Times journalist says he was target of Westminster honeytrap plot like Tory MP William Wragg

6 April 2024, 23:03

The Times's Deputy Political Editor Harry Yorke
A senior political journalist has said that he was an attempted target of the Westminster honeytrap plot that snared Tory MP William Wragg. Picture: UK Parliament/Harry Yorke

By Chay Quinn

A senior political journalist has said that he was an attempted target of the Westminster honeytrap plot that snared Tory MP William Wragg.

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The Times's Deputy Political Editor Harry Yorke said that 'Charlie', the female identity used in the attempted scam, attempted to ensnare him in February.

Yorke says that the spear-phishing attempt involved the scammer sending him encrypted photos after posing as a former MP staffer.

'Charlie' told the married journalist that they had been flirty in a pub years prior.

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Yorke used an op-ed in The Sunday Times to describe the situation - which he says he did not recognise as a phishing attempt until POLITICO broke the story of the scams earlier this week.

He said that he initially believed that the unsolicited message was from a Conservative source and had let the conversation play out.

But after the texts became sexual, the journalist did not respond thinking that the messages were likely from someone attempting to extort or blackmail him.

Yorke used an op-ed in The Sunday Times to describe the situation - which he says he did not recognise as a phishing attempt until POLITICO broke the story of the scams earlier this week.
Yorke used an op-ed in The Sunday Times to describe the situation - which he says he did not recognise as a phishing attempt until POLITICO broke the story of the scams earlier this week. Picture: Harry Yorke

Yorke wrote in The Sunday Times: "About 11pm, she told me we had met three or four years ago during a “flirty” and “boozy” conversation late at night in a Westminster pub, and she was disappointed I had forgotten her, given the apparent attractiveness of her 'ass'".

"Alarm bells immediately started ringing. I am married, and have been in a committed relationship for almost eight years — long before Charlie and I had allegedly become overfamiliar in a pub.

"I was also well aware that I did not possess even a modicum of the guile necessary to flirt, something my wife has repeatedly pointed out to me over the years."

After attempts to verify the story given using open-source data, Yorke was unable to do so.

4 April 2024. Headline in Daily Mail reads: MPs Caught Up In Naked Honeytrap Sex Sting.
4 April 2024. Headline in Daily Mail reads: MPs Caught Up In Naked Honeytrap Sex Sting. Picture: Alamy

Yorke added: "Suspecting that Charlie was more likely a teenager bunkered in a Moscow bedroom than the smiling brunette pictured, I began searching through historic registers of MPs’ staff members. I also searched for PRs working for cancer charities who fitted her first name and likeness. Neither yielded matches.

After she sent him a photo, that he did not open, he responded with a message stating how inappropriate they are and ending.

"I went to bed, anxious but confident I had done the right thing. Several days passed, and I assumed that was the end of the matter. But then she popped up again, on February 26, and this time her messages became more persistent — and concerning."

Senior Conservative MP William Wragg said he was "mortified" when he became a victim of the scam.

Wragg admitted his involvement the honeytrap sexting scandal targeting members of the British political class.

William Wragg MP, member of the United Kingdom Parliament for Hazel Grove, speaking at the Grassroots Out campaign event in Manchester, Greater
William Wragg, told The Times he handed over the personal phone numbers of colleagues to a man he met on Grindr, a gay dating app. Picture: Alamy

William Wragg, told The Times he handed over the personal phone numbers of colleagues to a man he met on Grindr, a gay dating app.

The chairman of a Commons select committee and vice-chairman of the 1922 committee admitted he shared the details after sending intimate pictures of himself to the user.

Wragg, 36, said he was “scared” that the man “had compromising things on me”.

The colleagues — which included several MPs, members of their staff and a political journalist — were sent unsolicited flirtatious messages from senders calling themselves “Charlie” or “Abi”.

It is understood two MPs responded by sending an explicit picture of themselves.

The scandal, which has raised concerns over the vulnerability of MPs to cyberattacks, is now the subject of an investigation by Leicestershire police, which has received a complaint of “malicious communications” against a parliamentarian.

Experts have said it could be an incident of “spearphishing”, a technique used to gather highly personalised, sensitive or compromising material.

Wragg was approached after speaking to victims who believed he was involved.

The Hazel Grove MP, who is gay, said he was “mortified” and apologised for his “weakness”.

“They had compromising things on me. They wouldn’t leave me alone. They would ask for people. I gave them some numbers, not all of them. I told him to stop. He’s manipulated me and now I’ve hurt other people.

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