LONDON – Ever since he scored a once-in-a-lifetime scoop by uncovering the depths of the phone hacking scandal, people keep telling British journalist Nick Davies that they have even more secrets to tell.
Davies says the hacking saga that has enveloped Britain’s police, politicians and press may ultimately end with the imprisonment of some of the country’s power elite.
“There will be some more arrests. Some people will be charged. There will be trials,” the 58-year-old journalist told the Associated Press in an interview.
The story unraveled in 2005, when the News of the World tabloid published a story about Prince William’s knee injury. Royal household staff told police the only way the newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., could have gotten the news was by listening to the prince’s voice mail messages.
A police inquiry led to two men working for the tabloid: reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. They were jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on messages left on the cellphones of royal aides, including some from Prince William and his brother Harry. Nothing was done against the tabloid itself.
“It never made sense: This private investigator was hacking into people’s voice mail as some unexplained hobby and the News of the World had nothing to with it?” Davies recalls. “About a year passed, and I got a phone call out of the blue from a terrifically good source.”
That tip led Davies to find more victims of phone hacking. It also gave him a window into London’s police force, which has since been accused of taking bribes for news tips and dropped the hacking investigation in 2007 after the two men were jailed.
But the next big break for Davies came in 2009 when the Guardian newspaper revealed that Murdoch’s papers had paid out more than $1.6 million to settle lawsuits involving allegations of hacking into phone messages, as well as illegally accessing tax records, social security files and bank statements of politicians, actors and sports stars.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called then-New York Times editor Bill Keller in March 2010 for what Keller described as a project that called for “some dedicated investigative muscle.” Three investigative journalists from the Times flew to London and spent five months working on the story.
In the end, it was the New York Times who got News of The World reporter Sean Hoare to go on the record to say that the tabloid’s editor, Andy Coulson, was aware of the practice. Hoare died Monday; the cause of death is pending but has not been ruled suspicious.
Davies said that since the scandal has widened, he’s been getting calls from potential sources at Scotland Yard, News Corp. and celebrities who want to know whether their messages were hacked.
Coulson said he knew nothing about the actions of his royals reporter and private detective but still resigned in 2007. Soon after, then-opposition leader David Cameron hired him as his communications chief. Coulson quit Downing Street when police re-opened the investigation this January.
“If the state of our knowledge remains as it is, the prime minister is under pressure – he’s not in serious danger,” Davies said. “If there is some big disclosure of information which we don’t know about, then in principle, (Cameron) could be in serious trouble.”