Former prime minister Gordon Brown accused Rupert Murdoch’s media empire on Tuesday of using criminals to obtain his private documents, as MPs prepared to quiz police over phone hacking.
In a major new twist in the row that led to the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World, Brown accused its stablemate the Sunday Times of using con tricks to obtain bank details and legal documents relating to a flat he bought.
He also said he did not understand how The Sun, another Murdoch paper, obtained information that his son had cystic fibrosis, adding that when the tabloid splashed the news on its front page in 2006 he was left “in tears”.
“I think what happened pretty early on in government was that the Sunday Times appear to have got access to my building society account, they got access to my legal files,” Brown told the BBC in an interview.
“But I’m shocked, I’m genuinely shocked to find that this happened because of their links with criminals, known criminals who were undertaking this activity, hired by investigators who were working with the Sunday Times.”
His claims are the first to explicitly drag in other Murdoch newspapers into the long-running scandal over phone hacking at the News of the World, and threaten to further damage Murdoch’s media interests.
They come as MPs prepare to question senior police officers about why their original investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World in 2006 failed to unearth the hoard of allegations that have emerged in recent months.
In the latest twist, it was reported that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla had their voicemails hacked.
Media reports also suggested that police officers charged with protecting members of the royal family had sold their details to the News of the World, and the tabloid’s owners knew about this as early as 2007 but kept quiet.
The scandal prompted Murdoch to abruptly close down the 168-year-old tabloid last week, and sparked intense political pressure on his News Corp.’s controversial bid for control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
News Corp. on Monday announced it was withdrawing concessions which it had offered to assuage competition concerns over the bid, prompting the government to refer the bid to the Competition Commission.
Murdoch flew to London on Sunday to try to contain the crisis, and also to offer his full support to Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of his British media interests, News International.