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Murdoch 'sorry' he didn't shut News of the World years ago

'Felt blast of Milly Dowler phone-hack scandal come through window'

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Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch wished he had closed down the News of the World that has been at the centre of the phone-hacking storm that has gripped his corporation "years ago".

Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry this morning.

The News Corp boss made the comment during a fascinating exchange at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics at the Royal Courts of Justice this morning.

He appeared to completely distance himself from the newspaper, saying he had "not paid enough attention" to the Sunday tabloid at any time he was in charge of it.

The 168-year-old NotW was finally killed off by Murdoch in July 2011.

"When the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity," Murdoch said, "you could feel the blast coming in through the window almost."

He added: "I panicked but I'm glad I did. I'm sorry I didn't close it years ago and put a Sun on Sunday in," he lamented.

Murdoch had said earlier that it was "grossly unfair" to his flagship redtop, The Sun, to be "lumped together" with the NotW.

He further admitted that "this whole business of News of the World is a serious blot on my reputation".

Murdoch added that he wished he had given the newspaper's one-time royal editor, Clive Goodman, who was jailed for plotting to intercept voicemail messages on the mobile phones of senior members of the royal family, a "one-on-one" shakedown in 2007 to "get to the bottom" of what had gone on.

"I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn't be here today," he thundered, in response to News International's initial claim that phone-hacking at the "toxic" Sunday rag was down to the actions of "one rogue reporter".

He had earlier told the inquiry that someone at the News of the World "took charge of a cover up that we were victim to and that I regret".

Murdoch further claimed to have listened too closely to Scotland Yard's decision not to re-open the case in 2009, following new allegations brought by The Guardian newspaper.

The Met, during an interval in the Leveson inquiry, refuted Murdoch's claim that the Yard was "satisfied" that "one rogue reporter" was responsible for any phone-hacking at the newspaper.

Murdoch claimed his company had spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" over the past year in investigating the matter to find out how widespread those actions were on the tabloid.

At one point Leveson put to the media mogul:

It is very clear Mr Murdoch that you have a particular interest in the print media... You have shown that interest is more than just a commercial interest, more than just an intellectual interest, it is an interest that is in your being.

Here was a newspaper that was in your family that you had built up to be the largest newspaper in the UK.

Quite apart from the commercial side of it, you would really want to know what the hell was going on because printing was running through your veins.

This wasn't just a matter of commercial interest for you, this was at the very core of your being. Were you not really intensely concerned with what was going on?

Murdoch replied: "I have to admit that some newspapers are closer to my heart than others but I also have to say that I failed." ®

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