After six years of phone hacking denials, damaging emails cast serious doubt on the Mail on Sunday’s claims of innocence
The Mail on Sunday is embroiled in a growing phone hacking crisis after explosive emails obtained by Byline Investigates revealed one of the newspaper’s top editors received transcripts of actor Sadie Frost’s voicemails.
The new evidence – a series of messages between convicted Fleet Street phone hacker Greg Miskiw and former MoS ‘number three’ Chris Anderson – casts serious doubt on six years of hacking denials from Britain’s biggest mid-market weekend publication.
The emails are the product of a sophisticated illegal surveillance operation on the communications of Ms Frost, her actor ex-husband Jude Law and their former nanny Jade Schmidt.
“The reason why ‘Mail on Sunday’ was written on the note was simple: that was the destination of the hacked data.” Glenn Mulcaire
They feature undisguised quotes lifted directly from Ms Schmidt’s voicemail messages, sensitive financial and private professional employment details, along with highly confidential medical information relating to a child under the age of 16.
The emails implicate the Mail on Sunday in a practice of which it has pleaded ignorance – both at the Leveson Inquiry and in response to a series of Byline articles.
In one of the denials, on December 11, 2018, the paper’s managing editor John Wellington insisted: “Neither Chris Anderson nor the Mail on Sunday have ever knowingly used information that was illegally acquired by Greg Miskiw.”
Byline Investigates, however, can now publish the emails – redacted to protect the victims’ privacy – sent between Miskiw and Anderson that leave the million-a-week selling newspaper’s claims of innocence facing a widening credibility gap.
One email sent on April 20, 2006 – a time when phone hacking was rife across Britain’s popular national news titles – confirms Anderson’s interest in any information Miskiw had on Ms Frost. On the subject, he writes simply: “Of course we are interested in Sadie.”
A few hours later, at 4:55pm, Miskiw follows up with a detailed 383-word briefing – gleaned unlawfully by notorious private eye-turned-whistleblower Glenn Mulcaire and reproduced at the top of this story – on the Bram Stoker’s Dracula actor, focusing on the business relationship with her then nanny Ms Schmidt.
The email makes little effort to disguise the origins of its contents, directly quoting from Ms Frost’s hacked voicemail messages and paraphrasing the confidential details of her life to the senior Mail on Sunday editor, as if chatting about the plot of a soap opera.
Miskiw also refers casually to the medical status of a school child, giving the name and telephone number – taken from the illegally intercepted voicemails – of a health professional treating them, before going on to talk about trying to contact Ms Schmidt for a paid interview.
For, in addition, Miskiw and Anderson were using intelligence gathered from the voicemails to monitor the activities of another newspaper that was chasing Ms Schmidt at the time with a £100,000 offer for her story.
The Mail on Sunday itself approached Ms Schmidt but failed to secure an interview, as shown in an email from April 27, 2006, seven days after Miskiw’s initial briefing, and at a time when Peter Wright, now a leading member of Press self-regulator IPSO, was editor.
In total, Byline Investigates has uncovered evidence that Mulcaire recorded 11 of Ms Schmidt’s voicemail messages, including three from Jude Law and two from Ms Frost, from whom Law had split three years previously.
At the time of the interceptions, Mulcaire had a £100,000-a-year contract with tabloid rival the News of the World. But he was also ‘recycling’ unused eavesdropped material through the trusted news desk contacts of Miskiw, himself a former NotW executive.
Byline Investigates has now identified at least six victims targeted by the phone hacking conspiracy linked to the Mail on Sunday, including Sir Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills, her friend Ben Noakes, and her sister Fiona.
Its evidence begins with the hacking notes Mulcaire made on the Mail on Sunday’s behalf and features messages transcribed long-hand by an associate of Mulcaire’s to whom Byline has spoken and who has confirmed the transcriptions are his work.
Byline Investigates is reproducing them for the first time with the detail of the messages blanked out to protect the privacy of those targeted, however Byline can confirm they are identical to the information Miskiw later emailed Anderson.
In one of his notes, Mulcaire wrote “Sadie Frost” near the top of an A4 sheet, above which he scribbled the name of the newspaper to which his illegal information was being passed: “Mail on Sunday.”
Glenn Mulcaire told Byline: “The reason why ‘Mail on Sunday’ was written on the note was simple – that was the destination of the hacked data.”
He added: “My assistant transcribed the tape recordings of the voicemails because I didn’t have time as I was focused on monitoring the voicemails.”
The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday have always denied participating in phone hacking for stories.
The papers’ Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre made a statement under oath to the Leveson Inquiry claiming an exhaustive internal investigation had been carried out to prove there was none of the hacking that forced the News of the World to close down in 2011 after 168 years in print.
When actor Hugh Grant suggested that the Mail on Sunday may have hacked his voicemails, the Daily Mail called it a “mendacious smear” on its front page.
Challenged on this at the Inquiry, Mr Dacre said in 2012: “I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into the newspapers’ practices – and held an inquiry – that phone hacking was not practiced by the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail. You know that because I gave this inquiry my unequivocal assurances.”
On Glenn Mulcaire, he said: “I have carried out a major internal inquiry into our payments and our computers. We have never paid any payments to Mr Mulcaire.”
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said: “We cannot comment on supposed emails we have not been shown, beyond reiterating that neither the Mail on Sunday nor Chris Anderson have ever knowingly used information that was illegally acquired by Greg Miskiw or Glenn Mulcaire.”