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: (more…)