Ex-prostitute says Osborne story was hacked – FT.com
News of the World journalists hacked the mobile phones of a former prostitute and her advisers so they could run a “spoiler” story on George Osborne’s friendship with her, two people involved in the incident said.
On Monday, Natalie Rowe told Australian television that her phone had been hacked by Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday tabloid during 2005, around the time when she had sold her story, including claims that Mr Osborne, now UK chancellor, took cocaine with her 11 years earlier.
ON THIS STORY
Leveson orders inquiry into hacking exposé
Woman arrested in phone hacking payments probe
Murdoch saw ‘damning email’ on hacking
Fresh evidence casts doubt on Murdoch stance
Dowlers confused by voicemail claims
IN UK POLITICS & POLICY
MPs seek scrutiny of Revenue’s legal status
Pension tax breaks on Osborne’s radar
PM plans tougher crackdown on alcohol
Lib Dem anger as Tories eye Huhne seat
Mr Osborne declined to comment, but one ally said: “These allegations were widely reported and denied years ago. There’s nothing new.”
Ms Rowe told ABC Australia that she sold her story to the Sunday Mirror but was shocked that it appeared simultaneously in the News of the World, then edited by Andy Coulson.
She surmised that Mr Coulson’s paper obtained the story by hacking her mobile phone. But two people involved at the time said News of the World journalists could have hacked the phones of Sunday Mirror executives or of assistants to Max Clifford, the celebrity publicist then acting as Ms Rowe’s agent.
While it is common practice for rival Sunday papers to copy each other’s scoops after reading them in the first editions as they hit the streets on Saturday night, the News of the World managed to have a version of the Rowe/Osborne story in its own first edition on October 16 2005.
According to one person, the News of the World could do this because Mr Clifford originally offered the details of the story, and a photograph of Mr Osborne and Ms Rowe at the party in 1994, to Mr Coulson’s paper. However, soon after, Mr Clifford fell out with Mr Coulson over another client, the person said.
The publicist then took Ms Rowe’s story and copyright to the photograph to the Sunday Mirror.
“The News of the World ran a spoiler in its first edition, but in order to avoid big trouble over copyright – it didn’t have rights to that material – they had to be sure the Sunday Mirror was going to run Natalie Rowe’s story in the first edition,” the person said.
“That is why they hacked the phones, either hers or someone advising her, or the Sunday Mirror’s.”
Mr Coulson was subsequently appointed as Conservative party director of communications , on Mr Osborne’s recommendation according to Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive.
Mirror Group Newspapers did not return a call seeking comment. News International, publisher of the News of the World, which closed in July, and Mr Clifford declined to comment.