Police are investigating allegations that a News International executive deleted millions of emails between News of the World editors from an internal archive, the Guardian claims.
The newspaper, which has uncovered much of the phone-hacking scandal, states the deletion of emails is an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry.
The archive is believed to have reached back to January 2005, revealing daily contact between News of the World editors, reporters and outsiders, including private investigators. The messages are potentially highly valuable both for the police and for the numerous public figures who are suing News International.
According to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted ‘massive quantities’ of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a small fraction to be disclosed. One of the alleged deletions is said to have been made at the end of January this year, just as Scotland Yard was launching Operation Weeting, its new inquiry into the affair.
The Guardian investigation also reveals News International:
• infuriated police by leaking sensitive information in spite of an undertaking to police that it would keep it confidential; and
• risked prosecution for perverting the course of justice by trying to hide the contents of a senior reporter’s desk after he was arrested by Weeting detectives in April.
The article goes on to explain the background to the emails and claims they could not be accessed or had been lost en route to a data centre in India.
The original archive was said to contain half a terabyte of data – equivalent to 500 editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica. But police now believe that there was an effort to substantially destroy the archive before News International handed over their new evidence in January. They believe they have identified the executive responsible by following an electronic audit trail. They have attempted to retrieve the data which they fear was lost. The Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been asked whether the executive can be charged with perverting the course of justice.