Metropolitan Police starts computer hacking probe

Scotland Yard
Image caption The new team will report to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers

A new team of officers is to probe allegations of computer hacking, the Metropolitan Police has announced.

Operation Tuleta will examine breach of privacy claims received since January.

It comes as the private investigator at the centre of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, Glenn Mulcaire, says he acted on the orders of others.

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne has said she was "very distressed" after being told her phone may have been hacked by Mulcaire.

Scotland Yard said the new team would investigate matters not covered by its phone-hacking inquiry, Operation Weeting, and report to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers.

A spokesman said there had previously been a "consideration of allegations" of computer hacking rather than an investigation, but now "some aspects of that operation are being moved towards investigation".

The Met investigation is understood to include an examination of the covert use of "Trojan horse" computer viruses, which allow hackers to take control of third-party computers.

BSkyB board

Last March, a BBC Panorama programme alleged that a senior News of the World executive obtained emails hacked into by a private detective.

Panorama claimed the paper's then-Irish edition editor Alex Marunchak was sent ex-British intelligence officer Ian Hurst's private emails in 2006.

Mr Marunchak has denied any wrongdoing. He said: "I have never met with a private investigator whom I asked to hack into computers to obtain confidential emails or other information.

"It is absolutely untrue any unlawfully obtained material was ever received by me at the News of the World's offices in Dublin."

The Sunday tabloid closed earlier this month following numerous phone-hacking revelations, claims that journalists paid police for information, and wider questions about press regulation and media ownership.

A public inquiry has been set up into the affair and another will follow once police have completed their investigation.

In other developments:

On Friday, Glenn Mulcaire's legal team said any suggestion he acted unilaterally for the News of the World newspaper was "untrue".

Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 after admitting to phone hacking while he was working for the paper.

In a statement they said: "As an employee he [Mulcaire] acted on the instructions of others.

"There were also occasions when he understood his instructions were from those who genuinely wished to assist in solving crimes.

"Any suggestion that he acted in such matters unilaterally is untrue. In the light of the ongoing police investigation, he cannot say any more."

Speaking for the first time on Friday evening, Ms Payne spoke of her distress but said she still had faith in those who had supported her.

"I am, as you can imagine, very distressed and upset by the news that my details have been found on Mulcaire's list and would like to thank everyone for their kind words of support," she said in a statement.

"I can confirm reports that I was given a phone by the campaign team and that my voicemail was only activated after my first aneurysm.

"Notwithstanding the bad apples involved here, my faith remains solidly behind all the good people who have supported me over the last 11 years. I will never lose my faith in them."

'Deeply concerned'

The then-editor Rebekah Brooks said it was "unthinkable" anyone at the paper knew.

Mrs Brooks said Ms Payne had become a "dear friend" during the News of the World's campaign for Sarah's Law.

"The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable," she said in a statement on Thursday.

"It is imperative for Sara and the other victims of crime that these allegations are investigated and those culpable brought to justice."

News International has said it "takes this matter very seriously and is deeply concerned like everyone".

Prime Minister David Cameron described the hacking scandal as "shocking in terms of the dreadful things that have happened".

There have also been allegations that the News of the World accessed the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks and families of killed British soldiers.

Meanwhile, staff at the New York Post, also owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, have been told to save any information relating to phone hacking or bribery of government officials.

The paper's editor Col Allan told staff the advice was in light of the NoW allegations and "not because any recipient has done anything improper or unlawful".

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