- THE SUN monitored the mobile phone of former Royal girlfriend, court told
- ‘ILLEGAL’ Private Investigator allegedly found-out times and dates of phone calls to Chelsy Davy
- TABLOID targeted Chelsy and Harry as teenagers, court documents reveal
- EXPLOSIVE claims form part of Prince Harry’s unfolding hacking case against The Sun and News of the World
- MURDOCH paper allegedly paid South African Private Investigator £570 for just one month of Ms Davy’s itemised phone bills
- SUN man is called Mike Behr – paper originally claimed he was a freelancer not an unlawful ‘blagger’
- ROYAL Editor Duncan Larcombe allegedly wrote a big story about Prince Harry on the back of the phone call, but:
- PUBLISHER News Group Newspapers denies or “does not admit” The Sun has ever engaging in any criminal activity
KEY DETAILS of Prince Harry’s phone hacking case against The Sun emerged for the first time in open court today, Byline Investigates can exclusively report.
The High Court in London heard The Sun allegedly illegally-obtained the private phone bills of the Prince’s then girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
The controversial newspaper allegedly paid a private investigator in South Africa hundreds of pounds to unlawfully spy on the then teenager.
In the opening salvo of the Duke of Sussex’s war with Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers – which we revealed last October – barrister David Sherborne detailed some of the alleged intrusions he is complaining of.
NGN either denies or “non-admits” that unlawful information gathering ever took place at The Sun, while making limited admissions about the News of the World, which was caught out hacking the Prince up to August 2006.
But according to documents deployed today in Court 27 of the Rolls Building in heart of London’s legal quarter, The Sun’s former Royal Editor Duncan Larcombe tasked a private investigator called Mike Behr to spy on Harry and Chelsy when they were less than a year into their relationship.
Mr Behr, according to a witness statement by solicitor Callum Galbraith, was a South African based agent, and sometime journalist, with access to private investigators and “blaggers” based in South Africa.
On May 13, 2005, Mr Behr emailed Mr Larcombe a copy of Ms Davy’s phone bill for the month of March.
Mr Galbraith, for the claimants, wrote in his witness statement: “The email of 13 May 2005 – subject “March records” – contains an attachment listing the phone billing data of Chelsy Davy, the then girlfriend of HRH the Duke of Sussex (the latter now a claimant in these proceedings).”
By studying the bill, Mr Larcombe was allegedly able to find out the dates and times of Ms Davy’s phone calls to Prince Harry, and also the length of time they spoke.
Mr Galbraith’s statement continued: “HRH the Duke of Sussex’s number and the time, date and duration of the calls between him and Ms Davy appear throughout the attached document.
“It is clear that this document could not have been obtained legally, and nor does it seem from the rather matter-of-fact subject line that this was the only time Mr Behr had supplied such records.
Prince Harry is one of 41 claimants currently suing the parent company that owns The Sun and the defunct News of The World, while a further 70 are in the pipeline.
The long-running litigation, and other phone hacking-related costs, has so far drained media mogul Rupert Murdoch of an estimated minimum of £1 billion, over the last decade.
The case has been “brought to the brink” of a fully-blown trial at least once, with NGN choosing to settle scores of claims out-of-court for sometimes inflated sums beforehand, often “at the steps of the court”.
Today, the court heard that Mr Behr was paid £570 for the “phone record checks”, and an additional fee of £750 when a story about Prince Harry was published, as a result of his inquiries.
Barrister David Sherborne told the court the “private investigator” invoice for the “phone record checks” was approved by The Sun’s serving Managing Editor Graham Dudman.
Mr Galbraith’s witness statement went on: “Mr Behr was paid £570 on 9 March 2005 for ‘Phone Record Checks’ and on 15 February 2005 £750 for ‘Harry’s Call to Chelsy – exclusive’, and such brazenly unlawful activities were duly authorised by Sun Managing Editors, Graham Dudman and Chris Roycroft-Davis respectively.”
Mr Sherborne repeatedly argued that Mr Behr was a private investigator and not a freelance journalist, and the data that he supplied was “blatantly unlawful”.
The barrister for the claimants told the judge that Mike Behr’s name had originally been redacted from disclosed documents by lawyers acting for The Sun, who characterised him as a freelance reporter and “confidential source”.
Mr Galbraith noted: “This line was ‘Phone Record Checks’ though Mr Behr’s name was redacted as a ‘confidential source’, which was certainly not appropriate.
“Therefore, and due solely to their persistence, the Claimants have only very recently (in the last three months) discovered that Mr Behr supplied unlawfully obtained information about a senior member of the Royal family.”
Hacked Off Policy Director Nathan Sparkes said,
“These allegations, that The Sun newspaper was illegally spying on the private phone messages shared between teenagers, threaten to humiliate the Government on the second anniversary since it cancelled the promised public inquiry into these matters.
That a newspaper would illegally monitor the private conversations of teenage partners, Royal or otherwise, is a sickening allegation. Yet it stands among many allegations of seriously unethical and illegal behaviour which the Government continues to refuse to investigate through the public inquiry which was promised.
Suggesting that press illegality had been largely dealt with through police investigations and Leveson Part One, the Government went along with the wishes of the largest newspaper publishers and cancelled Leveson Part Two in March 2018.
“The Government must now abandon attempts to curry favour with newspaper publishers and stand up for Prince Harry, Ms Davy, and the thousands of people across the country who have been the victims of illegal or otherwise abusive press behaviour, by establishing Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry and implementing the recommendations of Part One without further delay.”
· The case continues. A full trial is scheduled for October 12.