Tory press boss hit by new phone hacking claims

The New York Times has published an online preview of an investigation into phone hacking at UK newspaper News Of The World, ahead of a full exposé in its magazine on Sunday.

The forthcoming revelations centre on the involvement of former editor Andy Coulson - now Director of Communications for the Conservative party, David Cameron's top media spin doctor.

The NYT's five-month investigation focused on the NOTW phone-hacking scandal of 2006, which saw the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire both jailed for intercepting the phone messages of royal aides and celebrities including Max Clifford and supermodel Elle Macpherson.

Coulson resigned as editor after the affair, but has always insisted that he knew nothing about it.

Batting aside criticism, new boss David Cameron has said that he believes in "giving people second chances".

The NYT now alleges that not only was phone-hacking more widespread than previously admitted, but that Coulson knew all about it.

"Everyone knew," one unnamed senior reporter told the paper. "The office cat knew."

According to the NYT report, "One former editor said Coulson talked freely with colleagues about the dark arts, including hacking."

Phone hacking involves unauthorised access to the voicemail messages of celebrities and others, either by obtaining or guessing the four-digit PIN code required to access them, which is frequently never reset from the network's default.

The investigation quotes former NOTW employee Sarah Marshall, who claims to have witnessed phone-hacking at the paper, saying: "It was an industry wide thing. Talk to any tabloid journalist in the United Kingdom, and they can tell you each phone company's four-digit codes. Every hack on every newspaper knew this was done."

Coulson last night said: "I absolutely deny these allegations."