News International is facing fresh phone-hacking controversies after a series of claims and counter claims involving half a dozen figures including Jade Goody, Alastair Campbell and two of the most senior former staff of the News of the World.
In just a few hours on Friday, it emerged the media group was facing five court actions including a possible action in the US targeting Rupert Murdoch and his son James, plus allegations that the Sunday tabloid may have hacked Goody's phone while she was dying of cancer.
One of the most damaging revelations was a claim that the former deputy editor of the now defunct tabloid had secretly received £25,000 from News International for "crime exclusives" while working as a PR consultant for Scotland Yard.
The details of the payments emerged in billing records obtained by detectives investigating the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.
The former newspaper executive Neil Wallis received the money in 2009 and 2010 when his PR firm Chamy Media had a two-day-a-month contract to work as PR consultant for Scotland Yard, according to an investigation by the Daily Telegraph. One story reputedly earned him a single payment of £10,000.
One of the stories he was paid for was about a suspected assassination attempt on the pope during his visit to the UK last year, according to the Telegraph.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard declined to comment, other than to say that its contract with Chamy Media "had a confidentiality clause, a data protection act clause and a conflict of interest clause within it". A spokesman added that Wallis did not have access to the Met's IT systems.
The revelations will raise new questions about conflicts of interest in public office. Last month, it emerged that Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, continued to receive payments from News International as part of a severance deal after he was employed by the Tory party as its director of communications.
Coulson, who quit the News of the World in 2007 after his then royal editor was jailed for phone-hacking offences, on Friday launched his own legal action against his former employer.
He is suing for breach of contract after the company notified his solicitors it was no longer going to fund his legal defence. It is believed this was communicated to Coulson's law firm as recently as August.
That Coulson's fees were being paid four years after he quit as editor will surprise many. He resigned as David Cameron's press chief in January and was arrested in July as the phone-hacking scandal deepened, with allegations that the News of the World had hacked into murder victim Milly Dowler's phone.
Pressure on News International continued to pile up on Friday as it emerged that the Met is to be asked to investigate allegations that reality TV star Jade Goody's phone was hacked while she was dying of cancer.
It is understood Charlotte Harris, the Mishcon de Reya lawyer representing several phone-hacking claimants, has been asked to represent her and to go to the Met with the allegations made by Goody's mother, Jackiey Budden.
Budden believes both her phone and her daughter's were hacked, but did nothing about it until July this year when she read about murder victim Milly Dowler's phone messages being intercepted by the News of the World. She could not understand how journalists were getting hold of information and, when she read the Dowler story, believed it could have been through phone hacking.
"She [Jackiey] will be going to the police. She believes her phone was hacked by the News of the World, and Jade's. Jade told me, 'I'm convinced my phone is being hacked'," said Max Clifford, who handled Goody's PR after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008.
The solicitor who represented the Dowlers in their phone-hacking claims upped the ante significantly on Friday when he announced he had teamed with US lawyers with a view to initiating proceedings targeting Rupert Murdoch and his son James.
Mark Lewis of Taylor Hampton has instructed Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents 20 9/11 families, to seek witness statements from News Corp and its directors, including Rupert and James Murdoch, in relation to allegations that News of the World staff may have bribed police.
"The allegations of phone hacking and bribery against News Corporation are serious and substantial, and we will approach this initial exploration with that same seriousness," Siegel said.
The legal action was just one of five that have piled up against the Murdoch operation in the past few days.
Also suing News International is Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell, who is alleging his phone was hacked by News of the World.
His solicitor, Gerald Shamash, confirmed he had just begun legal proceedings on behalf of Campbell and two others – the agent of George Best, the football star who died in 2005, and Elliot Morley, the former Labour MP jailed for expenses fraud, who has just been released from prison after serving a quarter of his sentence for fiddling his expenses.