News of the World spied on huge scale: report
LONDON — News of the World engaged in covert surveillance on a huge scale, targeting figures including Prince William and ex-footballer Gary Lineker, a report said Thursday.
Private investigator Derek Webb told the BBC that he was hired by the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid and paid to follow more than 90 targets selected by journalists at the paper.
Other targets included the parents of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe and the government’s then chief legal adviser Peter Goldsmith, according to a dossier the broadcaster said it was handed by the ex-police officer.
Webb said he was contacted by the News of the World shortly after setting up his own private detective agency in 2003. He worked for the paper up until it closed amid a phone-hacking scandal in July.
“I was working for them extensively on many jobs throughout that time,” he said.
“I never knew when I was going to be required. They phoned me up by the day or by the night. … It could be anywhere in the country.”
The allegation comes a day after Webb told the BBC he was paid to follow two lawyers who represented phone-hacking victims. One of the lawyers also claimed he had seen evidence that politicians were spied on.
The surveillance allegations have widened the scandal that forced the tabloid’s closure, taking it from hacking into the voicemails of well-known figures to physically trailing targets.
The welter of fresh claims heaps pressure on Murdoch’s son and chairman of his British newspaper publishing wing News International, James Murdoch, ahead of an appearance Thursday before British lawmakers to face questions on hacking.
Webb, who had previously worked for many years in covert surveillance for the police, said he received calls from a number of journalists at the paper.
Some 90 percent of his targets were celebrities or politicians, he said.
In 2006, Webb was asked to follow Prince William when the second in line to the throne he was spending a few days in Gloucestershire, southwest England.
It was in the same year that Webb followed former England striker Lineker, who is now a high-profile BBC TV sports presenter.
He kept detailed logs of his movements and observations during surveillance work, which the BBC said it had seen.