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Brooks in ‘Vaz letter’ extension mystery

Why did Met cop Andy Hayman dine with Newscorp staff shortly before Mulcaire raids?

Gallagher……scoop supremo with nothing to say.

As the BBC today devoted several web pages to Newscorp’s admission of hacking liability, The Independent splashed the story on its front page. Even Sky News can no longer avoid talking about the Hackgate scandal. In the Guardian, the Murdoch admission of guilt enjoyed a front page second lead position. BBCNews on the telly is updating hourly.

But both the Mail and Telegraph remained silent on the issue. Talking to The Slog last week, a senior Fleet Street journalist heavily engaged in the investigation of phone-hacking wryly observed, “The amusing thing about all this that while this hacking was going on, we didn’t have any money – so there was no way we could afford the likes of Mulcaire. But others could.”

It does indeed seem likely that there without the grace of God went others. The Slog has posted before on the reticence of both Associated Newspapers and the Barclay Brothers to have the subject of illegal surveillance raised in their pages, but without hard evidence – and further action from the police – further comment is not required. I merely give the last word to Max Clifford, the man who fearlessly pocketed £750,000 of Murdoch hush-money: “I still think that this was a practice journalists throughout the industry had been indulging for years”.

How happy James Murdoch must be to be jetting off to New York. For it was he who personally approved the Clifford payment.

Meanwhile, there is more puzzlement today about why Newscorp appears to have a divine right to receive extensions on everything it is asked to produce. Now the company has applied for and been granted an extension to a deadline set by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to provide details of payments made by The Sun to police officers. The request – from entirely upright citizen Keith Vaz – followed evidence from then editor Rebekah Brooks to MPs in 2003. During this session (on video) she said: “We have paid police for information in the past.”

During the select committee session in question, Brooks was flanked by her amnesiac minder Andy Coulson. The second she uttered the  above words, Coulson chipped in helpfully with “But of course, always legally”. Mr Vaz’s letter is understood to be asking Ms Brooks how it is possible to pay police officers for information and remain on the right side of the law. This may explain why Rebekah needs more thinking time…especially as she no longer has Handy Andy to help her on the creative side of things.

She has until the end of April to come up with an answer.

There now follow a few very carefully worded paragraphs on the subject of Andy Hayman. Care is required, when matters Hayman are being discussed, according a friendly journalist who rang The Slog Wednesday. He explained that, it has been alleged, Andy is “watching every word written about him like a hawk”. So if you’re out there Mr Hayman, hi – I have rung your engagements agent a few times requesting you talk to me about some questions that still intrigue me. So if by chance they’re hopeless at passing messages on, I’m still here, and the email address remains

I can deftly avoid the attentions of Carter Ruck by handing a hospital-link to The Independent for this next bit – which, on the very same day as my telephoned warning, observed in a well-crafted story that

‘….the officer in charge of the 2006 [NotW] inquiry, Andy Hayman, held a private dinner with unspecified NotW staff prior to dawn raids being carried out on the homes of Goodman and Mulcaire….’

Well, in the interests of free speech and reader involvement, it behoves me to ask the following question: why? I mean c’mon Andy, did you dine with Charles de Menenzes shortly before he was shot dead in error? Did you have a bite to eat with Mohammed Abdulkahar in the week or so preceding him being accidentally shot during a pointless anti-terrorist raid on his Forest Gate home in 2006?

You may well have done for all I know, but this strikes me as taking police-public harmony to extremes. I can only close by this time placing Chris Bryant squarely in the frame for litigation, he having asserted earlier this week that “Andy Hayman has a great many questions to answer”. He does indeed: but first of all, somebody has to ask him to.