Timeline: UK phone-hacking scandal

The events that led to the exposure of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain.

News of the World hacking scandal
The News of the World newspaper is alleged to have hacked into mobile phone messages [Reuters]

David Cameron, the British prime minister, said on Wednesday there should be an official inquiry into a
phone-hacking scandal at one of the country’s top-selling newspapers, the News of the World, which has prompted a national outrage.

Here is a timeline of how the saga has unfolded:

November 2005 – News of the World publishes story on Prince William’s knee injury. This prompts complaints by royal staff members about voice mail messages being intercepted. The complaints spark a police inquiry.

January 2007 – News of the World’s royal affairs editor Clive Goodman is jailed for four months for  listening to voicemail messages left for the press secretary of Prince Charles and also for two officials who worked for his sons, princes William and Harry.

His accomplice, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, is given a six-month prison term. Goodman and Mulcaire admitted in November 2006 to plotting to unlawfully intercept communications while Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five other charges of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.

After the two were sentenced, News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigns, saying he took “ultimate responsibility”.

July 2009 – The Guardian newspaper says News of the World reporters, with the knowledge of senior staff, illegally accessed messages from the mobile phones of celebrities and politicians.

The actors Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, the Australian model Elle Macpherson and the former British deputy prime minister, John Prescott, were among those targeted, the Guardian says.

September 2010 – MPs ask parliament’s standards watchdog to begin a new investigation into the phone-hacking allegations surrounding the News of the World and its former editor, Andy Coulson, by then a media aide of David Cameron, the British prime minister.

January 2011 – British police open a new investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World. Police had said in July 2009 there was no need for a probe into the hacking claims.

The paper announces it has sacked senior editor Ian Edmondson after an internal inquiry into his conduct. Andy Coulson resigns as Cameron’s communications chief over allegations of phone hacking at the newspaper he used to edit.

April 2011News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone messages. They are released on bail.

April 2011 – The actor Hugh Grant writes in the New Statesman about his encounter with a former News of the World employee who told him that Grant’s phone was among those hacked. The paper admits its role in the phone hacking.

July 2011 – A lawyer for Milly Dowler’s family, says he learned from police that the schoolgirl’s voice mail messages had been hacked while police were searching for her.

July 5 – Relatives of victims from London’s 7/7 bombings in 2005 say police have told them their voice mail messages may have been intercepted by the Sunday paper.

July 6 – Cameron says claims that News of the World hacked into Milly Dowler’s phone are “disgusting” and calls for a public inquiry into the saga.

July 7News of the World announces closure, saying the next Sunday, June 10, would be its last printing. Fresh allegations against the paper emerge, suggesting phones of British soldiers who died in combat may also have been hacked.

July 8 – The oppposition Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, says “we need wholesale reform of our system of press regulation” and that whatever oversight currently exists “has failed”.

At a news conference, Cameron agrees that the oversight system has failed. “I believe we need a new system entirely,” he says.

A few hours later, Coulson is arrested on charges of allowing or supporting phone hacking during his tenure as News of the World‘s editor until 2007, and released on bail.

July 10 – After having kept a low profile on the growing scandal, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch flies to London.

The News of the World publishes its final edition.

July 13 – Faced with political opposition from all three of Britain’s most influential political parties, Murdoch drops his bid for BSkyB.

July 14 – After initially saying he would not face questions from the UK parliament’s media committee, Murdoch bows to pressure, accepting to answer questions over the alleged crimes.

Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the News of the World, is arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications.

July 15 – Rebekah Brooks, former editor of The Sun and the News of the World, resigns as chief executive of News International. And Rupert Mudorch apologises to family of murdered teenager whose voicemail was hacked.

July 15 – Les Hinton, chief executive of News Corp’s Dow Jones unit, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, resigns. Hinton was chairman of News International from from 1995 to 2007, when he became head of Dow Jones.

July 16 –  Rupert Murdoch apologises for phone hacking in major British newspapers following the resignations of his senior executives.

July 17 – London police chief Paul Stephenson resigned his position amid allegations of allowing the hacking scandal under his watch. He is due to be questioned before parliament on Tuesday, July 19.

July 18 – A second British police chief, anti-terrorism head John Yates, resigned, also to respond to questioning at parliament on July 19.

July 18 – Former editor of News of the World was found dead at his residence. The death of Sean Hoare has been “treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious”, according to a police statement.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies