It was an opportunity to get revenge on an overpowering colleague who just turned out to be too good to ignore.
When a group of angry junior production staff on Sky News heard star host Kay Burley brag about plans for 60th birthday celebrations that would violate strict lockdown rules, they didn’t hesitate to rush – and set a chain of events off the ground When she was banned from the air for six months, her reputation was badly tarnished.
When the £ 600,000-a-year presenter embarked on an African safari vacation away from the UK spotlight yesterday, The Mail on Sunday may reveal the full story of how Burley was the ignorant architect of her own demise and how she got into what happened mugged was described as a “perfect inside job coup”.
The conspiracy of colleagues – long upset by her bossy manner – began when they heard her speak on the tiles in advance about last weekend’s night, which resulted in her and three other Sky News journalists in their house Knightsbridge, Central London, celebrated.
Sky News host Kay Burley has agreed not to be on the air for six months after violating coronavirus rules. Pictured: Kay Burley hugs and Beth Rigby (center in red) at Mrs. Burley’s 60th birthday party on Saturday
They secretly recruited a paparazzi photographer to take photos of Burley breaking the lockdown rules and created an encrypted email account to forward the story to the media.
Burley, who turns 60 on Thursday, has been the Queen of Sky News for years. She has been part of the team since the station first aired in 1989. She is extremely professional and is respected by her bosses. However, she has drawn envy from colleagues. Words like “divisive” and “inviolable” are used about them – as they are often about successful people.
And so, nine days ago at Sky’s huge headquarters in Osterley, west London, Burley shared her excitement over her plans to celebrate her birthday, leaving colleagues in no doubt that she would dine with people from out of town at a venue her own Household.
She was overheard explaining that she would only attend the club for members of Century, a celebrity hangout near Piccadilly Circus, with a group of more than six people.
“It was a boom that could really bring them down,” says a source. “They thought,” If she gets caught, that would be the end for her. “’
Burley named certain people she’d invited, including Beth Rigby, Sky News’ political editor and Burley’s best friend since joining the station from The Times in 2016.
ESCAPE: Kay Burley’s 60th birthday violation was passed on to the media in an email from her own Sky TV colleagues. Pictured: Burley at Heathrow Airport on his way to an African safari on Friday when the embarrassed presenter flies into exile worth £ 600,000 a year
The conspirators acted quickly. A little more than 24 hours later, photographers from the well-known paparazzi agency Eroteme were waiting in front of the club for Burley and her friends.
The group also included Sky correspondent Inzamam Rashid from northern England and presenter Sam Washington. They spilled on the sidewalk in front of the discreet venue and avoided social distancing rules. Some prepared to go home while others discussed where to continue partying.
Burley, dressed in black from head to toe, and Rigby were even seen hugging. According to the latter, it was a goodbye hug, for which she later apologized.
While others were leaving the party, a smaller group reportedly went to the Soho restaurant, Folie (French for “madness,” “stupidity” or “folly”), whose stylish owner Guillaume Depoix had appeared on Burley’s Sky Show earlier this week .
A hardcore group of four, including Rashid and former Sky News Royal correspondent Paul Harrison, who now works for controversial Chinese electronics giant Huawei, is said to have hosted an after-after party at Burley.
By early Sunday morning, Burley’s nemes had received the incriminating photos they needed.
They work with an account they created for the occasion at ProtonMail, which calls itself the world’s largest secure email service.
The Switzerland-based company was founded by former researchers from the large hadron collider at CERN and uses sophisticated encryption. This means that e-mails cannot be passed on to third parties and guarantees the sender anonymity behind the unencrypted e-mail addresses.
DAMN: The full verbatim email with minor grammatical errors sealed the fate of Burley, who broke the rules
The conspirators emailed The Sun last Sunday – amusingly using email@example.com as the address – with details of the moderator’s “crime” and attached the photos. However, the newspaper decided not to publish the story. The reason for this is not 100 percent clear.
The Sunday mail has since been given a copy of the email that read, “Kay Burley bragged about breaking Level 2 lockdowns for her 60th birthday party last night.”
It then went on to describe the evening’s events, including how the party split into a table of six and four at Century to circumvent the rule of six, and how Depoix broke the law to allow the group to continue their celebrations at his restaurant.
The damn email concluded, “Four people then went back to Kay’s Knightsbridge block. There are pictures.”
Distraught that The Sun hadn’t taken the bait, the conspirators then gave the story to Westminster gossip website Guido Fawkes. The rest of the media duly followed, and the story became a front page news item on Wednesday.
Burley was quickly released from her duties and taken off the air for six months on full pay while her Sky bosses were forced to apologize.
Miss Burley (center, hugging someone) and Miss Rigby (in red) are pictured at the Century Club on Saturday after dinner
Inzamam Rashid (center), Sam Washington (right) and former royal correspondent Paul Harrison (left) also attended
Meanwhile, those behind the operation to bring it down are celebrating – albeit at a social distance from one another.
With Burley now in Africa, her friends are determined to find the Snitch. “There is a hunt for those who did this,” assured a newsroom. “It was a facility that not only crashed Kay, but badly damaged the entire station.
“It was all an absolute embarrassment.”
Last night, Tory MP Nickie Aiken, whose central London constituency includes both Soho and Knightsbridge, criticized the “incredibly selfish” actions of Burley and her colleagues, as Covid rule breakers are blamed for rising infection rates in the capital the US could topple economically ruinous Tier 3 next week.
“Who do these people think they are?” Ms. Aiken told The Mail on Sunday. “These Sky presenters need to understand the consequences, and the consequences are people going out of business.”
Sky News executives, including highly regarded content director Cristina Nicolotti Squires, were reportedly furious over the injury.
Meanwhile, editor Adam Boulton was public in his disdain for the behavior and tweeted criticism of Burley, including a comment calling her and other guests at the event “idiots”.
I’ve been told that his views on Burley go back decades to the time they were both working on the ITV breakfast show, TV-am. Then he was Bigwig’s political editor, and she was the up and coming reporter for girls.
A Sky source added, “The network has had a great year – viewership has been good and the team has been commended for treating coronavirus so well.
“Now this is happening. It’s completely unfair to the rest of the staff.
“They’re also angry that she has six months off on full pay.” What kind of message does it send? “
Fewer are more angry than Ms. Nicolotti Squires, a former executive of rival news organization ITN, where she edited Channel 5 News. She is said to have a “strained relationship” with Burley.
Others, however, are big fans. Burley is an extraordinary networker whose close friends include media manager Rebekah Brooks and broadcasters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. She is also friends with Frank Lampard and his TV host Christine, who has known the Chelsea manager since he was a teenager. Burley was married to Lampard’s agent Steve Kutner and the couple have one son.
Although her on-screen role is strict, Burley is privately involved in society. It’s no surprise that her guests hated calling it a night as the first part of her birthday party ended.
I became part of Burley’s gang for a while after meeting them at various events.
As a member of this circle, I remember being overwhelmed with loving compliments and regularly being invited to attend their evenings with a group of about ten people.
Paul Harrison was usually there, as was some great co-stars she met on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted that Burley would freely flirt with. We’d start at Archer Street cocktail bar in Soho, where Burley was guaranteed to be the best table, and we’d end around the corner at Freedom gay bar. There she was connected well enough to make sure we had the best seat and plenty of alcohol. Either she paid for it or it was given for free – I certainly didn’t see a bill at the end of the night.
FRIENDS: Burley, right, with Sky Political Editor Beth Rigby, left, Burley’s best friend since joining The Times in 2016
What now for Burley?
Following an internal investigation on Thursday, Sky News said the bosses expect all team members to fully comply with Covid restrictions. Everyone involved regrets the incident and apologized. “
They added, “After our review of events on December 5th, we agreed with Beth Rigby and Inzamam Rashid that they would not be on the air for three months, and we agreed with Kay Burley that she would not be on the air for six months . ‘
Minutes later, Burley confirmed that she would “step back from my broadcasting role for a period of reflection.”
She added, “It doesn’t matter that I thought I was Covid Compliant. The fact is, I was wrong, made a big mistake and I’m sorry.” Some dear friends and colleagues – some of the most talented and dedicated professionals in our business – have been drawn into this episode and I deeply regret this.
“I was one of the founding presenters of Sky News. Nobody is more proud of our station’s reputation, the professionals on our team and the impact we make. I am very much looking forward to continuing my 32-year career at Sky upon my return. “
According to some at the train station, however, this may not be in the form she is used to. A source believes that if she returns in the spring, it is “unlikely” that she will get her breakfast show, which she started last October.
Some, who air on both Sky One and Sky News, believe the reviews were very bad.
“It’s a feeling of relief and the bosses now have the option to put the show off and move it to another location,” they added.
Others simply believe that if their authority has been undermined, she will never return.
As one colleague remarked, “How can hypocrites like you or Beth Rigby ever hold a person in power so that they can be held accountable again without being ridiculed?”