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Sean Hoare, former News of the World reporter and first to blow the whistle on the endemic phone-hacking at the paper, was found dead at his home on Monday, according to British media. Hoare, who was fired from NoW for alcohol and drug abuse, also went on the record to the New York Times, saying that Andy Coulson, former communications chief for the British prime minister and editor at NoW while Hoare was employed there, not only knew about the phone-hacking but actively encouraged the practice. Coulson has so far denied any knowledge of the matter.
The tragic news of Sean Hoare’s death is another shocking turn in the media scandal that has already engulfed the Murdoch media empire and threatens the stability of the British government. His body was found at his home in Watford near London, UK. According to local police, who has yet to confirm Hoare’s identity, “Upon police an ambulance arrival [...], the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.” Despite unexplained cause of death, the police does not suspect foul play.
His death is another bombshell in the unfolding events, arriving just after the high profile resignation of two top policemen of the Scotland Yard. Questions have been raised about the cosy relationship between NoW and the police department and whether it led to negligence on behalf of the official effort to get to the bottom of the phone-hacking scandal which has been years under way.
Hoare was the first reporter to officially confirm the claims of phone-hacking. He described in an interview with the BBC that he was personally asked by Andy Coulson, his editor at the time, to tap into phones – which makes Coulson’s insistence upon ignorance ‘a lie’, according to Hoare. Last week, he revealed to the New York Times that NoW reporters had access to police technology that locates people by using their mobile phone signals. The service was allegedly provided in exchange for payments to police officers. The use of “pinging” can pinpoint the location of a person using calculations of distances between phone masts.
The Guardian was able to publish further details about ‘pinging’ as Hoare explained the procedure of obtaining the target location. A reporter would ask a news desk executive about a person and “within 15 to 30 minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say ‘Right, that’s where they are.’”
“The chain of command is one of absolute discipline, and that’s why I never bought into it, like with Andy [Coulson] saying he wasn’t aware of it and all that. That’s bollocks,” told Hoare.
The unexpected death of Sean Hoare has come at the most critical time for the UK. British Prime minister David Cameron is under considerable pressure and has cut a 5-day-trip to Africa short to attend a special sitting of parliament Tuesday for an emergency discussion on the scandal. Opposition labour party members are accusing him of extreme failure of judgement when it came to hiring Coulson and some MP’s have even called for his resignation.
Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch and former chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks are expected to appear at the parliament hearing as well. Considering the pressure, the exchange could turn out to be very dramatic.
Former colleagues have been remembering Hoare today through public statements and social media updates. David Yelland, former editor of the British tabloid the Sun tweeted “Sean Hoare was trying to be honest, struggling with addiction. But he was a good man. My God.”
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