The battle in the media between sacked 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice, his Sydney lawyer, John Laxon, and the Nine Network over Rice’s dismissal last Friday kicked off in the Daily Telegraph this morning with a double-barrel blast at the network.

The Tele story, by Nick Tabakoff, who used to work at A Current Affair, was based on leaked emails and started:

“The two most senior staff at 60 Minutes and a Nine Network legal counsel knew significant details of the plan to abduct Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s two children on the streets of Beirut months before it took place, internal Nine emails reveal.

“The emails from January this year — including two from current 60 Minutes executive producer Kirsty Thomson to both former executive producer Tom Malone and sacked producer Stephen Rice on January 18, and another by Rice to an in-house lawyer one day later — outlined detailed discussions of a plan to snatch the children.

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“The abduction plan was initially scheduled for late February, but ultimately took place in April.”

The emails were between Stephen Rice, Kirsty Thomson (60 Minutes’ current EP), Tom Malone (Thomson’s predecessor — he was chief of staff of the program under Malone) and an in-house Nine lawyer.

The Telegraph story confirms that the story idea (which led to the Beirut kidnap attempt) originated from another Nine program, Inside Story, which suggested the payment, according to the Tele.

“Malone and Rice were told by Thomson on January 18 that Inside Story had already proposed a detailed payment plan for ‘$115,000’, with $69,000 paid upfront, for ‘CARI to snatch the kids, escape via water (jet-skis) to a boat and then on to Cyprus’. Just four days after her email was sent, $69,000 was paid on behalf of Nine into [child recovery agent Adam] Whittington’s bank account.”

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