A journalist at the center of the ongoing UK hacking scandal said he was told he may as well “jump off a cliff” if he couldn’t provide stories for the front page of the now defunct News of the World tabloid. Dan Evans, in his testimony, said that the means by which he obtained these stories was the interception of private phone messages. The trial continues at the Old Bailey.
Evans became a reporter at the News of the World in 2005 – having been head hunted from rival publication The Sunday Mirror – on account of his skills as a hacker. His brief was to bring in big exclusives, but on the cheap. Very soon after going on staff, he put in an expenses claim for some specialized phone kit which would allow him to carry out this task. He was paid in cash for the phones and sim cards and the sheet was signed by two of the senior staff. He then got to work.
One of his first “scoops” came whilst listening in to James Bond star Daniel Craig’s voicemail and hearing a female speaking. When he checked the number against his list of contacts he saw that it belonged to Sienna Miller. Pleased with himself, he went to Andy Coulson, who was the editor at the time. He was told he had done good work; another reporter said, “You’re a company man now.”
Coulson then told Evans he should make a copy of his tape, put it into a jiffy bag and leave it at reception, so that it would appear to have been dropped there anonymously. He did so, and it was retrieved from the News of the World front desk with “mock surprise.”
Evans now expresses regret for what he did and has said he would like to “apologise to all involved.” The story of Daniel Craig’s affair with Sienna Miller was run the following week.
Evans has pleaded guilty to all charges against him between 2003 and 2010, including conspiracy to hack phones while still at The Sunday Mirror as well as conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. However, none of the senior figures at the center of the UK hacking scandal have changed their pleas from “not-guilty” to “guilty.” Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks continue to deny all charges against them even though Evans has said the former editor knew all about the phone hacking practices. Coulson was among the 10 names given to the court by Evans.
Indeed, Evans claimed that Coulson specifically crossed the room to listen in to the tape with Sienna Miller’s voice on it, and became animated and excited when he heard it; saying “brilliant” several times. After he left the News of the World in 2007, Coulson went on to be the media chief to British Prime Minister David Cameron until 2011.
Evans described to the court how a climate of terror descended when the scandal broke first two arrests were made for phone hacking in August of 2006. He described an atmosphere of “shock and fear” and a scramble to cover up tracks. They were all told “no more hooky stuff” and he quickly disposed of his notebooks and many of the tapes on which he had recorded voice messages.
Seven defendants are currently facing charges in the UK hacking scandal. British tabloids have always been known for edgy – as well as controversial – reporting. Testimonials such as Evans’ are providing a vivid insight into the prevailing culture at the News of the World in its infamous heyday, where journalists were pressured to come up with scandals for the fr page, by any means – legal or not.
By Kate Henderson