Almost everyone dislikes the News of the World, including many of its readers. It is coarse, intrusive, hypocritical and sanctimonious. It frequently puts itself above or outside the law – perhaps most famously when it so whipped up public hysteria over paedophilia that the mobs took to the streets, in one case mistaking a paediatrician for a paedophile and driving her out of her house. The editor of the newspaper at the time was Rebekah Wade – now editor of the Sun – who invariably refuses to talk to the press or to be interviewed even when she sets Britain ablaze. A more disagreeable example of the new media aristocracy would be difficult to find.
So all our prejudices will have been confirmed earlier this week when a judge ended a trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham. On 2 November last year the News of the World photographed the arrest of four Romanians and a Kosovan who were allegedly planning to kidnap Victoria Beckham. I wrote about the incident a week later in this column, pointing out that a careful reading of the News of the World’s account strongly implied that the alleged plans to kidnap Victoria Beckham were not very far advanced. Nevertheless, the newspaper was awash with self-congratulation for its brilliant coup and, after a police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to bring charges against the alleged kidnappers.
Now it has emerged that the so-called kidnap plan was dreamt up by Florim Gashi, a 27-year-old Kosovan parking attendant, to whom the News of the World had paid £10,000. It appears that he brought a story to the newspaper’s reporter, Mazher Mahmood, which did not impress the legendary sleuth. Go back and find a better one, said Mazher, and Florim did. He came up with the plan to kidnap Victoria, and produced tapes in which he and his pals are heard discussing the idea in a rather vague and lacklustre way.