James Murdoch is likely to be recalled to parliament to answer fresh questions after two former News of the World executives said on Tuesday they were certain Murdoch was told of an explosive email that indicated phone hacking at the paper went beyond one rogue reporter.
Commons sources said Murdoch would probably be ordered to appear for a second time before MPs next month to clarify whether or not he was told about the now-notorious "for Neville" email, which blew apart the newspaper's defence that phone hacking was isolated to its royal editor, Clive Goodman.
In a tense session before the culture, media and sport committee, Tom Crone, who left as News Group Newspapers' legal manager in August, said he had told Murdoch about the email. It was after hearing the news of the email at a 15-minute meeting in 2008, he claimed, that Murdoch authorised a payment of £425,000 plus costs to Gordon Taylor, a football executive. This contradicts James Murdoch's account of events.
Giving evidence at the same session, Colin Myler, who became editor of News of the World after Andy Coulson resigned over phone hacking at the paper, said it was "inconceivable" that Murdoch was unaware that the email indicated hacking went beyond a single rogue reporter at the Sunday newspaper.
Myler said: "I had made the point very clearly in my opening statement to that hearing that the 'for Neville' email was clearly a significant development."
Murdoch responded to Crone's claims in a statement, insisting he stood by his earlier testimony to the select committee. He said his "recollection of the meeting regarding the Gordon Taylor settlement is absolutely clear and consistent".
"I was told by Mr Crone and Mr Myler ... that there was evidence that Mulcaire had carried out [the interception of Mr Taylor's voicemails] on behalf of the News of the World. It was for this reason alone that Mr Crone and Mr Myler recommended settlement ... They did not show me the email, nor did they refer to Neville Thurlbeck [the NoW reporter to which the email allegedly referred] ," he added. "Neither Mr Myler nor Mr Crone told me that wrongdoing extended beyond Mr Goodman or Mr Mulcaire."
His statement is at odds with the evidence given to the committee by Crone. "[The email] was clear evidence that phone hacking was taking place beyond Clive Goodman. It was the reason we had to settle the case and in order to settle the case, we had to explain the case to Mr Murdoch and get his authority to settle, so clearly it was discussed," he told MPs.
"Since he gave us the authority we were asking for, I would take it that for the first time he realised News of the World was involved [in illegal voicemail interception] and that involvement involved people going beyond Clive Goodman," Crone added.
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