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Tom Watson MP has been one of the most vocal critics of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
Tom Watson MP has been one of the most vocal critics of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
Image: PA Archive

News of the World ‘commissioned surveillance of critical MP’ – emails

Emails obtained by Tom Watson MP, an outspoken critic of Rupert Murdoch’s press, indicate surveillance to try and find details of an extramarital affair.
May 22nd 2012, 12:43 PM 46 0

EMAILS OBTAINED by a British MP, who is one of the most vocal critics of Rupert Murdoch’s print empire, indicate that one of the News of the World’s best-known journalists commissioned surveillance against him.

The emails, given to a parliamentary committee and seen by the Guardian, indicate that NotW writer Mazher Mahmood – known as the ‘Fake Sheikh’ after his alter-ego, used to get stories for the paper – had ordered surveillance on Labour MP Tom Watson in 2009.

The emails claim that Watson was engaging in an extramarital affair – something the Guardian says it can find no evidence of – with Mahmood telling the paper’s news editor James Mellor that Watson was “shagging” another party member at the Labour conference.

It had been agreed that the paper would hire a former police officer Derek Webb, who was known to the paper as ‘Silent Shadow’, to trail Watson around the conference – which was taking place at that time – to try and substantiate the claims.

Watson, an opponent of Tony Blair who was loyal to Gordon Brown, was in the middle of a legal action against the News of the World’s sister paper The Sun at the time the emails were sent, over allegations that Watson was involved in online smears against the Conservatives.

The Sun formally ended its support of the Labour party during the 2009 conference which coincided with the emails, with the paper then opposing Brown’s premiership and later supporting the Conservative party in the general election.

The emails were handed over by News International to the House of Commons’ media committee, of which Watson is a member, by News International’s internal committee investigating the use of phone-hacking and other underhand tactics.

Mahmood was hired by another Murdoch title, the Sunday Times, after the News of the World was closed.

When Mahmood addressed the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year, he was permitted to do so in a closed hearing which was not open to the public or broadcast online – as all parties agreed that his visual anonymity was vital to allow him to do his job.

Read: Rebekah Brooks and husband to face criminal charges over hacking inquiry

More: Murdoch “not a fit person” to run Sky – MPs

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Gavan Reilly

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