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UK phone-hacking whistleblower found dead: reports

LONDON (Reuters) - A former journalist who told the New York Times that phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World was more extensive than the paper had acknowledged at the time, has been found dead, media reported on Monday.

Former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare is seen in this undated handout picture released on July 18, 2011. One of the sources for early newspaper stories on the News of the World phone-hacking scandal was Hoare. British media said he was found dead at his home on Monday, but police did not believe the death was suspicious. REUTERS/The Sun/Handout

Police said they were not treating the death as suspicious.

Sean Hoare, a former show business reporter at the News International paper, part of News Corp, had also told the BBC he was asked by former editor Andy Coulson to tap into phones.

Coulson has denied being aware of any wrongdoing at the paper.

“The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing,” Hertfordshire police said in a statement. They would not confirm the identity.

British media reported that Hoare, who was dismissed for drink and drugs problems, had been found at his home in Watford, north of London.

Coulson was taken on by David Cameron as his communications chief in 2007, before he became prime minister.

Coulson quit the paper in 2007 after one of its reporters was jailed for secretly listening to phone messages of royal household staff to get scoops on the Queen’s family.

Coulson quit his job with Cameron in January this year.

A story in the New York Times last September said the practice of phone hacking was widespread, and Hoare told the BBC the former editor had asked him to snoop on phone messages.

(Editing by Maria Golovnina)

Reporting by Avril Ormsby.