Channel 4 News has obtained the first television interview with the journalist dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” for his role at the centre of the phone hacking scandal.
Former Head of News Greg Miskiw introduced phone hacking to the tabloid, and was the handler for the disgraced private investigator who intruded on thousands of lives.
In the interview, he confesses for the first time how the newspaper repeatedly hacked the phone of ex-England captain David Beckham – until now never admitted by journalists.
And he said journalists turned to crime at the former Murdoch tabloid because “the objective was very simple, just get the story… no matter what, no matter how”.
The story was brought to Channel 4 News by Graham Johnson from Byline.com.
Speaking for the first time, Miskiw also talks of his remorse over the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone, saying he is “devastated” by it.
Miskiw, 65, the former head of news and investigations until 2005 said: “We hacked David Beckham’s phones routinely, all the time, over and over again.”
Beckham has always believed he was one of the most high-profile victims of phone hacking, but Miskiw’s admission is the first time a journalist has confessed it took place.
Miskiw also said phone hacking was used in one of the biggest tabloid scoops in history, when the News of the World claimed Beckham had an affair with his assistant Rebecca Loos. The alleged affair has always been denied by Beckham.
Miskiw told Channel 4 News: “The David Beckham story, [regarding his alleged affair with Rebecca Loos] we had to track all these phones. From recollection [on that particular story] I don’t think we got anything of any significance from doing Beckham’s phones.”
Miskiw, who now lives in Leeds, was jailed for six months in July 2014 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages. He was released from prison after 37 days.
He broke his silence after being persuaded to confront his criminal past by journalist Graham Johnson, himself a convicted phone hacker, who is now a reporter at Byline.com.
Miskiw told Channel 4 News he was deeply sorry for damaging the lives of hacking victims, but in the “bubble” of the newspaper’s former Wapping HQ, anything was fair game.
He said: “Of course I am distressed by it. It haunted me for a long time and it still occasionally haunts me. You were in a bubble at the NOTW [News of the World] where the objective was very simply just get the story. No matter what. No matter how.”
Miskiw claims he only discovered that murdered 13-year-old schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked in 2011, when the story was revealed by The Guardian. He was on holiday when the news broke.
He said: “I was in Florida at the time and I just lay down on my bed and stared at the fan for a couple of hours thinking how awful. It was like a scene out of a movie. I was just absolutely devastated, absolutely devastated.”
He added that all he could say to the Dowler family was “terribly sorry it happened”. Miskiw was persuaded to speak out by Byline.com journalist Graham Johnson, who himself admitted phone hacking while an investigations editor at the Sunday Mirror.
Johnson was handed a two-month suspended sentence last year.
Speaking about Miskiw, Johnson said: “He was master of the dark arts. Glenn Mulcaire was the private detective who hacked phones, hacked emails, who broke into confidential records, and Greg was the recipient of most of that illegal information. It was being called the King’s Cross station of the dark arts because everything went through him.”