Phone hacking probe: NoW goes into print for last time

 

The staff of the News of The World leave the building on the eve of the final edition

The last edition of the News of the World has been published, its front page declaring: "Thank you & goodbye."

In a full-page editorial the paper offers an apology. "Quite simply, we lost our way," it says.

Publisher News International axed the 168-year-old tabloid in the wake of phone-hacking allegations last week.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates has expressed "extreme regret" for not reopening the phone hacking investigation two years ago.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said he regretted the way he had handled it after reviewing the initial police investigation which led to the conviction of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2007.

Mr Yates said he did not re-examine the 11,000 pages of material recovered from Mulcaire's home but spent eight hours considering the matter, and consulted the Crown Prosecution Service, but decided there was no likelihood of further convictions.

He said the decision now seemed a "pretty crap one".

"Thank you & goodbye," proclaims the final front page, over a spread of memorable scoops exposing the frailties of sports and TV stars, politicians and royalty - the familiar formula that still attracted seven-and-a-half million readers.

This week it could be more. The paper has doubled its print run, calculating that more people will want to mark a moment in history than protest at the alleged phone-hacking of Milly Dowler and victims' relatives, which brought the paper's downfall.

This time last week, no-one could have foreseen that Britain's biggest-selling paper would today be published for the last time.

For Rupert Murdoch, it's a bitter blow, closing the newspaper which - when he bought it 42 years ago - laid the foundations of his media empire, and now threatens to do it serious damage.

Mr Yates admitted the Metropolitan Police's reputation had been tarnished by the scandal but said he had no intention of resigning.

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp business owns the News of the World's publisher News International, is due to arrive in the UK to take charge of handling the phone-hacking crisis.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband has reiterated his calls for the prime minister to delay News Corp's planned BSkyB takeover until the criminal investigation into the NoW is completed.

He has put down a motion in the House of Commons calling for that delay and he told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme he hoped he would win that vote.

Mr Miliband, who denied he had "declared war on Rupert Murdoch" said the BSkyB takeover should be referred to the Competitive Commission rather than "relying on assurances from News International".

He said: "After this week I don't think the public will accept the waving through of this bid on the basis of assurances from News International executives".

During a short speech to more than 200 staff outside the paper's offices in Wapping, east London, late on Saturday night, editor Colin Myler held up the 8,674th and final edition of the Sunday newspaper, saying: "This is not where we want to be and not where we deserve to be.

News of the World front page The presses began to roll on the final edition at about 2150 BST on Saturday

"As a final tribute to seven-and-a-half million readers, this is for you - and for the staff, thank you.

"Now, in the best traditions of Fleet Street, we are going to the pub," he added.

The NoW has doubled Sunday's print run to five million, with money from the sales being donated to four charities.

In a full-page editorial on page three, the paper offers an apology for the hacking of phones.

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.

"Quite simply, we lost our way," the paper admits.

"Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.

"There is no justification for this appalling wrongdoing. No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history.

"Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years."

Alan Edwards, one of the NoW journalists who has now lost his job, told the BBC it had been a "terribly emotional" final day on the paper, working on a "momentous edition".

He said: "We wanted to leave with our heads held high. Whatever went on years ago was nothing to do with those of us who left yesterday."

Andy Coulson The prime minister has defended his decision to employ ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson

The family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked after her abduction in 2002, is to meet Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday to discuss the independent inquiries related to the phone hacking scandal, and will also meet Prime Minister David Cameron.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown told the Observer he had warned the government to get rid of ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson as its communications director.

"I warned Number 10 within days of the election that they would suffer terrible damage if they did not get rid of Coulson, when these things came out, as it was inevitable they would," he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Clegg has also confirmed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger had warned him about potential difficulties in relation to Mr Coulson's role.

Mr Coulson resigned as the prime minister's spokesman in January, saying that ongoing hacking claims were distracting him from his job. He denies knowledge of phone hacking during his NoW editorship from 2003-07.

On Friday, the 43-year-old was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and alleged corruption. Former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman, 53 - who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking - was arrested on suspicion of corruption.

An unnamed 63-year-old man was arrested at an address in Surrey on suspicion of corruption.

All three men have been released on bail until October.

Judge appointment call

Mr Murdoch said on Saturday it had been "a collective decision" to close the paper, which he admitted had "let down its readers".

And he told the Reuters news agency News International's chief executive and former NoW editor, Rebekah Brooks, has his "total" support.

Former News International executive Jack Irvine told the BBC he believed the NoW had been "sacrificed" to save the career of Mrs Brooks.

In a letter to MPs released on Saturday, Mrs Brooks denied all knowledge of alleged hacking of the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler or any other case while she was editor.

The Labour Party is calling for an immediate start to the judicial phone-hacking inquiry so evidence will not be lost as the News of the World closes.

The government has announced two independent inquiries into the scandal, firstly a judge-led probe into the activities of the NoW and other papers, and the failure of the original police investigation from 2005 into phone hacking.

The second inquiry will examine the ethics and culture of the press.

 

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