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Report: Phone-hacking whistleblower found dead

Image: Journalist Sean Hoare is seen in this undated handout picture
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. Reuters file
/ Source: NBC News and msnbc.com

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.

"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.