Did Rebekah Brooks, disgraced former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct British tabloid the News of the World, give a cell phone to the mother of a murder victim just so her voicemail could be hacked? That’s what new reports suggest.
Originally, British police told Sara Payne, whose daughter was murdered by a sex offender in a case extensively reported by the News of the World, that they did not believe her cell phone had been hacked, since they could not find her name or cell phone number in their database of hacking victims. But they recently undetook a more thorough investigation, which reveals that the News of the World hacked a cell phone that Brooks gave to Payne “as a gift” in order to “help her stay in touch with her supporters.”
The situation is embarrassing for Payne, who, believing she had never been hacked, spoke out in support of News of the World. In the last published issue of the paper, she compared the closing of the tabloid to “the passing of an old friend” and referred to its staff — including Brooks — as “my good and trusted friends.” Her trust appears to have been misplaced.
Brooks, along with her bosses James and Rupert Murdoch, testified last week before Parliament that she had no knowledge of the phone hacking scandal, which she blamed on untrustworthy subordinates. Earlier, she tried to deflect the phone hacking accusations by pointing to all the good work News of the World had done — most notably working with Payne to pass “Sarah’s Law,” a British version of the American “Megan’s Law,” which lets parents view the sex offender registry. In a memo to her staff, Brooks called the fight for Sarah’s Law “especially personal to me” and proudly declared that “the battle for better protection of children from paedophiles and better rights for the families and the victims of these crimes defined my editorships.”
Of course, it’s possible that Brooks did not know the cell phone would be hacked. She has already released a statement calling it “unthinkable” that she had any knowledge of the hacking. Maybe she was simply so incompetent that her staff and private investigators did not hesitate to hack Payne’s phone, even though it was a symbol of Brooks’ goodwill toward her sources. If not, though, it’s clear that she took advantage of a murder victim’s mother in her time of need. It’s also clear that she and the Murdochs blatantly lied to Parliament.