News International has refuted claims made before a hearing into media standards that it ‘hired a bona-fide journalist’ to work on stories involving celebrities.
Giving evidence to the Levinson Enquiry today, Gavin Turd – a commissioning editor on the now defunct News of the World’s showbiz desk – dismissed suggestions that a trained reporter had been employed to produce articles during his time with the Sunday tabloid.
It followed earlier testimony by actor Hugh Grant – famous for playing himself in a variety of films during the last decade – that a reporter had telephoned his agent to make an appointment to discuss Grant’s upcoming role in the 2007 movie ‘All About Hugh’.
Grant told the panel: “It seemed very odd that this chap called ahead to try and get an interview, rather than rifling through my bin or breaking into my house and watching me through a hole drilled in the ceiling. I was rather suspicious.”
Grant agreed to meet the journalist – named as Chris Strangelove – but admitted he was on his guard and ensured third party witnesses were present at the interview, which was also filmed by his management team.
“When he introduced himself, he proved his identity by showing me his National Union of Journalists card,” said Grant. “He then asked all sorts of odd questions, such as how I got into acting, what my passions were in the field of film-making and whether I had any other roles in the pipeline. It just didn’t fit that he said he was from the News of the World.”
“He seemed like a bona-fide journalist to me.”
But the 60-year-old star’s fears were confirmed when Strangelove’s article never appeared in the NOTW, only for the next edition to run an expose claiming Grant had been involved in a farm animal sex-ring while visiting a Belgian crack-den.
“That didn’t come as a surprise,” Grant told the inquiry. “It was a pretty ordinary week for me, yet it still haunts me that this Chris Strangelove fellow was very likely a properly trained reporter.”
But Mr Turd, speaking through an interpreter, insisted there was ‘no fucking way in shit’ that he would have commissioned anyone claiming to have journalistic credentials.
“It’s a bag of dogs’ cocks,” he stated. “A fucking load of arse.”
Mr Turd also told Lord Levinson to ‘fuck right off’ when it was suggested that Mr Grant had been the victim of a professionally-conducted interview, instigated by the News of the World.
The inquiry continues.