s evidence to hacking probe ‘disingenuous’

A FORMER News International lawyer has accused company chairman James Murdoch of giving “disingenuous” evidence to the Commons media committee over the phone hacking scandal.

Mr Murdoch repeatedly told MPs he had not been made aware of details suggesting phone hacking at the News of the World went beyond a lone reporter.

But Tom Crone said Mr Murdoch was told in 2008 about a “damning email” and was also made aware of what that meant in terms of the paper’s wider involvement in phone hacking.

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The News International boss rejects claims by two of his former executives that they told him about an email revealing that the practice went beyond a single “rogue reporter”.

Mr Murdoch was described by Labour MP and phone-hacking campaigner Tom Watson as a “Mafia boss” as he made a stormy second appearance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday.

He rejected the description but apologised “unreservedly” to Mr Watson over News International’s hiring of a private investigator to spy on the politician. The media boss said he “disputed vigorously” the version of events put forward by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and Mr Crone, who say they made him aware of the contents of the famous “For Neville” email.

It is assumed to refer to former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and thought to have contained transcripts of voicemail messages revealing that Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor’s phone was hacked.

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Mr Murdoch accused the pair of giving “misleading” evidence to the committee about what they told him at a June 2008 meeting to discuss settling a legal claim brought by Mr Taylor over phone hacking.

Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale said the MPs will now have to decide whether to believe Mr Murdoch or Mr Crone and Mr Myler.