What has Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson have to do with the phone hacking scandal ? Read on and you’ll see the secret I’ve been keeping to myself for years. It may not be relevant but it’s not up to me to decide.
During the summer of 1999, I discovered the issue of phone hacking and decided upon myself to go on a one man crusade to expose the problem to the public because, Vodafone, the mobile network wouldn’t do anything about it and make their voicemail system secure. In fact they blitherly left it insecure for years which, in my opinion, has lead to the Leveson inquiry and the phone-hacking trial which is currently ongoing at the Old Bailey.
I was on a mission to make sure everyone knew about the weak security the mobile phone networks and took my story of national importance to two of the top tabloids.
The Daily Mirror and The Sun newspapers both knew that phone hacking was possible and they both also knew it was an easy way to glean info from high profiled people to use for extortion and front page exclusives. I’m not saying that they did, because I don’t have the proof but we are talking about an industry that would do anything for a scoop. To read more http://www.hackergate.co.uk
Now, what annoys me is the fact they so many people at the time were extremely interested in this but all of a sudden everyone seem to change tack and didn’t go to print or investigate further. I’ll leave this to your imagination and perhaps you can work out why.
During my crusade to expose the loophole in Vodafone’s voicemail security I thought I inadvertently informed the newspapers how to hack phones. Believe me, it’s a real big worry to take on board. I lived with that worry for years and only up until 2011 and giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry I realised they must have already known which is why some people like Piers Morgan called me ‘barking’ and ‘psychotic’ during his testimony at Leveson here
During my, what some call, an ‘obsession’ to expose who knew what, when and where, I also contacted MI5, the Home Office, my MP Paul Murphy, HM Customs and Excise and various other bodies as I was hell bent on getting this information out to the public.
I even contacted all of the Scottish newspapers, when working up around Scotland and made sure they knew about phone hacking. I also wrote no end of letters addressed to CEO’s of many companies around the UK. I must have sent 300 letters in total. The Yellow pages, Directory inquiries and Vodafone’s Scoot service were my main sources of info as I didn’t have access to any internet – er it wasn’t exactly easy to use in those early years either…. 56k dial up remember ?
Returning to the story…
I admit I was on a mission and was like a dog with a bone, I wasn’t going to let go, especially now thinking I’d inadvertently shown the newspapers how to hack phones. I was on a double mission now to undo my mistakes and make sure if the press knew about phone hacking then everyone else was going to as well. This was now my problem and I had to fix it.
I contacted David Ford ( you probably won’t know him ) http://www.gbmssg.co.uk/management-team who was CEO of Gardner Merchant at the time and the company I was working often invited him to our corporate box at the Millenium stadium in Cardiff, and like I said, because I was on a mission to tell everyone I even told him and made a point of explaining how such a weak voicemail system could lead to serious industrial espionage and just wanted to make sure he knew. I have to admit, my boss, Kent Davis wasn’t best pleased when he found out that I’d been ringing around his companies’ best customers but I did and that’s the sort of campaign I was on. Mr Ford was grateful but thinking back, he probably thought ‘who is the wacko’ ? In fact, recalling back, the night before I called him, he did appear on a BBC tv show which I think was called ‘BACK TO THE FLOOR’ and featured Mr Ford working at Ascot racecourse and serving drinks to the guests and laying up tables etc, this was probably my inspiration to contact him.
So, as you can see, I was making sure I ‘put my wrongs’ right and unfortunately, to many people, made me out to be obsessive. All, I can tell you is, the guilty will always try to ruin your credibility with a few harsh words about your sanity because they have the publicity to do it, us whistle-blowers have only ourselves to trust and have to keep battling whatever is thrown at us, and no matter how bruised we get, we will still keep getting back up and throwing the truth back out there for everyone to see. I just make sure when I do something, I’m thorough and didn’t give up until I’ve finished. Having a zeal to complete a task is how I’m wired.
I eventually suffered a breakdown from over work, under sleeping, over drinking and over doing it on my ‘one man’ campaign to expose who knew what about phone hacking.
Here’s my doctors notes from early 2000 ( click to enlarge )
Ok, so the title of this blog is about a secret I cannot keep to myself anymore. I can’t do secrets, I hate the stress from with-holding information and feel no it’s the right time to tell. Life is stressful enough without having to worry about this as well so here goes…
During my campaign to expose Vodafone and the tabloid newspapers I was still working as an Area Sales Manager for a food company based in South Wales, however, I was now on the sick for depression and wasn’t able to work, and for that matter wasn’t thinking straight either and was perhaps resorting to even more odd ways of ‘still trying’ to get this story exposed.
I used to spend hours and countless £1 coins in a phone box ringing random mobile numbers, accessing their voicemail, changing their security PIN and also adding a new personal greeting for their callers to hear. It would have sounded like this ” Hi, I’m afraid this mobile phone has had it’s recall service ‘hacked into’ and the owner needs to inform it’s network operator”.
Interestingly, the Mail on Sunday published this story in May 2000 and Vodafone quoted that some of their customers had complained their voicemail greetings had been tampered with..
Not only was I writing hundreds of letters, hacking random mobile phones, changing their security settings and calling CEO’s from our customer database, I also did something else which is something I’ve not told anyone.
I used to watch Top Gear and idolised Jeremy Clarkson back then as it was a programme I regularly watched on a Thursday evening from inside my hotel during my years of sales and travelling.
I really did think Jeremy Clarkson was the business. He was smart, he was open, he was frank and he was honest, so who best to get in touch with ?……you guessed it, Mr Jeremy Clarkson himself. If anyone could help me expose this threat to national security then Jezza was the best man ‘In the Wooorld’ to ask for help…or was he ?
However, I had very little way of contacting him ( thank heaven for Twitter now ) so I decided upon myself to write a letter addressed “FAO – Jeremy Clarkson, Private and Confidential, BBC Top Gear ( the address always seen at the end of the show ) and post it to him. I didn’t get a reply, but I didn’t stop there. I continued to write letter after letter in the faint hope he might just open it himself and read the contents. I’m not sure but, I perhaps, wrote 6 maybe 8 times, I just don’t know. What I do know is, the content of the letter would have explained the problem I had trying to expose the Vodafone loophole, the fact that I’d inadvertently told the tabloids how to hack phones, and how, with his, prominent public head and frank open-ness, be the answer to my problem and could help me get this story out to the masses
I never received a reply, from Mr Clarkson or the BBC for that matter but I do sit here and wonder sometimes.
How long has he known Rebekah Brooks and her husband ?
How did he get a column in the Sun newspaper ?
What is his problem with Piers Morgan ?
I consulted a few people recently about this information and how I should go about telling someone but I have a problem with who I tell and who do they know, which is why I’ve written this blog.
Now, don’t go pointing fingers at Jeremy Clarkson and telling him he’s known about phone hacking for 14 years because he may not have read any of the letters I’d sent him, on the other hand, if he had read one of the letters…..well, I can leave that to your imagination again. The chances of him reading those letters are the same chances of him NOT reading those letters but this story needed to be told.
I wanted to tell the detectives from Operation Weeting but during my interview, I was asked if I was wanted to be remembered as the person who started the whole phone hacking scandal and felt, at the time, that pressure was being out on me ‘not too talk too much’ hence my reluctance to go into too much detail with them. Anyway, at the time, I couldn’t remember everything and things only started to knit themselves together properly after discovering those documents I stashed in the attic eg, this remittance advice note dated 1999 for a story that never got published by the Daily Mirror called ‘Mobile Phone Scandal’ and the newspaper article from the South Wales Argus from October 1999.
This another document I found in my attic. It contains a small list of mobile phone numbers that I, myself targetted, hacked into, changed the security PIN and voicemail greeting. I know it’s a long shot but imagine even after all these years, one of these numbers has the same PIN I put in. Ok a long shot I know, and it would be illegal to ring them and attempt to hack into it now, so I’m not going to try. I did mention it to a journalist some time ago and told me “It was illegal to do so”.
I called hundreds and hundreds of random mobile numbers during this time and remember listenening to many voicemails including messages of interest and these were phone numbers of ordinary people and not those that were rich and famous. No wonder the press found phone hacking a lucrative scam, free news, no come backs and enough info from voicemail to use to extort more info for a scoop. I never kept records of all my phone hacking because I did too much to keep track.
The main reason I’ve come forward with this is because Jeremy Clarkson quite recently appeared in the public gallery at the Old Bailey to support Charlie Brooks, his friend and husband of Rebekah Brooks and I didn’t really know how close they all were together.
Is it just coincidence ? I don’t know. But better out in the public domain than being stuffed in a bin bag and left under the stairs at the Met. Know what I’m saying….
I have to admit, Piers Morgan was right, I was obsessed with my campaign but like anyone on a mission, you have to go further than everyone else if you want to make something happen. In reality I didn’t go far enough which is why after 15 years I’m still ‘harping’ on about the damn scandal.
So there you have it. More cards are on the table. I don’t like keeping secrets. Life is too short.
In the mean time, I’m disappearing back to my normal life and thought just, before I did, was best to come clean with this extra info and make sure I wasn’t keeping anything from anyone.
Thanks for reading.
Follow me on twitter @StevenNott
My witness statement to the Leveson inquiry http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122145147/http:/www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Witness-Statement-of-Steven-Nott.pdf