The red-top’s editor in 2008, Colin Myler, forwarded an email to Murdoch from the paper’s legal manager Tom Crone that warned of a “nightmare scenario”, owing to the fact that Professional Footballers’ Association boss Gordon Taylor had obtained evidence of a colleague’s phone being hacked with the involvement of at last one NOTW journalist.

Myler forwarded the email to Murdoch to “update” him on the situation and added: “Unfortunately it is as bad as we feared,” suggesting that they had already discussed the matter.

The email trail obtained by a Commons committee also shows that Murdoch replied to the email within three minutes, but News International’s executive chairman is insisting that he had only read the top of the email and not the revealing email chain below it.

Writing to MPs, Murdoch said: “I am confident that I did not review the full email chain at the time or afterwards,” adding that it had been sent to him at the weekend, which could account for why he did not address it in full.

A key point is that the email Murdoch claims to have not read properly refers to the now-notorious “For Neville” email that showed the extent of hacking practices at the paper.

Both Myler and Crone have repeatedly claimed that they told Murdoch how hacking had not been confined to a single reporter, citing the “For Neville” correspondence, but Murdoch has denied any knowledge of it.

Crone told the Leveson inquiry into press standards that he had always suspected phone hacking went beyond one journalist, and said he believed the “rogue reporter” stance was “erroneous from the outset”.