- NEWS UK CEO Rebekah Brooks has been personally implicated in an unlawful surveillance operation on Prince Harry when he was a minor
- BROOKS, as former News of the World editor, oversaw the illegal obtaining of phone bills by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire
- SHE then had the Prince targeted by discredited undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood in a baseless ‘undercover sting’ operation, before she:
- ‘BLAGGED’ Royal officials into cooperating on a story without proper evidence, in a triple whammy of sharp professional behaviour, which:
- BYLINE Investigates will be revealing in full in an 11-part special investigation
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
RUPERT Murdoch’s most senior serving British employee kept Prince Harry under illegal surveillance for a year when he was a child, a major new Byline Investigation into criminal newsgathering can reveal.
News UK Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks targeted the Prince in his GCSE year, while she was editor of the now closed News of the World, with multiple “fishing expeditions” into his private life.
Our revelations place Ms Brooks personally at the centre of the Prince Harry phone hacking scandal, and come as she is also being sued personally at the High Court in London – for the first time – by other alleged victims of her snooping activities.
We can tell how Rebekah Brooks’ secret operation against the then 16-year-old Prince involved a ‘triple whammy’ of illegal, deceitful, and dubious newsgathering techniques, including:
- The unlawful obtaining of confidential itemised phone billing data by the News of The World’s in-house private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
- An elaborate and illegal drugs sting attempt by ‘Fake Sheik’ Investigations Editor Mazher Mahmood – a man later convicted of evidence tampering and perverting the course of justice.
- Personally deceiving aides to Prince Charles into believing her paper had more evidence on Harry’s teenage private life than it actually had.
And now, new testimony from Ms Brooks’ former right-hand man in the News of the World newsroom, News Editor and convicted phone hacker Greg Miskiw, reveals the integral role she played in the commission of a series of serious Royal security breaches.
Mr Miskiw told this website: “The Prince Harry drugs story has Rebekah Brooks all over it, from start to finish. It was her story. It was one of the biggest of her career.
“It’s what’s known in Fleet Street as an ‘Editor’s Special’. She drove it through, from when the tip came in, to when it finally made the paper.”
In this, the first of an 11-part series, Mr Miskiw reveals how, having spent months trying to manufacture an ‘exclusive’ on the young Prince, and having no actual evidence of wrongdoing, Ms Brooks “blagged” – or deceived – Royal aides into cooperating with a January 2002 story she headlined: ‘Harry Drugs Shame’.
Ms Brooks’ long campaign against the Prince included unlawful surveillance on the telephone communications of his close social circle – and coincided with the failure of a separate corrupt plot by her tabloid to set up the Prince with hard drugs.
The sum of these efforts was a very weak “dossier of evidence”, that Ms Brooks then overstated the strength of in conversations with Buckingham Palace aides in order to leverage an official admission that Prince Harry had tried cannabis for a short time between leaving Eton College and joining the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
It resulted in an article co-authored by Mazher Mahmood and Clive Goodman, the Murdoch paper’s Royal editor, who was convicted in 2007 along with illegal private investigator Glenn Mulcaire of phone hacking the Royal household and its aides.
Mr Miskiw reveals in an extraordinary insider account Ms Brooks’ obsession with finding a damaging story on the young Prince, and tells how, acting on rumours of teenage partying, he instructed the notorious former Investigations editor Mazher Mahmood to try and entrap Harry in a drugs sting.
Self-styled ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mahmood – who was jailed for 15 months in 2016 for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drug trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos, following another corrupt ‘sting’, after which he was accused of fabricating scores of stories – haplessly tried and failed to target the Prince in a baseless ‘undercover’ operation in a nightclub.
At the same time as the failed Mahmood sting on Harry, the paper – which closed in 2011 after 168 years in print amid outrage over its hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone – tasked Glenn Mulcaire to compromise the private communications of his Royal circle, something that went on intermittently for around a year from early 2001.
Mr Miskiw said: “I was in charge of the story. The bottom line is that it was a fishing expedition, based on rumours.
“I commissioned both Glenn Mulcaire and Mazher Mahmood to get the evidence; to stand-up the story. Mazher tried to get him (Harry) for cocaine, but we got nothing.”
Undeterred by a lack of proof, but having spent tens of thousands of Rupert Murdoch’s pounds illegally spying on the Prince, even though he was still a minor, and his friends, Ms Brooks entered discussions with Buckingham Palace on the pretext her paper had an exclusive story on his private life.
Mr Miskiw, who along with Mr Mulcaire is today a whistleblower on Murdoch-tabloid criminality, added: “That [lack of proof] didn’t stop ‘Blagga ‘Becka’. She still managed to trick the Palace into a full-on confession, and a story was published.”
The allegations raise questions about Ms Brooks’ past sworn denials of ever conspiring to hack phones. At her 2014 Old Bailey ‘super-trial’, at which she was acquitted, she also denied using illegal private investigators except to trace paedophiles in the public interest.
But this website reported last month how Ms Brooks has been cited in High Court documents as personally instructing a PI to spy on her ex-husband Ross Kemp. There is no suggestion Mr Kemp is a paedophile.
And last year we exclusively revealed how Prince Harry is suing the News of the World, and its sister paper The Sun, for allegedly phone hacking and misusing his private information.
Both papers were edited by Ms Brooks consecutively for 14 years, between 1995 and 2009 – the same period that Prince Harry is expected to say his private information was hacked and blagged, by those very same papers.
Despite Mahmood’s high-profile conviction over Tulisa Contostavlos, his ex-boss Ms Brooks has never taken public responsibility for his criminal behaviour, which is alleged to stretch back over 20 years, and is also the subject of scrutiny in the High Court.
Mazher Mahmood’s corrupt investigation into Ms Contostavlos was published by Victoria Newton, Ms Brooks’ protégé and now The Sun’s Editor-in-Chief – even though she herself is mired in High Court phone hacking allegations.
Byline Investigates put this story to Ms Brooks, Ms Newton, and News UK, for comment on Monday.
STAY tuned for more in in this Triple Whammy series. In coming instalments we will tell how:
- Ms Brooks’ plan was initially thwarted by Buckingham Palace, which fought-off the allegations
- The News of the World was prevented from publishing a story for a year
- In desperation, Murdoch’s paper then turned to criminal activity
- Over the next few weeks, Byline Investigates will explain how Fleet Street’s ‘Independent’ Press regulator was accused of interfering – to the benefit of Ms Brooks, and:
- In the end, Ms Brooks published fake news