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Originally published Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 10:06 PM

U.K. investigates claim that police were bribed to track phones

Scotland Yard, reeling from a suspected police role in Britain's phone-hacking scandal, was asked Thursday to investigate another claim: that journalists bribed officers to locate people by tracking their cellphone signals.

Former Murdoch staff say it wasn't just one reporter

James Murdoch has been contradicted over testimony in which he claimed to have been unaware of a critical piece of evidence in Britain's phone-hacking scandal. Murdoch was quizzed by parliamentarians this week over an email dating back several years that suggested other journalists at his company were involved in the campaign of illegal espionage whose exposure has rocked Britain. At the time, Murdoch's News International claimed that only a single rogue reporter was responsible for the spying. In a joint statement, former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former News International legal manager Tom Crone said Thursday that they had informed Murdoch of the email.

Murdoch, in a statement, said, "I stand by my testimony to the select committee."

The Associated Press

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LONDON — Scotland Yard, reeling from a suspected police role in Britain's phone-hacking scandal, was asked Thursday to investigate another claim: that journalists bribed officers to locate people by tracking their cellphone signals.

The practice is known as "pinging" because of the way cellphone signals bounce off relay towers as they try to find reception.

Jenny Jones, a member of the board that oversees the Metropolitan Police Authority, cited claims that reporters at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid paid off corrupt police officers to trace cellphones.

The accusation was made by Sean Hoare, a former News of the World reporter who spoke to The New York Times about skulduggery at the tabloid. Hoare — who was fired in 2005 — said officers were paid nearly $500 per trace. The paper cited a second former News of the World journalist as corroborating Hoare's claim.

Hoare was found dead Monday at his home near London; police say the death is not suspicious.

Jones asked Scotland Yard to examine the records of all cases in which police accessed phone-tracking data "to ensure those were valid requests."

Meanwhile, a key figure in the hacking scandal who had worked as an editor at News of the World surfaced in Florida on Thursday, saying he was preparing to return to Britain and was talking to the British police.

The editor, Greg Miskiw, could provide details about pinging and about which executives might have known about the illegal hacking at the Murdoch-owned tabloid and how widespread it was.

Separately, News Corp. on Thursday said it had fired a staff member at The Sun, another newspaper in Rupert Murdoch's British media empire. The company said the editor was fired for his previous work at News of the World.

The editor who emerged in Florida, Miskiw, worked on the news desk of News of the World. His name appears on a contract with Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked for the newspaper and was sent to jail in 2007 for hacking the voice-mail messages of members of the royal household.

Miskiw was at News of the World when Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of the paper's parent company, News International, and Andy Coulson, who later worked for Prime Minister David Cameron, were its editors. Miskiw left News of the World in 2005 and had been living in Manchester, England, but his recent location had not been known.

A former reporter for News of the World said this month that Miskiw had helped him find a source by using pinging.

Miskiw did not answer calls for comment.

Mulcaire, the private investigator at the heart of the scandal, broke his long silence a few hours after News Corp. said it was terminating its arrangement to pay his legal fees in the 37 lawsuits over phone hacking claims that he now faces.

His appearance before the television cameras outside his home in a southern London suburb raised questions about whether he too might soon provide more details about whether executives at News Corp. had covered up the hacking, although he refused to provide immediate comment.

He made another statement Thursday indicating he was cooperating with police but that he would not speak publicly to say what he knew about the extent of the hacking until after the police inquiry had ended.

Several former News of the World employees said the person fired by News Corp. on Thursday was Matt Nixson, the features editor of The Sun who had worked until recently for News of the World. Nixson was fired "because of something found in his emails," the former employees said.

Citing News Corp., the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that he had been fired over accusations of phone hacking.

Nixson has told friends he did nothing wrong, the former employees said.

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