'News of the World' hired detective to tail Prince William
Published 09/11/2011 | 05:00
The 'News of the World' hired a private investigator to carry out undercover surveillance work on Prince William while the newspaper was being investigated by police for hacking his voicemail.
The British Sunday tabloid, which closed in July, paid an ex-police officer to follow William while he was in Gloucestershire for several days in 2006.
Derek Webb, a former police detective, told BBC 'Newsnight' that he was paid to follow more than 800 high-profile targets on behalf of the newspaper over a nine-year period.
Other people targeted by Mr Webb included Prince Harry's former girlfriend Chelsy Davy and the parents of 'Harry Potter' actor Daniel Radcliffe.
While not illegal, the industrial scale on which the covert surveillance was conducted raises further ethical questions about the newspaper's conduct in light of the phone hacking scandal.
The revelation that Prince William was followed is particularly sensitive. The initial investigation into phone hacking was prompted following a complaint in 2005 that his voicemails had been hacked.
Mr Webb was commissioned to follow the prince while the newspaper was under police scrutiny for hacking his voicemail.
Last night Mr Webb told the BBC that he was employed by the tabloid paper from 2003 until its closure earlier this year. He said: "Because I kept getting results for them, they employed my services more and more."
The timing of the revelations comes just a day before James Murdoch is due to appear in front of British MPs to answer questions about his knowledge of phone hacking and other malpractice at the newspaper.
He is certain to be questioned about the hiring of private investigators after it emerged that two lawyers who represented clients in phone hacking cases were put under surveillance. Mark Lewis, one of the lawyers, yesterday revealed he planned to sue News International for the invasion of privacy.
Royal sources declined to comment on the latest development. However, one insider said: "Given that the 'News of the World' bugged the phones of members of the royal household, nothing about what they were up to surprises us any more."
A News International spokesperson said: "We are not able to make any comment around the specific work carried out by Derek Webb."
Meanwhile, Max Mosley, the former Formula One chief, was yesterday awarded €23,000 by a French court after it found the publisher of the 'News of the World' guilty of breaching his privacy. (©Daily Telegraph, London)