Sarah Payne's mother allegedly hacked by NOTW

A phone given to Payne by Rebekah Brooks, to help her keep in touch with supporters, was targeted by

Police have found evidence that Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, the eight year old who was was abducted and murdered in July 2000, could have been targeted by the News of the World's investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The revelation that Payne's phone could have been hacked is particularly shocking in light of her close relationship with the newspaper, which under Rebekah Brook's editorship campaigned for a change in the law to allow the identification of paedophiles. Brooks said that the battle for "Sarah's Law" was one of her proudest achievements.

When she heard that the newspaper was going to be closed, Payne gave a heartfelt statement in which she said "it feels like a friend had just died". She also said:

The NOTW team supported me through some of the darkest, most difficult times of my life and became my trusted friends.

One example of their support was to give me a phone to help me stay in touch with my family, friends and support network, which turned out to be an absolute lifeline. A lifeline policy that we now adopt as victims' advocates.

Since Sarah was murdered, my marriage broke down, my brother passed away, then my mother and then my father.

I just don't know what I would have done without being able to reach out to my friends and family 'whenever I needed them' during these very dark times and it helped me stay in touch with the NOTW team regarding their support for my campaign to bring about Sarah's Law which went national this year.

It is thought that the evidence that police have found in Mulcaire's notes relate to this phone -- which, according to the Guardian, was given to Payne as a gift by Brooks. In the same statement, Payne said it would be a "devastating intolerable betrayal" if her phone had been hacked. She even wrote a column in the final issue of the newspaper.

This latest development will reignite speculation about how much Brooks knew about phone-hacking, given her close involvement with the Payne case and the campaign for "Sarah's Law" as editor of News of the World. Brooks denies any knowledge of phone-hacking. She told MPs last week that "we only know what we have read", and said she was horrified to read in the Guardian that the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked.

If the allegation does turn out to be true, the key question will simply be "why?", given that Payne had a close working and personal relationship with senior executives at the newspaper.

 

UPDATE 17.30

Rebekah Brooks has given a statement confirming that Payne was given a phone by the newspaper:

For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah's Law, the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last 11 years. It was not a personal gift.

The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension. It is imperative for Sara and the other victims of crime that these allegations are investigated and those culpable brought to justice.

 

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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She knew every trick to get a home visit – but this time I had come prepared

 Having been conned into another couple of fruitless house calls, I now parry the proffered symptoms and generally get to the heart of the matter on the phone.

I first came across Verenice a couple of years ago when I was on duty at the out-of-hours service.

“I’m a diabetic,” she told me, “and I’m feeling really poorly.” She detailed a litany of symptoms. I said I’d be round straight away.

What sounded worrying on the phone proved very different in Verenice’s smoke-fugged sitting room. She was comfortable and chatty, she had no fever or sign of illness, and her blood sugar was well controlled. In fact, she looked remarkably well. As I tried to draw the visit to a close, she began to regale me with complaints about her own GP: how he neglected her needs, dismissed her symptoms, refused to take her calls.

It sounded unlikely, but I listened sympathetically and with an open mind. Bit by bit, other professionals were brought into the frame: persecutory social workers, vindictive housing officers, corrupt policemen, and a particularly odious psychiatrist who’d had her locked up in hospital for months and had recently discharged her to live in this new, hateful bungalow.

By the time she had told me about her sit-in at the local newspaper’s offices – to try to force reporters to cover her story – and described her attempts to get arrested so that she could go to court and tell a judge about the whole saga, it was clear Verenice wasn’t interacting with the world in quite the same way as the rest of us.

It’s a delicate path to tread, extricating oneself from such a situation. The mental health issues could safely be left to her usual daytime team to follow up, so my task was to get out of the door without further inflaming the perceptions of neglect and maltreatment. It didn’t go too well to start with. Her voice got louder and louder: was I, too, going to do nothing to help? Couldn’t I see she was really ill? I’d be sorry when she didn’t wake up the next morning.

What worked fantastically was asking her what she actually wanted me to do. Her first stab – to get her rehoused to her old area as an emergency that evening – was so beyond the plausible that even she seemed able to accept my protestations of impotence. When I asked her again, suddenly all the heat went out of her voice. She said she didn’t think she had any food; could I get her something to eat? A swift check revealed a fridge and cupboards stocked with the basics. I gave her some menu suggestions, but drew the line at preparing the meal myself. By then, she seemed meekly willing to allow me to go.

We’ve had many out-of-hours conversations since. For all her strangeness, she is wily, and knows the medical gambits to play in order to trigger a home visit. Having been conned into another couple of fruitless house calls, I now parry the proffered symptoms and generally get to the heart of the matter on the phone. It usually revolves around food. Could I bring some bread and milk? She’s got no phone credit left; could I call the Chinese and order her a home delivery?

She came up on the screen again recently. I rang, and she spoke of excruciating ear pain, discharge and fever. I sighed, accepting defeat: with that story I’d no choice but to go round. Acting on an inkling, though, I popped to the drug cupboard first.

Predictably enough, when I arrived at Verenice’s I found her smiling away and puffing on a Benson, with a normal temperature, pristine ears and perfect blood glucose.

“Well,” I said, “whatever’s causing your ear to hurt is a medical mystery. Take some paracetamol and I’m sure it’ll be fine in the morning.”

There was a flash of triumph in her eyes. “Ah, but doctor, I haven’t got any. Could you –”

Before she could finish, I produced a pack of paracetamol from my pocket and dropped it on her lap. She looked at me with surprise and admiration. She may have suckered me round again, but I’d managed to second-guess her. I was back out of the door in under five minutes. A score-draw. 

Phil Whitaker is a GP and an award-winning author. His fifth novel, “Sister Sebastian’s Library”, will be published by Salt in September

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain