UK police under scrutiny, Murdoch tries to damp fire

Britain's senior police chief under pressure for staying at a luxury spa connected to former 'News of the World' deputy editor.

July 17, 2011 11:03
2 minute read.
Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON - Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper business, mired in a widening scandal stemming from phone hacking, pledged on Sunday to fully cooperate with inquiries by police, who themselves are under mounting pressure for being too close to his media empire.

There also were signs that the resignations of two top Murdoch executives, Rebekah Brooks, who was chief executive of his British newspaper arm News International, and Les Hinton, chief executive of Murdoch's Dow Jones & Co and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, had done little to alleviate pressure on Murdoch and his son James, chairman of News International.

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The Sunday Telegraph reported that members of the board of pay-TV operator BSkyB , of which Murdoch's News Corp owns 39 percent and where James Murdoch serves as chairman, are to meet in a special session on July 28 to discuss his future.

The younger Murdoch's handling of the phone-hacking scandal has been heavily criticized.

James and Murdoch senior, along with Brooks, face a hotly anticipated grilling in Britain's parliament on Tuesday, in which James will be asked about claims that News International misled parliament during earlier hearings over phone hacking.

The scandal has embroiled Britain's police, who are accused of being too close to News Corp, of accepting cash from the now defunct News of the World tabloid that was at the heart of the scandal, and from other newspapers, and of not doing enough to investigate phone-hacking allegations that surfaced as far as back as 2005.

Britain's senior police chief Paul Stephenson came under renewed pressure late on Saturday after it emerged he had stayed at a luxury spa at which Neil Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor, was a public relations adviser.

A police statement said Stephenson did not know of Wallis's connection with the spa, and his stay was paid for by the spa's managing director, a family friend with no links to his professional life.

Stephenson already had come under fire after his force said Wallis, who has been arrested over the phone-hacking scandal and is free on bail, had been hired as a consultant by the police.

Murdoch attempted to quell some of the uproar over the phone-hacking allegations with adverts placed in British newspapers on Saturday and Sunday.

"There are no excuses and should be no place to hide...We will continue to cooperate fully and actively with the Metropolitan Police Service," News International said in its Sunday announcement. Unlike apologies published on Saturday, these were not signed by Murdoch.

The News of the World, which published its final edition a week ago, is alleged to have hacked thousands of phones, including that of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler, sparking a furor that forced Murdoch to close the paper, and drop a $12 billion plan to buy all of highly profitable BSkyB.

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