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Guardian 'warned Cameron' over Coulson's jobs for criminal PIs

Did Downing Street know about Andy Coulson’s investigators and their problems with the law? The Guardian says: Yes.

Andy Coulson was hired by David Cameron shortly after quitting the NOTW, and was on the public payroll after Cameron became PM.
Andy Coulson was hired by David Cameron shortly after quitting the NOTW, and was on the public payroll after Cameron became PM.
Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER has issued a statement asserting that it advised one of David Cameron’s senior aides about Andy Coulson had hired a private detective with a lengthy history of illegal activities.

The statement raises new question marks on how much Downing Street knew about the illegal activities carried out by the News of the World under Andy Coulson’s watch – and whether Number 10 simply disregarded the claims when it retained Coulson as a press advisor on the public payroll.

The paper said it had warned Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s director of strategy, about private investigator Jonathan Rees and his history of illegal activities in February of this year – sharing details that the paper could not print due to ongoing legal proceedings.

The Guardian’s deputy editor Ian Katz advised Downing Street that Coulson had re-hired Rees despite a previous incident where he had been jailed for seven years for planting cocaine in a woman’s car in order to frame her.

Rees was also awaiting trial for a murder in which the victim had been found with an axe in his head, the statement alleges.

Overall, the paper made it clear to Hilton that Rees had been involved in massive corruption while on duty for the News of the World, and that it was impossible for Coulson not to have been aware of this when he was hired.

Yesterday Cameron told reporters he had not been given any such advice from the Guardian, and defended hiring Coulson saying he acted in good faith with a man who deserved a ‘second chance’.

The Guardian’s statement says its advice was shared with Cameron’s chief of staff, Edward Llewelyn – meaning it would have at least been known at the highest echelons of Number 10.

Sky News’ political editor Adam Boulton has concurred with this assessment, saying he believed the advice had been shared with senior aides but not with the Prime Minister himself.

Final edition

The final edition of the News of the World goes to print this evening, with staff posing for collective photographs as editor Colin Meyler offered his congratulations for their “consummate professionalism”.

In a circular to staff, viewed by PA and carried by the Guardian, Meyler wrote:

Today is clearly a very difficult day for us all. Who could have imagined this time last week that we would be putting out the last edition of this great newspaper after 168 years?

But we are – and I know that you will display the same consummate professionalism that you have always done.

It’s not where we want to be and it’s not where we deserve to be. But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of.

I could not have been more proud or privileged to have you as my colleagues. You have made enormous sacrifices for this company and I want you to know that your brilliant, creative talents have been the real foundation for making the News of the World the greatest newspaper in the world.

Tomorrow’s issue will have a UK print run of five million, twice it usual run, as News International expects the final copy of the 168-year-old title to become a collectors’ item.

Tomorrow’s edition will not carry any paid advertisements, and all revenue from its sales will be donated to charity.

More: Andy Coulson released after arrest over phone hacking

Read: Murdoch jets in to handle hacking crisis – as his son could face prosecution

Poll: Should the News of the World have been closed?

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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