9 Oct 2015

Greg Miskiw: ‘the Prince of Darkness’ of phone hacking

We meet in a cafe at an arts centre in a suburb of Leeds. Ukranian by blood, Yorkshireman by birth, Greg Miskiw is coming home, rebuilding things after prison, to give his first TV interview.

Half apologist for hacking – even now after a prison sentence – and half haunted and destroyed by the whole business, Greg Miskiw presents an intriguing figure.

“The Prince of Darkness; a one man crime-wave. He was the King’s Cross of hacking because all routes led to him,” says Graham Johnson, another Wapping insider and convicted hacker who has brought Miskiw out of the shadows for Byline.com.

“He was the original hard-bitten newsman. But he wasn’t a shouter or a bully on the whole. In fact quietly spoken. But with a reputation for bringing home stories again and again.”

And why? Because he was Glenn Mulcaire’s handler at the News of the World.

“I was working with a private detective,” says Miskiw, “and one day he said to me, I have this man you need to meet. That man was Glenn Mulcaire.”

If Miskiw was the Prince of Darkness, Mulcaire was the Emperor.

Miskiw relates story after story of Mulcaire’s apparently supernatural abilities. Miskiw needed to find a woman who had shopped her own son for raping a girl in Camden in North London.

Now this woman was in police  protection. Miskiw had a name but little more. He phones Mulcaire. Miulcaire had her address in 13 minutes.

So good – or so bad – was Mulcaire that he took over Miskiw’s life. On an occasional holiday the newsdesk would phone Miskiw three, four, five times a day asking for info on whoever. Each time meant Miskiw had to call Mulcaire. The family holiday was disintegrating.  His wife was going up the wall.

Miskiw knew he had to share his prized contact and finally told a desk colleague. To try to get some peace. Fatal – soon several people had Mulcaire’s details and the News of the Workd hacking went industrial.

For the first time, Miskiw says almost off-hand that the hacking of David Beckham’s various phones for instance, went on “again and again, all the time, for years”.

But how did it all happen? How did he and others stray over the line from journalism to a form of organised crime? Miskiw’s answers perfectly mirror Graham Johnson’s book “Hack” in depicting the pressures they were under.

Greg Miskiw: former News of the World journalist speaks out

“It wasn’t real life. It was a parallel universe. Every waking hour all you talked about and did was the story,” says Miskiw. “Of course the money was great – I was getting over a hundred grand 13 years ago – but the hours were insane and it was all you did. You were working the story or asleep. It was your life.”

“But,” I ask, “when you hack someone’s phone you destroy their lives because they cannot trust their nearest and dearest because stuff only they can know is getting into the paper and that is terrifying – how could you do that?”

“We were just living in a bubble. The pressure to get the story was enormous, whatever it took. If you failed to deliver you  were out of the door.”

The Milly Dowler hack was the nadir. Hacking into the phone of the missing teenager, the point where the criminal culture of the News of the World fell through the trapdoor to the point of no return.

“I was on holiday,” Miskiw says. ” I just lay there in the bed watching the fan go round and round. I was devastated. Just devastated.”

“So if I were Milly Dowler’s father sitting here now, what would you say to me?” I ask.

“Well,” long pause,” well,l I mean what can you say? It should never have happened. It was appalling. It was wrong.”

That said he is then quick as lightning to shift the blame onto Mulcaire as if he and the paper somehow bear no responsibility for wrecking life after life after life.

Blame-shifting becomes something of a theme as we go on. I put it to him that he is in some measure responsible for the paper being closed but Greg Miskiw is having none of it.

“Right. I didn’t bring down the News of the World. The News of the World brought itself down. News International brought itself down by reacting the way they did. If they had decided from day one to grasp the nettle and say, ‘Right, there was a handful of journalists who were doing this and we are going to get this right’, the News of the World would still be running now.”

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