The morning's resignation of TCS Editor Philip Brook came after he was caught attempting to make unfounded sexual allegations against a fellow at St. John's.
This morning’s resignation of TCS Editor Philip Brook came after he was caught making unfounded sexual allegations against a fellow at St. John’s.
Brook, a second-year historian at Girton, sent a series of hoax emails to The Tab pretending to be a victim of a sexual advance, before forging a letter from Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, John’s Senior Tutor.
The departing Editor left the TCS office at 11.30 this morning, and has had meetings with Girton’s Senior Tutor Andrew Jefferies to dicuss the college’s disciplinary response.
He is now thought to have left Cambridge to spend the night in Nottingham.
Dörrzapf told The Tab that “Girton has made it clear to him how serious the matter is and it was reported to me that he realises how foolish it was.”
“St. John’s will insist that our solicitors’ legal fees regarding this matter are paid by him (a few hundred pounds) but otherwise we will leave the matter to the Girton disciplinary system to deal with it.”
The saga began on Thursday 13th of January at 1.40am, when the News Editor of The Tab received an email from an anonymous Yahoo webmail account, claiming to have a story.
In the emails that followed The Tab’s response, the sender made the claim that his or her supervisor had “offered me a first if I went down on him. I said no, and I want something done about it.”
The messager continued: “The academic is high up at his college and he will loose [sic] his job by the time I’m finished with him.
“I was supervised by him for the term and to be honest I’m not the best at his topic. So I asked him what I needed to do to improve my grades and he suggested that he could think of an excellent way to improve my grades.
“He told me if I wanted to really improve my grades, there was another way to get a first. He said he’d give me a “blow by blow account” back in his rooms the next evening. It was a Friday I think. Obviously I was shocked and appalled at the time.
“Since then, I have received a letter from the college telling me that they’re investigating the allegations.”
After The Tab asked to see a copy of the letter, Brook replied a day later saying that he had scanned it in, adding that he had “blacked out names for now to protect identities until I’m sure that this won’t get me into any trouble. I’m worried about the last line of the letter about confidentiality so please don’t give my name”.
The attached document, below, was written on what looked like St. John’s letterhead, and passed itself off as Dr Dörrzapf explaining how the college would “settle a complaint of this gravity.”
The letter sent by Brook, purporting to be from Dörrzapf. (Copyright: The Tab)
When The Tab approached Dörrzapf, he told us that he found the letter “very puzzling” adding that “with the exception of two social events, I was not in College at all during the week 3-9 January and did not write or sign any letters.”
He continued: “I am quite puzzled what this could be about. Also, the phrase you are quoting does not sound familiar and does not remind me of anything I would have written recently.”
In a meeting with The Tab, Dörrzapf confirmed that the letter was a fake, pointing out numerous flaws in its construction.
That week he contacted the St. John’s Dean, the Master Chris Dobson as well as the college’s solicitors Mills and Reeve.
After The Tab had traced the email to an IP address in Girton accomodation, the details of the affair were passed on to Andrew Jefferies, the college’s Senior Tutor.
And when IT technicians searched for connections to the Yahoo server at the college, it became clear that the person whose computer had connected at the times the emails were sent was not a victimised undergrad but TCS Editor Brook.
When The Tab called the TCS Editor yesterday, he initially claimed not to know anything about it, before changing tack and saying he couldn’t comment.
The call to Brook.
Despite his denials, a source at TCS told The Tab at 11am this morning that Brook had resigned with immediate effect, and that the Board was minded to accept his resignation.
Twenty minutes later Brook emailed The Tab with a statement claiming that he had acted alone.
He wrote: “I recognise that my actions were a serious lapse of judgement and apologise unreservedly to all parties concerned.
“I would like to make it explicitly clear that I acted in an entirely personal capacity. I did not at any point consult with anybody involved with The Cambridge Student.
“All members of the Editorial Team and Board of Directors were unaware of my actions until yesterday evening. I do not wish to make any further comment at this time.”
Whilst Brook refused to offer an explanation of his motives for attempting to libel St. John’s, it appears he may either have been attempting to benefit financially or to entrap members of The Tab into committing journalistic malpractice.
“I see you pay for exclusives – what is it worth?”, he said in his first email, before continuing: “I don’t have anything properly legal I don’t think, because I’m over 16 and he didn’t actually do anything. Does that mean it’s no good or is there something we can do about him?”
Someone who knows Brook has also suggested that his elaborate scheme may have been a retaliation for a light-hearted Tab hoax which he overlooked when he was TCS‘s Sports Editor, involving a humorous article about ‘Bog Snorkelling’ which made numerous obvious allusions to The Tab and members of its founding team.
Had he been successful in persuading The Tab or any other publication to run the story, the organisation concerned could have faced court action for publishing defamatory statements.
Brook’s actions would likely also be found to contravene Clause 10 of the Press Complaints Commission’s Editor’s Code, which states that “Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”
Brook’s tenure was due to end on April 28th, when the paper finishes its first-week edition of Easter Term. His name has now been removed from future copies of the paper and from their website.