‘UK tabloid right to publish Beckham affair’

Last Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 22:38

London: The News of the World ran
allegations that football icon David Beckham cheated on his
wife after deciding it showed his family man image was a sham,
the paper`s former chief reporter said Monday.

Neville Thurlbeck told the Leveson public inquiry into
the ethics, culture and practices of the British press that
the now-defunct tabloid decided that the story was clearly in
the public interest.

He described the lengths the paper went to to verify
kiss-and-tell stories, saying that for every one published up
to 10 others were dropped because the required level of proof
could not be obtained.

Thurlbeck has been arrested as part of the police
investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World, and
therefore did not testify on that subject so as not to
prejudice the probe.

He has not been charged with any offence.

"A great deal of activity went into establishing the
truth of what people were telling us," he told the inquiry in
central London.

"The myth was we made it all up and that still prevails,
I think," Thurlbeck said.

"But we didn`t. We went to enormous lengths to satisfy
our team of lawyers that what we had was factually correct...
and demonstrably correct," he said, citing phone calls and
photographic evidence.

"Privacy has become a huge matter over the last three
years and I would say the kiss-and-tell story now is largely
dead as a genre," he said.

In 2004, he got the scoop on allegations that England,
Manchester United and Real Madrid star Beckham had an affair
with his assistant Rebecca Loos.

"We decided there was huge public interest in that matter
because the Beckhams had been using their marriage in order to
endorse products," he said.

They were making "millions of pounds on the back of that
image.

"It was a wholesome image that the family cultivated and
the public bought into on a massive scale and we exposed that
to be a sham."

Thurlbeck said he spent five months on the story in
total, including six weeks in Australia and at least five
weeks in Spain.

He was forced into revealing the magnitude of how much
money Loos received, saying it was more than 100,000 pounds
($156,000, 118,000 euros).

"It was the most I think I`d ever paid for a story. We`re
talking about a six figure sum. Just," he said.

Earlier Mazher Mahmood, the former News of the World
investigations editor, told the inquiry that he had not been
aware of any phone hacking at the tabloid, while defending his
undercover work.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 22:38

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