Image: Journalist Sean Hoare
Reuters file
Former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare is seen in this undated handout picture. British media said he was found dead at his home on Monday, but police did not believe the death was suspicious.
NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 7/18/2011 7:22:25 PM ET 2011-07-18T23:22:25

A former reporter at the News of the World who was the first named journalist to allege a high-ranking editor was aware of phone hacking by staffers has been found dead, the Guardian reported Monday.

Sean Hoare reportedly worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Andy Coulson before he was dismissed in 2005 for problems related to drinking and drugs. He was found dead Monday morning at his Watford home, according to the Guardian's report.

Coulson, who most recently served as Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief, succeeded Rebekah Brooks as editor of the News of the World in 2003. Coulson resigned from his government post in January and was arrested earlier this month in the scandal.

Story: Senior UK police official quits as scandal widens

"The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious," according to a police statement. "Police investigations into this incident are ongoing."

The New York Times first reported Hoare's allegations in an article published Sept. 1, 2010. He told the newspaper that Coulson knew of the phone hacking and actively encouraged his staff to intercept the phone calls of celebrities.

Coulson is one of 10 people arrested so far in the growing scandal that is putting increasing pressure on Cameron amid his own close ties to Rupert Murdoch's media empire. The Conservative leader on Monday cut short a trade mission to Africa and called an emergency session of Parliament for Wednesday so he can address lawmakers on the scandal.

Cameron has said he thought at the time he hired Coulson, who quit because of the phone-hacking scandal, that the journalist deserved a second chance.Speaking at a news conference in South Africa, Cameron said the police investigation "must go wherever the evidence leads."

Hoare, once a close friend of Coulson's, told The New York Times the two men first worked together at the Sun, where, Hoare said, he played taped recordings of hacked messages for Coulson, the Guardian report. At the News of the World, Hoare said he continued to inform Coulson of his activities.

Hoare continued to speak to journalists with the Times and Guardian about the phone hacking until last week. He told the Guardian he was not making any money from his story, but was hoping that the scandal would help clean up journalism in the U.K.

The New York Times contributed to this article.

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Video: Murdoch empire under threat

  1. Closed captioning of: Murdoch empire under threat

    >> and, thus, the scandal unfolding overseas could have a huge effect over here. michael izikopf is with us with more on that. good evening, michael.

    >> good evening, brian. more news tonight that the scandal is growing legal and financial troubles for one of the biggest and most powerful media companies in the world. rupert murdoch 's news corp brought us simpsons and titanic, and everything from the national geographic channel . now his $39 billion corporate empire is facing its biggest crisis ever. escalating scandal in great britain has already spilled over to u.s. shores. the company's stock has dropped 21%, an $8 billion plunge in market value. late last week, a top murdoch aide for decades and publisher of the most prestigious newspaper, "the wall street journal ," resigned.

    >> up until now, there's been instability around mr. murdoch . people are sensing that the tide has turned against him and it may be time to ask fundamental questions about his operations.

    >> the justice department is asking questions.

    >> using the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies in the united states .

    >> it's not just whether "news of the world" may have hacked the phones of 9/11 victims in the u.s., a claim the fbi is investigating and for which there is no hard evidence. there are also questions about $160 in payments reportedly made from "news of the world" to scotland yard . they've just reached tout british authorities to determine if those payments may violate a u.s. law that makes it illegal for american companies to bribe foreign officials.

    >> i can tell you that there are questions about whether the foreign corp practices act has been violated by rupert murdoch and his news empire.

    >> another potential threat, lawsuit filed by shareholders, including labor and municipal pension funds accuses murdoch and other directors of misusing corporate assets. in court papers, the lawsuit claims that the phone hacking reveals a culture run amok and that murdoch has treated the corporation like a family candy jar, like the television production company run by his daughter, elizabeth. $1.25 million. alleging corporate asset as opposed to political action committee funds voluntarily donated by employees were improperly used to support murdoch 's political agenda .

    >> you have good reason to be worried if you're a shareholder. this could pose long-term threat to the company.

    >> we got a statement from news corp this evening. news corp is taking the allegations seriously and fully cooperating with the relevant authorities as appropriate. however, the statement continued, we reject the notion that the issues at news international are somehow indicative of our culture. regarding opportunistic litigation will defend against its court as necessary.

Data: Who's who in the UK phone hacking scandal

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