The News Of The World phone hacking scandal became more nettlesome for News Corp this morning: A key player, former NOTW reporter Neville Thurlbeck, issued his first public statement alleging that the company wrongfully fired him recently — and warned that “There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far, have chosen not to do so.” He says the company recently attacked him in off-the-record interviews. He called for everyone to “retain a dignified silence until we meet face to face in a public tribunal where the issues can be rigorously examined and fairness can eventually prevail.” He added, ominously, that “those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed.”
Thurlbeck could be a dangerous opponent for the company and deputy COO James Murdoch. Thurlbeck was the intended recipient of the famous “For Neville” email in 2008. It included material hacked from the phone of Gordon Taylor, the former head of the Professional Footballers Association. The email is significant because it seemed to indicate that the illegal practice was more widespread than News Corp had acknowledged. At least two former NOTW execs say that Murdoch had seen that email before he agreed to a $1.4M settlement with Taylor on the condition that he keep quiet — leading some members of parliament to wonder whether Murdoch was engaged in a cover-up. Murdoch says he did not see the email before agreeing to the settlement. Thurlbeck was arrested in April on phone hacking charges.
Here’s Thurlbeck’s statement, which ran in The Telegraph:
Scotland Yard has now made me aware of the reason for my dismissal, a reason which News International has withheld from me for almost a month.
For legal reasons, I am unable to go into the reason cited.
However, I will say this. I took no part in the matter which has led to my dismissal after 21 years of service.
I say this most emphatically and with certainty and confidence that the allegation which led to my dismissal will eventually be shown to be false.
And those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed.For more than two years, News International has accepted I was not responsible for the matter in question and there is no valid or reliable evidence now to support their sudden volte face.
At the length, truth will out.
I await that time with patience but with a determination to fight my case to the end.
I was saddened to hear that News International was giving ‘off the record’ briefings about me to the press this week.
This has compelled me to speak for the first time since my name became linked to the phone-hacking scandal through the ‘For Neville’ email more than two years ago.”
I would request that News International abandon the unseemly practice of whispering behind the back of a loyal and long-serving former employee.
There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far, have chosen not to do so.
Therefore, let us all retain a dignified silence until we meet face to face in a public tribunal where the issues can be rigorously examined and fairness can eventually prevail.