News Corp will be back in Kerry Stokes’ good books this morning after The Australian delivered a 3000-word front-page hatchet job on Tim Worner’s former lover Amber Harrison.

After a month-long investigation, The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff produced a contested “he said, she said” account of Amber Harrison’s four-month stint working for a London bathroom supply company called The Water Monopoly way back in 2001.

Tabakoff previously delivered for Team Worner with this earlier piece in The Daily Telegraph about Harrison’s credit card use at Seven West Media.

Rather than settling for a modest $150,000 in accordance with the original agreement, the Seven West Media trio of chairman Kerry Stokes, legal director Bruce McWilliam and CEO Tim Worner have instead been conducting extensive lawfare against Harrison, complete with leaks, media briefings and dozens of legal letters to journalists.

Given this history, many people assumed that today’s piece was another example of hardball combat by the embattled media company.

On first reading, it looks like Harrison, now a penniless foster mum in Melbourne, has been subjected to the full private investigator treatment, but Seven’s legal boss Bruce McWilliam gave an on-the-record denial in this email exchange with Crikey today.

I wrote:

Hi guys,

I’m writing a piece for Crikey today so could you give me something on the record responding to these two questions:

Were Seven West Media shareholder funds spent sourcing the story which appeared in The Australian today?

Did Seven West Media or any associated party pay any of the parties quoted in The Australian today?

Deadline is 11am.

The prompt iPhone reply from McWilliam was: “Confirm no to both questions re Seven payments.”

So why on earth would three people in London all co-operate with an Australian journalist and a separately commissioned photographer to launch a detailed hit on a then-24-year-old temp worker?

Seven West Media wants you to believe Amber Harrison is a serial fraudster, so their interests are certainly aligned with the image painted by the London trio.

Amber Harrison tells Crikey today that Justin Homewood, the key guy quoted in The Australian’s hatchet job, “is just another dodgy bloke who behaved badly and kept his job”.

“Justin had already fallen out badly with his first wife … and behaved inappropriately around me. This explains his decision to ship me off to Miami at short notice.”

“I’m struggling to understand his motivation in distorting the true facts of the situation and putting himself out there about ancient history.”

Justin Homewood’s first wife, Samantha, scored a mention in this bizarre Daily Mail piece in 2009, and Harrison says she can remember screaming matches between them with the police being called on multiple occasions.

“Justin was clearly a serial offender when it came to running off to the police, but I’ve heard nothing from anyone about his complaints in 16 years.”

The battle with Seven West Media will be in the Sydney courts tomorrow. Harrison remains constrained in what she can say but Kerry Stokes remains actively involved, recently ringing one female News Corp journalist to give her a spray for writing a column sympathising with Harrison’s position.

Peter Fray

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