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Younger Murdoch's assertions challenged

A former lawyer for a news unit insisted a Murdoch son knew of widespread hacking.

LONDON - A former top lawyer for Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers insisted Wednesday that he told the mogul's son there was evidence of widespread phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Tom Crone questioned contentions made by James Murdoch - chairman of News International, the British arm of his father's media empire - that he had not been informed about an e-mail indicating that hacking was rife.

For months, News International insisted the illegal accessing of the cellphone voice messages of celebrities and crime victims was confined to reporter Clive Goodman, who, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, was jailed in 2007.

But in July, the company closed the 168-year-old tabloid, amid public outrage over the disclosure that reporters had hacked the phone of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.

Crone told Britain's inquiry into media standards that during a meeting in June 2008, he showed Murdoch a printed copy of an e-mail that included transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemail messages.

The document is considered a key piece of evidence in proving that News International had attempted to hide the extent of the scandal from the public.

Murdoch has previously told a parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking he hadn't been told about the e-mail.

"What was certainly discussed was the e-mail ... and what it meant in terms of further involvement in phone hacking beyond Goodman and Mulcaire," Crone told the inquiry, referring to the June 2008 meeting.

"What was relayed to Mr. Murdoch was that this document clearly was direct and hard evidence of that being the case," he said.

Crone said that he believed Murdoch had likely been made aware of the contents. "I am also pretty sure that he already knew about it - in terms of it had been described to him already," the lawyer said.

In evidence disclosed Tuesday, the junior Murdoch acknowledged that he had been sent some details in an e-mail, but said he had not read the message in full as it was sent to his BlackBerry over a weekend.