A former News of the World deputy features editor, Paul McMullan, said in an interview that the paper routinely paid cops for tips, with cash dished out from a safe “in the managing editor’s office.”
“That was true especially with Diana,” McMullan said, referring to the late Princess of Wales. “We would get calls from our police contacts telling us what airport she was landing in, and who was with her. That kind of information was worth several thousand pounds.”
He recalled one story he worked on when $5,000 worth of British pounds was paid to a beat officer who had found the daughter of award-winning actor Denholm Elliott — known for roles in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “A Room With a View” — impoverished and living on the streets. “He called us up and told us about it, and we covered the story,” he said. “He got the money, we got the story. She killed herself a few years later. I felt particularly guilty about that one.”
‘We did not do enough’
In addition to allegations of bribery — including reports in the Guardian this week that as many as five officers accepted News of the World payments in excess of $160,000 — Scotland Yard is under the gun for mismanaging the investigation into the phone-hacking scandal.
Yates admitted this week that the initial investigation launched in 2005 had been woefully flawed. Scotland Yard declined a request to comment for this article, referring to public statements by its top officials. Early this week, Yates called the choice not to move forward with a broader investigation earlier “a poor decision.” “We did not do enough,” he said.
Observers say Scotland Yard is now bracing for the fallout of an independent inquiry into the scandal, including involvement of at least a handful of its own police officers. But more significantly could be findings of systematic flaws within Scotland Yard’s management system that allowed the hacking investigation to fall between the cracks and corrupt officers to go unpunished.
“A few officers do things they shouldn’t, they are corruptible, and that is not shocking whether it’s the NYPD or the Met police,” said Tim Newburn, professor of criminology at the London School of Economics. “But what we will discover from the inquiry now is how and whether this was being managed higher up the chain of command, about a failure to act. The judge will be asking some quite searching and very difficult questions.”
Special correspondent Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.