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Dan Wootton remains at the centre of several separate inquiries following a special investigation into catfishing and abuse of power allegations published by this newspaper this summer.
On 2 October, the Metropolitan Police confirmed it was looking into matters connected to a 40-year-old man arising from a series of Byline Times articles unmasking Wootton as the controller of catfishing pseudonyms ‘Martin Branning’ and ‘Maria Joseph’.
It can now be confirmed that officers of the Met’s Complex Investigation Team have interviewed a number of people over matters raised by the articles and in connection with other allegations that cannot be reported for legal reasons.
There have been no arrests, although a witness against whom Wootton made counter-allegations was told last month that they will face no further police action. Wootton has denied any implications of criminal activity.
Officers have meanwhile been taking statements from a number of men in England and Scotland.
“There is top-level interest in the case within the police,” one source said. “They are taking a belt-and-braces approach and will follow the evidence. There is a desire for people with information to come forward and get in touch via their local police station.”
News UK, publisher of The Sun – at which Wootton worked for eight years until 2021 and which has appointed external lawyers to look into the alleged targeting of employees and some celebrities – has yet to offer its findings to detectives, as it did in 2011 when it cooperated with a Scotland Yard inquiry into phone-hacking and bribery scandals.
However, sources close to the company speak of an investigation that continues to warrant further attention and remains a matter of corporate concern.
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The Murdochs’ chosen external counsel, London law firm Kingsley Napley, has in the past acted for the family itself. Its former partner Angus McBride was appointed News UK’s general counsel in 2016 after acting for CEO Rebekah Brooks in her 2014 Old Bailey acquittal on phone-hacking charges.
A company source said: “News UK is taking this very seriously. The fear is of a big Lizzo-style pile-on of litigants [US entertainer Lizzo is facing a string of sexual harassment and hostility-at-work court cases] bringing possible law suits that try and make the firm liable for the alleged activities of an employee.
“The very specific nature of the information Byline Times published about Dan Wootton has led to questions which keep leading to more questions. Even in comparison to the phone-hacking business of the last decade or so, this is causing surprises in-house.”
Byline Times has learned that News UK has spoken to colleagues of Wootton’s who say they were solicited online for digital material of a sexual nature by the catfishing pseudonyms ‘Martin Branning’ and ‘Maria Joseph’.
The company is now also believed to be in possession of digital evidence connecting Wootton to those names, while some separate workplace bullying and sexual harassment allegations are also under examination.
It is not clear whether News UK will make all or any of its findings public, per a letter from The Sun’s Editor-in-Chief Victoria Newton to the House of Commons’ Digital, Media and Sport Committee, which asked about the Wootton affair in July.
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“The company will want to make a public show of legal and regulatory compliance issues being dealt with robustly,” said a source. “However, no firm decision has been made on whether to share findings. We need to get to the bottom of it all properly first. No one has ever seen anything quite like it.”
Wootton remains suspended by GB News as its star presenter earning £600,000 a year plus share incentives, following a September misogyny storm which saw actor-turned-activist Laurence Fox and Calvin Robinson axed from the right-leaning news channel.
Sources within GB News suggest that Wootton, whose week-nightly primetime slot has since been filled by another presenter, is not expected to be making any imminent return to air amid continuing speculation about his permanent broadcasting future there.
“The bosses at GB News are trying to be as fair and rigorous as they can be,” one source told Byline Times. “They do not want to end up with a messy legal battle with one of their star people over employment rights.”
Meanwhile, in September, Wootton placed his five-bedroom south-east London home on the market for £1.8 million, and has suggested to friends he might relocate to Scotland with his partner. Neither he nor his legal representatives responded to Byline Times request for comment.
GB News and the Met Police did not respond to requests for comment.
Dan Evans was a former News of the World colleague of Dan Wootton’s between 2007 and 2011. None of the sources cited in this story were paid
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