Natalie Rowe, the former escort agency boss who claimed to be friends with chancellor George Osborne, has told an Australian broadcaster that she believes her phone was hacked by the News of the World.
She told ABC News that Scotland Yard had told her that her mobile phone number appeared on notebooks seized from the home of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the paper.
The Metropolitan police team who are investigating phone hacking at the News of the World are in the process of informing all of the potential victims that they believe could have been targeted by Mulcaire.
Rowe ran an escort agency that was called Black Beauties in the 1990s and called herself Miss Whiplash or Miss Pain. Her boyfriend at the time was one of Osborne’s friends from his days as a student at Oxford University.
She sold a story about the alleged friendship with Osborne to the Sunday Mirror in 2005 after signing a book deal. Rowe claimed at the time that she and Osborne had taken cocaine together. Osborne has always denied that.
In a report broadcast in Australia overnight, Rowe told the ABC’s PM programme that she was “surprised” to see a near-identical story about her links with Osborne appear in the News of the World on the same day as the Sunday Mirror report in October 2005. The News of the World was being edited by Andy Coulson at the time.
When the stories appeared, Osborne issued a statement of denial: “The allegations are completely untrue and dredging up a photo from when I was 22 years old is pretty desperate stuff.
“This is merely part of an absurd smear campaign to divert attention from the issues that matter in this leadership contest and I am confident that people will not be distracted by this rubbish.”
Rowe’s solicitor Mark Lewis has also given an interview to ABC. Noting that Coulson was editor of the News of the World, Lewis said: “I think that’s worth remembering because of the future relationship that we have between the Conservative party, the prime minister and Andy Coulson”.
It has since emerged that David Cameron hired Coulson as the Conservative party’s communications director on Osborne’s advice.
Both newspapers published an old picture of Rowe and Osborne together, arm in arm, with a white powder, which they alleged was cocaine, in the foreground of the photograph.
When the stories were published six years ago, Osborne’s office dismissed them as a slur and said Rowe was a casual acquaintance whom the future chancellor barely knew.
Speaking to ABC, Rowe repeated her claims about Osborne taking illegal drugs. Rowe said: “George Osborne did take cocaine on that night.”
Osborne’s office did not return calls requesting a comment on Monday.
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