A former dominatrix was targeted by the News of the World's phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire in a tabloid scramble to publish a picture of her posing with George Osborne in front of an alleged line of cocaine, the Independent can reveal.
Natalie Rowe, 47, a former madam who supplied prostitutes to a moneyed clientele, has been shown documents by Scotland Yard detectives showing that the hacker obtained details of her mobile phone number and information about at least one of Osborne's circle of close friends, as newspapers investigated claims of drug use at the height of David Cameron's Conservative leadership bid in 2005.
The heavily redacted document raises the possibility the mobile phone of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was managing Cameron's successful campaign to lead the Tory Party, was also targeted by Mulcaire and raises fresh questions about Osborne's relationship with Andy Coulson.
Coulson was editor of the NOTW when its story about Osborne's friendship with Rowe was published on October 16, 2005, including a strong denial from Osborne he had taken drugs with Rowe. Two years later, the then Shadow Chancellor played a key role in the decision to recruit Coulson as Cameron's spin doctor following his resignation over the hacking scandal.
Osborne was told by Scotland Yard last month that Mulcaire had obtained his private home phone number.
The Chancellor yesterday declined to answer questions about whether he ever discussed with Coulson the story he published about him in October 2005, or whether his personal experience of the editor as a tabloid attack dog played a role in the decision to recommend him for a job in Conservative ranks.
Rowe now works as a writer and says her autobiography will make incendiary revelations about former clients in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.
Her lawyer, Mark Lewis, is preparing a damages claims against News International after Rowe was targeted by Mulcaire at a time when she was co-operating with the NOTW's chief rival, the Sunday Mirror.
She told the Independent: "It is clear the News of the World had no boundaries and they would resort to any measures to ensure they had my story. I have always wondered where they got their information. I thought I had a spy in my camp. Instead, it looks as if I was having my privacy invaded."
The former dominatrix found herself sucked into a louche and privileged world of Oxbridge-educated high flyers, including Osborne, when she started going out with William Sinclair, one of the Tatton MP's university friends, in 1992.
Sinclair, the grandson of Winston Churchill's aristocratic air minister in World War II, went on to have a child with Rowe in 1994 and was treated for drug addiction.
During the relationship, Rowe regularly met her boyfriend's social set, including Chris Coleridge, the brother of Nicholas, head of Vogue publisher Conde Nast, and Osborne, who was a freelance journalist and later began his journey to the top of British politics as a researcher in Conservative Central Office.
More than a decade later, the former madam was the subject of a tabloid bidding war when she approached PR guru Max Clifford offering to sell her story of wild parties, sex and drug taking involving a wealthy set whose members included a fast-emerging star of the Conservative Party.
Clifford initially reached a deal with the NOTW but in July 2005 he fell out with the Sunday tabloid, and Rowe's account of her friendship with Osborne was sold to the Sunday Mirror together with a photograph of the future Chancellor, then 22, with his arm around the sex worker. On the table in front of the pair is a roll of paper and a line of white powder which Rowe, who had in the past taken cocaine but had stopped taking the drug because she was pregnant, insists is cocaine.
Osborne has confirmed knowing Rowe, who ran an agency called Black Beauties, supplying prostitutes to clients paying from £350 ($695) an hour, but has always denied he took cocaine with her.
Describing the allegations as "defamatory and completely untrue", he said at the time: "Twelve years ago a friend of mine went out with a woman called Natalie and they had a child together. I met them together occasionally in the autumn of 1993, and it soon became clear that my friend had started to use drugs.
"He became more and more addicted and I saw his life fall apart. I tried to persuade him to seek treatment. Eventually he did ... That is, and always has been, the sum total of my connection with this woman."
On October 16, 2005, the Sunday Mirror and the NOTW published simultaneous stories using the photograph. Rowe had always wondered how the NOTW knew when her story was being published, as well as several details she had kept to herself, including the fact she used "naughties" as a codeword for cocaine.
The answer, it seems, is her mobile phone - and those of Osborne's social set - were targeted by Mulcaire at least 10 days before the NOTW article appeared. The Independent understands the Mulcaire document is an A4 handwritten page which carries the date of October 6, 2005. The rest has been blanked out by police to protect the privacy of other individuals.
A spokesman for the Chancellor said: "We said at the time that the MPS met with George, that he had been notified that his name and home telephone number appeared on notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire. The MPS said they had no further evidence to suggest George's voicemail had been hacked or attempted to be hacked and there has been no subsequent contact."
Rowe said she wants to use her case to shine light on the connections between News International and the Conservative Party. "I don't know what, if anything, passed between George Osborne and Andy Coulson after all this. But after the way the NOTW went after him, you would have thought he'd want nothing more to do with them or the editor who published the story."