Weatherup said to have been close to James Murdoch.
The latest Newscorp journalist to be arrested, James Weatherup, was something of a Murdoch lifer: as long ago as 23 October 1994, he was bylined in The News of the World as being the author of “Page 3 Helen let me tie her to the bed”. His career since then has followed very much the same narrow path – scandal about celebs and salacious details of their sex lives. So he was immediately a subject of prime suspicion for the Met’s Operation Weeter’s being headed by Sue Akers.
The biog is a familiar one: Weatherup was news editor at the News of the World for about 18 months from 2004, and was one of the inner circle of executives under the then editor, Andy Coulson. As the third news editor at the paper under Coulson, Weatherup was one of a handful of senior employees who would take part in private discussions of major news stories with other senior members of the Newscorp management.
But there seems to be a crucial link here. For in fulfilling this role, he came into close contact with Rupert’s heir apparent, James Murdoch. The proprietor’s son was impressed by the celebrity gossip-writer, and allegedly chose him to write about Ross Kemp, starring at the time in a Sky documentary about soldiers in Afghanistan – the ingeniously titled Ross Kemp in Afghanistan.
The idea of the documentary was first thought of by Kemp in early 2005, following a series of programmes about gangs. Kemp pitched the idea to James Murdoch, head of Sky TV. Murdoch bought the concept, and (it is alleged) personally chose Weatherup to write a series of NotW puffery pieces trailing the Sky series. (‘TV’s Ross Kemp on horrors & heroes of Afghanistan By James Weatherup…Speaking in detail for the first time about filming a hard-hitting Sky One documentary with the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment….etc etc).
This latest development makes Rupert Murdoch’s decision to move his son 3,000 miles away from the scandal look increasingly wise. For there can be no doubt that MPs and rival papers will soon be asking how the Murdoch heir could have had such a close relationship with both Coulson and Weatherup without knowing about the propensity for hacking celebrity mobile phones. But then, Andy Coulson apparently knew nothing either, so anything is possible.