Timeline: Phone hacking scandal hits News Corp

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2011 12:18 PM
Timeline: Phone hacking scandal hits News Corp

(Reuters) - Here is a timeline of events in the phone-hacking scandal since it emerged on July 4 that murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler's, phone was hacked.

The ensuing outrage prompted News Corp to close the 168-year-old Sunday tabloid News of the World and drop a $12 billion plan to take full control of pay TV operator BSkyB.

July 4 - A lawyer for Milly Dowler's family says he learned from police her voicemail messages had been hacked, possibly by a News of the World investigator. The hacker had deleted messages on the phone, raising false hopes Dowler could still be alive. Police later say they also contacted the parents of two 10-year-old girls killed in the town of Soham in 2002.

July 5 - News International says new information has been given to police. The BBC says it related to emails appearing to show payments were made to police for information and were authorized by Andy Coulson, former editor of News of the World.

-- The list of those possibly targeted includes victims of the London suicide bombings of July 7, 2005, and the parents of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

July 6 - Rupert Murdoch appoints News Corp executive Joel Klein to oversee an investigation into the hacking allegations.

-- Daily Telegraph says the News of the World hacked the phones of families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 7 - News Corp announces it will close down the News of the World. The July 10 edition is the last.

July 8 - Cameron announces two inquiries, one led by a judge on the hacking scandal, another looking at new regulations for the British press. Cameron says he takes full responsibility for employing Coulson as his spokesman, defending his decision to give him a "second chance."

-- Coulson is arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and suspicion of corruption. He is bailed until October. The News of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, is re-arrested in connection with a police operation looking at alleged payments to police by journalists at the paper.

July 10 - Rupert Murdoch arrives in London.

July 11 - Murdoch withdraws News Corp's offer to spin off BSkyB's Sky News channel, previously made to help win approval of its bid for the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not own. This opens the way for the government to refer the BSkyB bid to the competition commission which will carry out an investigation.

July 12 - John Yates, assistant commissioner at London's Metropolitan Police, criticized for deciding in 2009 not to reopen the earlier inquiry, tells the Home Affairs Committee he probably did only the minimum work required before deciding.

July 13 - News Corp withdraws its bid for BSkyB. This pre-empts a planned vote in parliament, that had all-party support, on a motion for the bid to be dropped.

-- Tom Crone, legal manager at News International, leaves the company, a source familiar with the situation says.

-- Cameron gives details of a formal public inquiry into the affair, to be chaired by senior judge Brian Leveson.

-- News Corp's Australian arm launches an investigation to see if any wrongdoing took place at its editorial operations.

July 14 - Rupert Murdoch eventually accepts a request by parliament to answer questions on July 19 over the alleged crimes. His son James Murdoch says he will appear. Brooks agrees to appear, says police inquiry may restrict what she can say.

-- The FBI says it will investigate allegations News Corp hacked into phone records of victims of September 11 attacks.

-- Rupert Murdoch tells the Wall Street Journal, part of his empire, that News Corp handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible," making only "minor mistakes." Says his son James acted "as fast as he could, the moment he could."

July 15 - Brooks, former News of the World editor, resigns as chief executive of News International. Tom Mockridge, CEO of the company's Italian pay TV arm Sky Italia, will replace her.

-- Les Hinton, who told parliament in 2009 that any problem with hacking was limited to one case, resigns as chief executive of Murdoch's Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the WSJ.

July 16/17 - A direct apology from Rupert Murdoch is carried in all UK national newspapers under the headline "We are sorry."

July 17 - Detectives arrest Brooks on suspicion of intercepting communications and corruption. She is released on bail at midnight after about 12 hours in police custody.

-- Paul Stephenson, London's police commissioner, resigns after coming under fire over the appointment of Neil Wallis as public relations adviser to the force. Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor, was arrested on July 14.

July 18 - Cameron, on a shortened visit to Africa, defends his handling of the scandal.

-- Yates resigns over his role in phone hacking probe.

-- Former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare is found dead at his home near London. Hoare told the New York Times phone hacking at the tabloid was far more extensive than the paper had acknowledged at the time.

July 19 - Stephenson and Yates appear before parliament's home affairs committee.

-- Rupert Murdoch, facing questions from parliament's Culture, Media and Sports committee, says he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" when he heard about the Milly Dowler case. Asked if he considered himself personally responsible "for this fiasco," Murdoch replies simply: "No." James Murdoch also appears before the committee in three hours of testimony.

-- Brooks joins her former bosses Rupert and James in apologizing.

July 20 - The home affairs committee releases report criticizing News International's attempts to "deliberately thwart" the original hacking investigation.

-- Cameron, defending his integrity in an emergency debate in parliament, says he regrets the uproar caused by his hiring of Coulson. Should Coulson turn out to have lied, Cameron says he will apologize.

July 21 - Tom Crone and Colin Myler, ex-editor of the News of the World, say that James Murdoch's statement at the committee hearing that he had been unaware in 2008 of an e-mail that suggested wrongdoing was more widespread, is mistaken. The two say they told him about the email. Murdoch stands by his testimony.

July 22 - Prime Minister Cameron says Murdoch has "clearly got questions to answer in parliament."

July 28 - Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was abducted and murdered in 2000, has been told by British police they have found evidence to suggest she was targeted by the News of the World's investigator Glenn Mulcaire, the Guardian newspaper reports. The evidence is believed to relate to a phone given to Sara Payne by Brooks as a gift, it says.

-- The BSkyB board unanimously backs James Murdoch to stay on as chairman, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters. The board met before issuing full-year results on Friday.