Leveson inquiry: how mother of Ken Livingstone’s child was ‘blagged’

Transcript published on inquiry website shows how confidential information was fraudulently obtained from Janet Woolf’s bank

The mother of Ken Livingstone’s eldest child has revealed how a man, believed to have been working for a newspaper successfully “blagged” confidential information about her salary, children’s allowance and other payments from her bank.

A six page transcript of the conversation has been published on the Leveson inquiry website, and reveals how the blagger fraudulently extracted private information about the woman from a Nat West bank employee.

The blagger posed as an employee of the bank to talk to a “colleague” about regular credits to her account, pretending that Janet Woolf, the mother of Livingstone’s son Liam, had made two “suspicious” applications for a mortgage.

Woolf submitted the transcript to the Leveson inquiry in an effort to show the lengths with which a newspaper went to try to write about her and her child back in 1999, when it was not public knowledge that Livingstone had a son. Woolf told the inquiry she was given the transcript by “a Nat West employee, who realised that the call was a blag and called me later, registering suspicion”.

Using what appears to be inside knowledge of bank jargon, the imposter found out that Woolf had a loan request declined, what her monthly salary was, and what other credits were paid into her account in a six month period.

Identified as “Paul Williams”, which is believed to be a pseudonym, the blagger also found out details of standing orders, other income and details relating to a Co-op bank account in Woolf’s name.

The blagger bluffed his way through the tricky moments in the conversation, such as when the NatWest employee tells him he will get Woolf’s personal relationship manager to return his call. Williams replies he just wants to make a quick note of credits because of conflicting information in the mortgage applications.

He is nearly caught out when the Nat West employee asks him which branch he is calling from. He bluffs “Catford”, which is in south London, raising suspicions. “Well her address is in N17 which is in north London,” the Nat West employees says before asking Williams for his name and his branch telephone number.

When asked what does he do at the branch, Williams brazenly says, “I’ve already been grilled on the security procedure” and gives the employee the internal number for the branch, claiming he will be there all afternoon.

The transcript will be a must-read for anyone who raised concerns about blagging of confidential information at the Leveson inquiry including phone-hacking victims, some of whom also had information about their lives “blagged”.

In an accompanying letter to the inquiry, Woolf said she had not made the mortgage application and that the same man had later phoned her at her place of work to ask her about it. “I soon realised that this man was an imposter and when I asked for his mobile number he hung up,” she said.

She also told the Leveson inquiry that she suffered “press intrusion” and “harassment” at the time and got an “inadequate response” from the Press Complaints Commission.

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