May 27, 2024

British Journalist Arrested in Hacking Case

LONDON — Police officials said on Thursday that they had arrested a third journalist in connection with an expanding case of phone-hacking by reporters at the British tabloid The News of the World.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement announcing the arrest of a man early Thursday morning “on suspicion of unlawfully intercepting mobile phone voice-mail messages,” but did not identify the suspect, who remained in custody for questioning.

A person with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, said the suspect was James Weatherup, an assistant editor at The News of the World who has also worked as a reporter and news editor there. British news media also identified Mr. Weatherup as the suspect.

A biographical entry on the professional social networking site LinkedIn lists “crisis management” as one of Mr. Weatherup’s areas of expertise.

Last week, Scotland Yard arrested two journalists from the tabloid that is one of Britain’s most widely circulated newspapers. The men — Ian Edmondson, who was fired as the tabloid’s news editor this year, and Neville Thurlbeck, the paper’s chief reporter — were questioned, like Mr. Weatherup, on suspicion of illegally intercepting voice-mail messages. Mr. Edmondson and Mr. Thurlbeck were released on bail until September.

Many of the voice-mail accounts said to have been hacked by reporters at the newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, belonged to British royalty and international celebrities, including Prince William and Prince Harry.

The arrests this month signaled a potentially decisive turning point in the investigation, which has been under way for five years. Only two men have been jailed in the case, both in 2007: Clive Goodman, formerly the tabloid’s royalty reporter, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator. The paper had previously said that the two had acted alone in hacking the accounts of celebrities, some of whom are now suing the newspaper.

But the paper later acknowledged the involvement of others. A statement by the paper last week said it was cooperating “fully” with the inquiry. A spokesman for the paper declined to comment on Mr. Weatherup’s arrest.

The case has major political repercussions. Critics have said that the original police inquiry, which continued for five years without any arrests other than those of Mr. Goodman and Mr. Mulcaire, was inhibited by concern at Scotland Yard and in the previous Labour Party government over the strong political influence wielded by the media empire controlled by Mr. Murdoch, whose News International subsidiary owns The News of the World and several other major titles.

Before the general election in Britain last May, Mr. Murdoch switched his newspapers’ support from Labour to David Cameron and Conservatives, who had recruited Andy Coulson, the former editor of The News of the World, as the conservatives’ communications director after he resigned from the tabloid in the wake of the convictions of Mr. Goodman and Mr. Mulcaire.

Mr. Coulson accompanied Mr. Cameron to Downing Street after the Conservatives’ election victory, but resigned in January, saying the scandal around the continuing police inquiry into phone-hacking was distracting him from his job.

An investigative report in The New York Times Magazine last year quoted several people who worked under Mr. Coulson as saying that phone-hacking was rife and conducted at the behest of senior editors.

Ravi Somaiya reported from London, and J. David Goodman from New York.

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