Rebekah Uncovered: Part 1
As a reporter you will find some people will do anything to stop you finding out and then telling the truth. I have been punched, glassed, threatened with a knife, shot at and finally bombed. OK the last one was Saddam in The Gulf and it wasn’t personal but you get the point.
Rebekah Brooks I found out at Leveson was going to offer me the post of Investigations Editor when fake sheikh Mazher turned it down but instead set up a new department, initially under her lover, Andy Coulson who had shagged his way to number 2.
While it was nice to see boys can do it too, I called him a “colossal knob” so he didn’t trust me enough to order me to phone hack so I never went to jail, hooray. You know what, always tell the truth even when it means the sack. It’s karma, which isn’t real but people believe it so... it sort of is.
So I was sent on the road to Name and Shame and other tedious paedo nonsense and the old Deputy News Editor Greg Miskew stayed in the office to report to Rebekah in conference.
As Deputy Features Editor I was his superior, in that Rebekah had that job. It was the pool future editors came from. Rebekah, like a diva starring in her own ‘9 to 5’ movie where the sexy Meg Ryan got the top job, smoozed and fluttered to Features Editor, Deputy Editor, then Editor. I was in awe. Wow, if a humble secretary can do it so can I, and as there was no Features Editor. I was number 3. Well in my head anyway. No one else would agree, office politics eh? Also I enjoyed telling the truth so was seen as unreliable. Bloody hell we can’t have someone honest in charge, we will all go to jail. Some did, Maz and Coulson, some still might.
And the point. The point is Rebekah had an obsessive attention to detail on stories she really cared about in the News of the world. She didn't lock herself away in an office but joined us on the floor, right in the middle so she knew exactly what was going on.
Funny how in court she said she was too above it to bother with details. The opposite is true. Isn’t it always, but careful, Maz went to jail not for hacking, cheating, blagging but perjury, lying to the court. You can pretty much stab someone these days and get away with it but judges really don’t like you lying to them.
Rebekah had some brilliant qualities and that’s not just creating an environment where hacking, cheating and blagging flourished. She became a personal friend to Sara Payne, the mother of 8 year-old Sarah who was abducted a few miles along the coast from Brighton in a crime that shocked the nation. It is where I am today, the beaches are beautiful and while it is too cold for kids with buckets and spades it is the last place on earth you could imagine something so horrible happening. ‘Sarah's law’ to inform parents when paedophiles were housed near them followed, really as a result of Rebekah’s determination. I have a young, innocent, trusting blonde haired daughter and it touched a nerve in me and possibly all of us. Here's an old picture someone posted on facebook, I don't know quite how that works, people at a family event taking pictures of your children then putting them on the internet for everyone to see. It surprised me at the time but it is in the public domain now, it's five years old and she has changed a lot. Still grumpy though and how terrified are we when they master a silly scooter or see a beautiful unspoiled beach or field and race out on their own. Rebekah must be terrified from time to time too. There are some lovely pictures on the internet of her child, you can search them out. I can't say it was cynical but they must have touched the hearts of the jury. Maybe the jury in that '£100million hacking trial of the century' knew she was as guilty as sin but let her walk. I mean what did she do really? Annoy a few deeply annoying celebs who are queuing up for a hand out. And fundamentally she cared, Rebekah really cared and sometimes I wonder how many lives she and me, on the ground, might have saved as a result of all that determination and effort.
This is why I refused to go to court to give evidence against her even though she dropped us all in it and ran away scot-free.
But in the interests of historical truth I write this now and not just because I want George Clooney to resurrect his film about her life with me on £600 a day as an adviser. Well maybe a bit but I fear the project is in the bin with dozens of others. People were so sure she would go to jail small fortunes were spent on TV and movie planning. I did four or five recorded interviews for hour long specials in Australia, Canada, America all canned when she walked out of court a free woman.
Rebekah was obsessed with children and protecting them. It was more than just a newspaper campaign to add to sales. Although it seemed to do that too, it appeared it mattered to her emotionally and she personally briefed me, to tell me to make sure every detail was correct. I thought she shed real tears in Lewes Crown Court where she turned up to support Sara Payne when Roy Whiting was jailed for life for the murder of her daughter whose naked body was found in a field. Both the mother and father broke down outside the court and Rebekah was there to comfort them. It is not often you see an editor doing that.
She did not want to be tripped up on this series of 'Sarah's Law' exclusives. I got a minor bollocking after 'Naming and Shaming' 50 paedos as only 48 were correct, 2 were dead. We got abuse on satirical news shows for that. I thought it a little harsh as there was a genuine desire to do some good and it was too easy to mock. The story below was however a massive f.. up and she personally stopped the presses and pulled it after a police denial.
The presses started running on schedule on Saturday evening, Rebekah who often sat on the subs desk to oversee the layout of important stories and either came up with the idea or okayed the idea of the 'Wanted' poster being printed 5m times,(I mean good idea) stopped them after the first denial, and the story was replaced.
A million or so papers were pulped, due to her obsessive attention to detail. It was an expensive, high pressure nervous call. She needed to know every phone hack, every blag anything that might get her into trouble and ridiculed in The Guardian, Have I Got News for You, Radio 4, and not to mention sacked. But maybe more than that, Murdoch was the reason for her starring role, some say he treated her like a daughter and she just didn’t want to let him down.
I received a torrent of abuse from just about everyone. I remember the phone ringing constantly in a service station on the way back from Bournemouth where the paedo was living. He wasn't a nice person, we as the News of the World had done a good thing for a change and I was seen as the mucker-upper.
The news desk even hacked my phone. Just for the record the story had been published a couple of weeks earlier in the Metropolitan Police in house magazine, I found out later.
Miskew, know by reporters as ‘peter panic’ who sent me to Bournemouth had a terrible habit of not telling you everything about investigations. He had so many little secrets, he kept them all to himself. When you get a death threat every couple of months you have to know who the villains are. I always started investigations from scratch, lots of journalists get killed, really lots and lots and lots. The sure way of getting beaten up is to work on someone else’s story, they never work, never ever. All too often it has been the organiser of posh orgies, bouncers, and pimps who have rung up with the tip. They want the £20k fee and publicity. Villains loved the News of the World but they knew who you were as soon as you walked in and you sensed it. Your cover was blown. You were never going to pay them and it became scary being in a council house with drug dealers and pimps who thought they were clever and wanted the money. As a result when Miskew came up with an investigation idea I didn't bother doing them. It was simply too dangerous, Maz felt the same. I used to go and play golf all week and pretend. Rebekah wanted me on this one. I couldn’t say no. My family had been moved to a hotel a few months earlier after death threats came direct to my house where my children lived. It was supposed to be safe. I never parked a car or a van I had used on an investigation closer than a mile away. All bills were paid in a false name and in cash. Miskew might have some admirable qualities but he came across as a blithering idiot. The last thing I needed was a mental murderous paedo banging on the door. Christ tell me everything or fuck off. The department was clearly a joke. The stress led to the selling of my house and moving again but my wife didn’t want me to come and we divorced. News of the World 1, McMullan nil. I did this story anyway dragging my heels every step of the way. I shouted at Miskew, ‘"it is utterly pointless going to Bournemouth or ringing the police to confirm the paedo is still on the loose as they aren't going to comment as they never do." I did ring the police just to moan about an idiot boss who asked me to call about something they would never comment on and that saved my job,as my mobile phone records were hacked to check I had actually put in the pointless call. The old news editor Alex Manunchak, also arrested later, came up with the story in the first place. I suggested I should use one of his police contacts to firm it up unofficially but Miskew panicked as he always did and let it go. There were so many paedos not reporting in, it was just bad luck this guy actually had by the time the story went to press.
Rebekah who according to her 'trial' version of the operation of the newsroom should have been quaffing champagne with contacts, celebs or Murdoch family members. But no she was the editor and like all good editors she was staying late in the office, obsessively going through every detail and with great courage and no doubt sweat she shouted what every journalist in training wants to shout. ‘Stop the presses’. And they stopped and then they had to find a new front page at 10 o'clock in the evening. Rebekah was dedicated and she passed that on down the ranks. She seemed to live for the job and expected everyone else to and most did. "You are a News of the World reporter first, everything else comes second," she told me as I cancelled the table I had booked at The Ivy for my wife's birthday for the second year in a row.
Darling, so sometimes you were a brilliant editor, not just an executive floozy who wiggled her arse at an ageing Australian, as I said once on Sky. You were someone who was on top of her game and demanded to know every phone that had been hacked, even when it was mine and to listen to the tapes. Not on every story, news just happens, trains crash, planes come down, England win a football game, there is no deviousness required but the News of the World wasn’t about that, it was about investigations that humiliated royals and football managers and exposed paedophiles and deviousness was required in spades and you had to know, wanted to know and demanded to know all about it so you could make brilliant editorial decisions like this one. Well done or maybe as a result you will become undone.
PART 2, how Rebekah called off a 'front up' of a phone-hacked golfer when his game fell to pieces during the Open Championship, next week.