Ex-NoW reporter Sean Hoare 'died after liver disease'

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Media captionSean Hoare told Panorama that phone hacking was 'endemic' at News of the World

News of the World whistleblower Sean Hoare used alcohol "as a crutch" to cope with the phone-hacking scandal, an inquest has heard.

Coroner Edward Thomas said Mr Hoare died of natural causes after suffering alcoholic liver disease.

Mr Hoare, 47, who claimed phone hacking was rife at the Sunday paper, was found dead at his home in Watford in July.

He had told the BBC the then NoW editor Andy Coulson asked him to hack phones - something Mr Coulson denies.

The Hertfordshire coroner said Mr Hoare had done "extremely well" in abstaining from alcohol and did not drink for a year after being diagnosed with liver disease.

He began drinking again in December last year as he became caught up in the phone-hacking scandal, the inquest at Hatfield Coroner's Court heard.

The coroner said: "He was indicating that he was using alcohol as a crutch as he was under stress due to the interest generated by breaking the News International story."

He added that there was then a "steady decline" and he was told he had irreversible liver disease in May.

Mr Hoare's body was found after his father called police because he was concerned that nobody had heard from him in several days.

When the police went to his flat in Langley Road, Watford, on 18 July, they forced their way inside after seeing a body through the letterbox. They found Mr Hoare lying on his back across his bed.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ross said there were no signs of forced entry or foul play inside the flat.

The post-mortem examination found Mr Hoare showed advanced stage alcoholic disease, the coroner said.

Drink problems

Mr Hoare had worked on the Sun before being recruited by former News of the World (NoW) editor Andy Coulson to News International's Sunday title.

He was dismissed from the now-closed NoW because of his drink and drug problems.

When he first spoke out about phone-hacking, he told Panorama the then NoW editor Andy Coulson had asked him to hack phones - something Mr Coulson, who went on to be Prime Minister David Cameron's press chief, has denied.

The former journalist also told the New York Times that hacking was far more extensive than the NoW acknowledged when police first investigated hacking claims in 2006.

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