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Is This the End for James Murdoch?

Former staffers say he read incriminating email
James Murdoch

James Murdoch | Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

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Editors' note: This is a breaking news story, and is being updated as events warrant. 

Former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former News international legal manager Tom Crone have issued a statement claiming that James Murdoch was “mistaken” in an explanation that he gave to a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday about agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with hacking victim Gordon Taylor, the former head of the Professional Footballers' Association.

Crone and Myer said: “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.”

The 2005 "for Neville" email contained transcripts of 35 hacked telephone messages between Taylor and Jo Armstrong, a legal advisor at the PFA, that were sent to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire by a junior reporter at the News of the World. In the email, the reporter wrote, “Hello, this is the transcript for Neville,” which was a reference to the tabloid’s former reporter Neville Thurlbeck, according to Guardian reporter Nick Davies. In 2009, documents sent to the culture committee proved that Thurlbeck had, in fact, read the transcripts.

Murdoch told the committee on Tuesday he hadn’t known about the email when he agreed to make a payment to Taylor.

According to Nick Davies and his Guardian colleague David Leigh, a friend of Crone and Myler warned the two men that "to contradict James will be as good as coming out and calling him a liar," and they subsequently spent the entire day debating what to do.

The Guardian as a whole is taking an aggressive stance on this news; Davies and Leigh, for example, write, "If [Crone and Myler's] statement of tonight is correct, Rupert's son will have proved to have misled Parliament.

"He will also have destroyed the Murdoch family's last line of defence against the scandal—that they knew nothing, and had been betrayed by those underlings they trusted. . . . James Murdoch's future has been put into play in the most dramatic fashion."

And Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger tweeted, "if Crone & Myler are right that's the end for James."

Meanwhile, News Corp. has put out a statement from James Murdoch in which he says, simply, "I stand behind my testimony to the Select Committee."

But the committee doesn't intend to ignore the statement from Myler and Crone. Committee chairman John Whittingdale told the Guardian, "We as a committee regarded the 'for Neville' email as one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the whole inquiry. We will be asking James Murdoch to respond and ask him to clarify."