* Former executives challenge Murdoch evidence
* Murdoch stands by evidence
* Committee may seek explanation
(Adds new quotes, background, Sun sacking)
By Michael Holden and Georgina Prodhan
LONDON, July 21 James Murdoch gave "mistaken"
testimony to a British parliamentary committee, two senior
ex-News of the World executives said on Thursday, the most
direct accusation made so far against News Corp's heir
apparent in a phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch said he stood behind his testimony to the committee,
which had asked what he knew of a scandal that has forced senior
News Corp executives and two senior police chiefs to quit and
raised questions over press barons' influence on politicians.
The statement by Tom Crone, the British news group's top
legal officer until last week, and Colin Myler, editor of the
News of the World tabloid until it was shut down earlier this
month, was the first open challenge by former senior executives
of Rupert Murdoch's global media empire.
"I stand behind my testimony to the Select Committee," James
Murdoch said in response to the assertion by Myler and Crone
that they told him of an email from a News of the World reporter
to "Neville" containing transcripts of hacked voicemails.
Neville Thurlbeck was chief reporter on the weekly when it
published a story about English soccer executive Gordon Taylor.
Murdoch later approved a large payout to Taylor, but told the
committee this week he had not been in possession of all the
facts when he approved it.
The phone-hacking scandal has led News Corp, Rupert
Murdoch's global media empire, to drop its $12 billion bid for
the 61 percent of pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB it does not own after
public revulsion over allegations that dead soldiers' families
and a missing schoolgirl were among those whose voicemails were
MURDOCH "NOT AWARE"
During three hours of questioning on Tuesday, James Murdoch,
News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, was asked by
lawmaker Tom Watson: "Did you see or were you made aware of the
full Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail
"No, I was not aware of that at the time," Murdoch told the
committee, adding he was only aware of "key facts and evidence"
that came to light at the end of 2010 when detectives
re-launched a probe into phone-hacking and allegations that
reporters had bribed police officers.
An initial police inquiry led to the jailing of a News of
the World reporter and a private detective in 2007.
British police are now investigating allegations that about
4,000 people had their phones hacked by journalists from the
News of the World -- among them politicians and celebrities as
well as a missing schoolgirl, later found murdered, and families
of victims of the 2005 London bombings.
Crone and Myler said in their statement: "Just by way of
clarification relating to Tuesday's CMS Select Committee
hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's
recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the
Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken.
"In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which
had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."
Watson, reacting to the two men's statement, told the
Independent newspaper: "If these allegations are true, you can
only reach the conclusion that James Murdoch misled parliament."
John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee, said lawmakers
could push Murdoch for clarification.
"I haven't seen the statement but if it is the case that
Colin Myler and Tom Crone are in conflict on a serious issue
then that is a matter we would want to obtain a response from
James Murdoch on," he told Reuters.
"James Murdoch has already said he will provide written
evidence on other issues and we could ask for this to be
clarified this way."
ANOTHER EXECUTIVE SAID SACKED
In a sign of further turmoil at News Corp, the BBC reported
on Thursday that a senior executive at the News of the World's
sister paper, The Sun, had been sacked for matters relating to
his previous job at the News of the World.
Sun features editor Matt Nixson, previously deputy features
editor at the News of the World, was marched out of the building
that houses all News Corp's London newspapers, a senior
journalist from Murdoch broadsheet the Times of London tweeted.
"Understand at one time Nixson worked on NOTW news desk
under Ian Edmondson and Andy Coulson," the Times's Assistant
News Editor David Rose wrote on his Twitter feed.
Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, went on
to become Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief
until he resigned in January.
He denies any knowledge of hacking but his connection to the
investigation has encouraged the opposition Labour party to
question Cameron's judgment in employing him and provoked
questions about Cameron's relations with News Corp
(Additional reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Tim Pearce)