Gavin O’Reilly an easy target for former MI5 spy

Cantillon: INM managed to find out who ran a surveillance operation on its former chief executive – but not who commissioned it

How unfortunate Independent News & Media was never able to determine who placed its former chief executive Gavin O’Reilly under surveillance in 2011, his final full year in charge.

After an "extensive investigation" the media group did manage to find out the name of the company running the surveillance operation, but sadly not who had in turn commissioned it. The Sunday Times named this firm in 2011 as being a company called Esoteric, a corporate intelligence advisory, founded by Emma Shaw, a former MI5 intelligence officer.

At the time Shaw was cagey about what exactly she did when asked was she involved in entirely legal monitoring of Mr O’Reilly.

“Any project we are involved in is confidential. Anything we do, whether in the UK or anywhere in the globe, is legal,” she said, while declining to comment on whether her firm had been monitoring Mr O’Reilly.


Times change, however, and Shaw earlier this month emerged from the shadows to do a soft-focus interview with the Financial Times as part of its regular "Working lives" series.

The Financial Times described the experience of interviewing Shaw as a difficult one as "the 46-year-old has a frustrating habit of excitedly describing a situation without revealing any information at all. To get any details requires constant nudging, probing and toing and froing."

In the interview Shaw describes her job as “offering advice to FTSE 100 companies and high-profile individuals on their security matters”. However no clients past or present were revealed.

Among the nuggets Shaw did let slip in the interview, however, was that in her MI5 past she worked on cracking Northern Irish terrorism, tackling the threat from the Middle East and combatting the developing al-Qaeda network. Monitoring Gavin O’Reilly must have been a cakewalk in comparison.