Timeline: Hacking scandal hits News Corp bid for BSkyB

Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:06am EDT

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(Reuters) - Here are the main events in the long-running phone-hacking scandal that has closed the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid.

The scandal has come at a time when U.S.-listed parent company News Corp is seeking to take over British pay-TV firm BSkyB in its biggest ever acquisition, worth around $14 billion.

2000 - Rebekah Wade is appointed editor of Britain's best-selling Sunday tabloid News of the World. Aged just 32 and the youngest national newspaper editor in the country, she begins a campaign to name and shame alleged pedophiles, leading to some alleged offenders being terrorized by angry mobs. She also campaigns for public access to the Sex Offenders Register, which eventually comes into law as "Sarah's Law."

2002 - Schoolgirl Milly Dowler, 13, disappears in the London suburb of Walton-on-Thames in March. Her remains are found in September. Her murder is one of the most notorious of the decade and her killer is convicted only last month.

2003 - Wade becomes editor of daily tabloid The Sun, sister paper to the News of the World and Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper. Andy Coulson, her deputy editor since 2000, becomes editor of the Sunday paper. Wade tells a parliamentary committee her paper paid police for information. News International later says this is not company practice.

November 2005 - The Sunday tabloid publishes a story on a knee injury suffered by Prince William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson and second in line to the throne. That prompts complaints by officials of the royal court about voicemail messages being intercepted. The complaints spark a police inquiry.

January 2007 - The News of the World's royal affairs editor Clive Goodman is jailed for four months. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire is given a six-month prison term. Goodman and Mulcaire admitted conspiring to intercept communications while Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five other charges of intercepting voicemail messages.

-- After the two were sentenced, News of the World editor Coulson resigns, saying he took "ultimate responsibility," though knew nothing of the offences in advance.

May 2007 - Coulson becomes the Conservative Party's director of communications under leader David Cameron.

June 2009 - Rebekah Wade becomes CEO of News International. She marries, for a second time, becoming Rebekah Brooks.

July 2009 - The Guardian newspaper says News of the World reporters, with the knowledge of senior staff, illegally accessed messages from the mobile phones of celebrities and politicians while Coulson was editor from 2003 to 2007.

September 2009 - Les Hinton, chief executive of Dow Jones and former executive chairman of Murdoch's newspaper arm in Britain, tells a committee of legislators any problem with phone hacking was limited to the one, already well-publicized, case. He says they carried out a wide review and found no new evidence.

February 2010 - The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee says in a report that it is "inconceivable" that managers at the paper did not know about the practice, which the legislators say was more widespread than the paper had admitted.

September 2010 - Members ask parliament's standards watchdog to begin a new investigation into the hacking allegations at the Sunday tabloid and its former editor Coulson.

-- Pressure for a new investigation grew after the New York Times reported allegations that News of the World reporters "routinely" sought to hack phones.

January 2011 - British police open a new investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the tabloid. Police had said in July 2009 there was no need for a probe into the hacking claims.

-- The News of the World announces it has sacked senior editor Ian Edmondson after an internal inquiry.

-- Coulson resigns as Cameron's communications chief.

April - News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone messages. They are released on bail. The News of the World admits it had role in phone hacking.

June 23 - Levi Bellfield is found guilty of murdering Milly Dowler in 2002.

July 4 - A lawyer for Dowler's family says he learned from police that her voicemail messages had been hacked, possibly by a News of the World investigator, while police were searching for her. Some may also have been deleted, to make room for more messages, misleading police and her family. Police later say that they have also been in touch with the parents affected by the 2002 murders in the town of Soham, where two 10-year-old girls were seized and killed by a school caretaker.

July 5 - News International says that new information has been given to police. The BBC says it related to e-mails appearing to show payments were made to police for information and were authorized by Coulson.

-- The list of those possibly targeted includes victims of the London suicide bombings of July 7, 2005, and the parents of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

July 6 - Cameron says he is "revolted" by allegations that investigators from the paper eavesdropped on the voicemail of victims of crime.

-- Murdoch appoints News Corp executive Joel Klein to oversee an investigation into the hacking allegations.

-- New claims reported by Britain's Daily Telegraph say that the Sunday tabloid hacked into the phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 7 - News Corporation announces it will close down the News of the World. The July 10 edition was the last.

July 8 - David Cameron announces two inquiries, one to be led by a judge on the hacking scandal, another to look at new regulations for the British press. Cameron says he takes full responsibility for employing Coulson as his spokesman, defending his decision to give him a "second chance."

-- Coulson is arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and suspicion of corruption. He is bailed until October after nine hours at a police station.

-- The News of the World's former royal editor, Goodman, is re-arrested in connection with a police operation looking at alleged payments to police by journalists at the paper.

-- Police search the offices of the Daily Star tabloid where Goodman freelanced. The Star is not connected to News Corp.

July 10 - Rupert Murdoch flies into London to handle the crisis.

July 11 - Murdoch withdraws News Corp's offer to spin off BSkyB's Sky News channel. This opens the way for the government to refer News Corp's bid for the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own to the competition regulator, Ofcom, who will carry out a lengthy probe. Cameron says that News Corp needed to focus on "clearing up this mess" before thinking about the next corporate move.

-- Allegations surface on the same day that journalists at several News Corp papers have targeted former prime minister Gordon Brown. Police confirm to Brown that his name was on a list of targets compiled by Mulcaire.

July 12 - John Yates, Assistant Commissioner at London's Metropolitan Police, who was criticized for deciding in 2009 not to reopen the earlier inquiry, is to appear before parliament's Home Affairs Committee.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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