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Mazher Mahmood used private eye to target Tom Watson during Parliamentary Inquiry into Phone Hacking – Peter Jukes

_56593507_webbThere is another question raised by Mazher Mahmood‘s evidence at the Leveson inquiry that he never employed a private detective after his extensive work with Southern Investigations in the 1990s.

This is from 2009 when Tom Watson MP was asking questions as a member of the DCMS select committee about News of the World phone hacking.  Mahmood commissioned a private investigator to stalk Tom Watson MP at a Labour Party conference.

Watson told the Leveson Inquiry that Mahmood – known as the ‘Fake Sheikh – hired Derek Webb to trail him in 2009, to establish whether he was having an affair.

Watson was then a prominent member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee examining phone hacking at the News of the World. He claimed that  News International had a vendetta against him after he spoke out against the company.

Webb – a former police officer and nicknamed ‘the silent shadow’ – followed Watson and another Labour MP for seven days during the Brighton conference, billing News of the World in excess of a £1000 for his services.

(Around the same time Webb was also following key lawyers in the phone hacking scandal – Charlotte Harris and Mark Lewis)

An email exchange published by the Independent on Sunday with Ian Edmondson and James Mellor , show that Mahmood was the source of the erroneous tip off.

Was this abortive investigation in the public interest or part of the task of the free press to expose corruption?

Or was it – like the legal moves involving the Attorney General and the Panorama expose of the Fake Sheikh – a politicized  attempt to intimidate and silence critics through character assassination?

Read the emails below and come to your own conclusion. The Independent has redacted parts of these emails to protect the privacy of the woman involved.

Email 1

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: James Mellor
CC: Ian Edmondson
Time: 10.05am, 26 September 2009

Tom Watson MP who is a close lackey of Gordon Brown (ex-whip, anti-Blair etc) is shagging a [redacted]. The pair are already in Brighton for the conference and he has been creeping into her hotel. [redacted]. My informant knows her but won’t push her anymore about where she is staying etc. It will need politics to point out Tom at the conference and then for our biker to follow them. Also if you have someone doing nothing today, can they ring every hotel in Brighton and try to identify where they are staying? They are in separate hotels.

It’s a Saturday morning and the News of the World’s “fake sheikh”, Mazher Mahmood, brings in a tip: Labour MP Tom Watson is “shagging” a female politician. Mahmood describes Watson as a “close lackey” of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and also as “anti-Blair”. The email was sent days before News International’s biggest daily paper, The Sun, switched its support from Labour to David Cameron’s Conservatives. Although totally false, the email – headed: Labour sex scandal – excites the paper’s newsdesk. Mahmood makes reference to “our biker”. The News of the World may have employed a motorcyclist to follow targets. In 2010, Watson kept noticing a motorcyclist outside his flat.

Email 2

From: Ian Edmondson
To: Mazher Mahmood
Time: 10.11am, 26 September

Great story. Get Derek on the case today. Ps he’s v easy to spot. You might want to checks his recent cutts, v interesting!

Six minutes after Mahmood sends his email, the assistant editor (News), Ian Edmondson, who is copied into the correspondence, responds “great story” and adds: “Get Derek on the case today.” Derek is Derek Webb, the former policeman who followed scores of celebrities, sports people and politicians – including Cabinet ministers – for the News of the World. He would tail his targets, noting down where they went, what they wore and who they met. If Webb found evidence of illicit affairs, he would call the News of the World’s newsdesk, who would send a photographer to capture the evidence.

Email 3

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: James Mellor
Time: 10.15am, 26 September

Ian suggests we put Derek on the case.

Mahmood informs Mellor, the news editor, that Edmondson, Mellor’s superior, does intend to commission Derek Webb.

Email 4

From: James Mellor
To: Mazher Mahmood
Time: 10.28am, 26 September

Let me have a think given [redacted] story.

Boss is minded to front [redacted] later today. I’ll check when he wants us to go to him and let you know.

Mellor appears to express reservations about deploying Webb, though it’s possible this first sentence is about a different story because News International has redacted a key word.

Email 5

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: James Mellor
Time: 10.34am, 26 September


Mahmood waits for instructions.

Email 6

From: James Mellor
To: Mazher Mahmood
Time: 10.45am, 26 September

Can you put Derek on the Tom Watson case from as soon as he is able. I’ll get someone starting to dig into her background and will advise.

Mellor tells Mahmood to order Derek Webb to begin the surveillance on Watson as soon as possible.

Email 7

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: James Mellor
Time: 4.56pm, 26 September

Incidentally the girl involved is [redacted] the election. She is in cutts with pic.

Several hours elapse and Mahmood, apparently pleased with the response from the newsdesk, talks up the Watson story again, referencing the political standing of the woman with whom he erroneously said Watson was having an affair. The phrase “she is in cutts with pic” is a reference to previous newspaper stories about the woman and that there is a picture of her in existence – which the paper could use to illustrate the “Labour sex scandal”.

Email 8

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: Ian Edmondson
Time: 12.39pm, 28 September

Any thoughts on how we can track down Watson/ [redacted]? Should we seek help from politics? Incidentally the [redacted] investigation seems to be going well. [redacted] is pals with him. I suggested he says he is a chsuffeur (sic) to an Indian businessman who is a huge [redacted] fan. That would lead to meet with him/drugs/meet with [redacted]/tour of the ground etc. wdyt?

At lunchtime on Monday, having been instructed to commission Webb, Mahmood wonders what else can be done, asking: “Any thoughts on how we can track down Watson?” He wonders whether he should ask the News of the World’s political team for help in locating Watson. He then discusses another story, which appears to be something of a fishing expedition, referring to “meet with him/drugs/meet with [redacted by News International]/tour of the ground etc…”

Email 9

From: Ian Edmondson
To: Mazher Mahmood
Time: 1.15pm, 28 September

Will call in half an hour, just up to my eyeballs in another story which I was going to mention to you.

Edmondson is too busy to respond but says he will call shortly.

Email 10

From: Mazher Mahmood
To: Ian Edmondson
Time: 1.33pm, 28 September

Derek en-route to Brighton. I’m going down with Conrad now. Hoping to get [redacted] hotel info from informant.

Mahmood confirms that Derek Webb is heading down to the Labour Party conference in Brighton to tail Watson. Mahmood is also “going down with Conrad” – probably a photographer. Mahmood is hoping his informant will furnish him with the hotel of the female politician.

Webb duly follows Watson for the duration of the Labour Party Conference. The tip, however, is false and the News of the World does not publish any story.

This post originally appeared on the Fothom Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks


  1. thegentlemancaller100

    The seamier side of life eh…this goes on a lot then…..

  2. sdbast

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. artmanjosephgrech

    But I thought Mahmood was/is a contractor doing business for governments and government agencies, for media and any interest will to pay a hit man, character assassination, apologies if this wrong

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