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The News of the World has suspended an assistant editor over claims he authorised the voicemail hacking of phones used by actress Sienna Miller and her friends.

Ian Edmondson, the tabloid's assistant editor, faces an internal inquiry over allegations of phone hacking in 2005, dating from the time was edited by Andy Coulson, the prime minister's director of communications. Disgraced former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed back in 2005 after they pleaded guilty to hacking into the mobile phones of royal aides and intercepting voicemail messages in the hunt for celebrity gossip.

News Group has consistently maintained since that the pair acted alone and without the authorisation or knowledge of senior staff at the paper. But the company's assertions of innocence have come under increased pressure, first from a series of lawsuits stemming from the original allegations, and later from dogged investigative work by The Guardian that resulted in the re-opening of a parliamentary inquiry last year.

Privacy lawsuits by celebrities and public figures whose phones were allegedly tapped by Mulcaire include football players' union boss Gordon Taylor, Sienna Miller and others. Court papers obtained as part of the legal disclosure process in the ongoing Miller lawsuit include papers police seized from Mulcaire in August 2006 include "handwritten notes that imply Edmondson instructed him to intercept Miller's voicemail", The Guardian reports. The mobile phone of Jude Law, Miller's partner at the time, was also the target of interception along with those of Miller's personal assistant and others.

Edmondson was hired by Coulson, a factor that increases the pressure on the PM's chief spin doctor. The internal investigation against Edmondson also raises awkward questions about why the police only ever targeted Goodman and Mulcaire when seized papers and mobile phone records obtained during their investigation provided evidence that others might have been involved in mobile phone hacking. ®

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