The Mystery Woman Behind the Murdoch Mess | Business | Vanity Fair
McMullan says that Wade knew about the use of private investigators—“Impossible not to,” he says. “I was deputy features editor. I ran the same department that she did, and every week we’d see the bills from the private investigators: £2,000, £4,000.” However, he can’t be sure she always knew what they were doing.
“She was quite sweet in those days,” says McMullan. “She knew she was out of her depth and would rely on other people to make her shine. And, funnily enough, it was because she was so hopeless, we wanted to protect her as our boss when we would find out she didn’t know what she was doing,” he recalls. “So that worked, as one management style, if you like.”
“She’d get you to do things,” says another former News of the World reporter. “She had this charisma, this magnetic attraction,” he says. “She would praise to high heaven, make you feel like you were on top of the world. It was only afterwards that you realized you were manipulated.” In a largely male tabloid world—a business in which Brooks was once asked at a corporate golf gathering to sew a senior executive’s button back on his shirt, which she did—perceptions counted for a lot.
“She was very tactile, touching you on the arm, looking straight into your eyes as though there was no one more important in the room,” this former News reporter says. “From the way she acted, you would think she wanted to sleep with you.” But “no,” he says, “she didn’t want to sleep with the help; she was way too up the scale for that.”
She worked nonstop. “She was going at 150 all day,” this man recalls. “She was very intense. I thought she was a very insecure woman, actually, desperate for a lot of love and attention,” he says. “I was quite friendly with her at some point, as friendly as anyone can get with her, and in her quieter moments she would say, ‘No one loves me; I’m in a battle here.’ ” But even then, she was careful. Even out drinking after work, “she did not get pissed, ever. She never let her guard down,” and never spoke about her past. Like others, he wondered. “In the early days she used this accent, a girls’-school accent, meaning she’d been poshly educated, but every now and again the accent would slip and you’d realize: Oh, yeah.” There were rumors of a father who “was absent or who left,” of some kind of abandonment or “betrayal” that was felt deeply by her mother in particular, with whom Wade was, and still is, extremely close. But no one pressed.