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Leveson Inquiry: News of the World editor 'ordered deception of McCanns'

By Martin Beckford, Home Affairs Editor 
3:43PM GMT 09 Feb 2012

Colin Myler, the editor of the News of the World, ordered his news editor, Ian Edmonson, to mislead a spokesman for Madeleine McCann's parents about an intrusive story the tabloid planned to publish, it was claimed at the Leveson inquiry.

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Ian Edmondson told the Leveson Inquiry that former editor Colin Myler told him to deliberately mislead the McCanns' spokesman about the newspaper's plans to publish Kate McCann's diary

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Former News of the World editor, Colin Myler Photo: EPA

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The parents of Madeleine, Kate and Gerry McCann Photo: David Jones/PA


Mr Myler was said to have told Mr Edmonson to have a "woolly" conversation with Clarence Mitchell and not reveal the fact that the newspaper was going to print Kate McCann's private diary.



He came up with the ploy to stop the family of the missing girl obtaining an injunction against the story being published, the Leveson Inquiry into press standards heard on Thursday.



The evidence from Mr Edmonson, the former head of news at the News of the World who is taking his old paper to an employment tribunal, contradicts what Mr Myler has previously said.



The former editor has told the Leveson hearing that his paper would never have published the diary of the missing girl's mother if she had not been aware of the plan, and that he thought Mr Edmonson had cleared it with the McCanns' spokesman, Mr Mitchell.




Giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice hearing, Mr Edmonson said he had a meeting with Tom Crone, the paper's senior lawyer, who gave a view of the story that "dismayed" his editor.



He said the editor told him to phone Mr Mitchell but not to make it clear exactly what the paper had and intended to publish that Sunday - "make it very woolly".


This was in case the McCanns "took action" to stop the story coming out, and also as cover in case they complained afterwards.


"It would be in order to blame Clarence, that he hadn't acted properly on instruction."


Mr Edmonson said he felt uneasy about doing this and suggested that the editor ring Gerry McCann himself, but was overruled.


Asked by Lord Justice Leveson if he had told his editor that he had informed the McCanns' spokesman about the planned diary story, Mr Edmonson replied: "No."


Although there was a "sea change" in the culture at the tabloid after the original phone-hacking trial and the Max Mosley case, Mr Edmonson said bullying still went on.


"Everything emanates from the editor," he told the hearing.


"It's not a democracy, the newspaper, it's autocratic," he concluded.


Mr Edmonson also denied he had told the reporter Neville Thurlbeck what to write to the women seen in a notorious sex video with Max Mosley.


"I wasn't in the habit of drafting or dictating emails."


He said he "didn't like the tone" of the messages telling them they could remain anonymous if they cooperated with the paper, otherwise they would face exposure.


"I think they're a threat."


He said the "majority" of stories in which they used the private investigator Derek Webb to carry out surveillance were about love affairs, and that some were in the public interest.


"There have been a number of examples of false public image - someone portrays themselves in the media as wholesome, faithful and would never cheat on their wife but they're doing something else in private."


He said politicians would highlight their "family values" in election literature while celebrities would "parade their children" in glossy magazines.


Mr Edmonson insisted the private investigator Mr Webb had been carrying out journalistic work and was simply better at following people than reporters, but admitted "it was a sham" to make him join the National Union of Journalists.


He said important phone calls would be taped but that he would not tell the person on the end of the line that they were being recorded, lest they stopped talking.


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