- Richard Simpson’s Daily Mail stories were littered with illegally-obtained call data
- Today, Simpson specialises in covering Prince Harry and William, and their families
- But in the past he used notorious illegal PI firm called Express Locate International, named in court as phone hacking conspirators
- On one day alone, ELI billed him for £1797.78 worth of services
- Three different types of corroborative evidence now point to hacking allegations against Simpson
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
STORIES written by veteran Daily Mail journalist Richard Simpson repeatedly make suspicious references to phone calls and texts.
Several articles contain tell-tale clues that Simpson monitored the telephones of his victims.
The royal reporter, whose print articles are recycled on MailOnline, made little effort to cover up the illegally-obtained private information that he sourced.
In Part 1 of this series, Byline Investigates revealed how Simpson has been accused of phone hacking by a former colleague – an allegation he and the Daily Mail deny.
Today, we can report that the Daily Mail’s ex-Showbiz News Editor used a notorious private investigator firm, that has been named in court, also in connection with intercepting voicemails.
Express Locate International (ELI) illegally sold phone bills and mobile conversions to reporters.
Ex-directory numbers and lists of ‘Friends and Family’ were also available.
Some journalists then used the private data to illegally listen to voicemails.
A former journalist, who also used ELI, told Byline Investigates: “ELI supplied the raw data that phone hackers then used to intercept voicemails.
“ELI were enablers, because they illegally sold private phone numbers and phone bills, which phone hackers then exploited to penetrate further into the target of a story.
“Wherever an ELI invoice is found, phone hacking wasn’t far behind – and basically, that’s what a High Court judge found.”
Our researchers analysed over one thousand of Simpson’s articles, written between 2004, when he was first employed at the Daily Mail, and 2011, when the phone hacking scandal erupted.
Many journalists suddenly stopped using the ‘dark arts’ following revelations that the News of The World targeted murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
But before the spotlight was turned on the shadowy practices, give-away signs were often hidden in plain sight, because reporters were not concerned about breaking the law.
Simpson openly wrote about who the stars were talking to on the phone.
Several stories refer to what appears to be the contents of voicemails.
Others refer to the times and frequency that potential victims telephoned, or were phoned by someone else.
One of Simpson’s trademarks was to identify exactly who his victims were in ‘regular contact’ with.
Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney, was a recurring target in Simpson’s stories, especially during their explosive divorce.
In one article, headlined ‘Paul’s Ready To Talk,’ Simpson revealed how McCartney and Mills spoke ‘three or four times in recent days over the phone.’
“One of the chats went on for at least 15 minutes,” Simpson continued, “which is the longest they have spoken to one another in months and months.”
Last year, Heather Mills – one of the most hacked victims in the history of the scandal – received record damages from rival firm, Rupert Murdoch’s News UK.
Byline Investigates has learned that she is set to consult her lawyers – the same legal team that won her an estimated six figure sum from the News of the World and The Sun – about launching a similar action against the Daily Mail.
Our reporters understand, that around ten potential victims of unlawful information gathering are preparing cases against Britain’s best-selling, middle-market publisher, which prides itself on a tough law-and-order editorial line.
The news will cause anxiety for its billionaire owner Lord Rothermere, because similar litigation has cost his rivals dearly.
Phone hacking has cost Rupert Murdoch’s News UK up to a billion pounds, and the Mirror Group has spent an estimated £80 million on compensation and legal fees.
The scandal has tarnished their brands with accusations of corruption and hypocrisy, leading to difficulties with advertisers, regulators and shareholders, at a time when newspapers are already facing a tough time because of falling circulations and Covid-hit advertising.
Byline Investigates has learned that The Sun will suffer further redundancies in the coming months.
The Daily Mail’s Associated News is set to shut down Event magazine, a showbiz and TV listings supplement that frequently features columnist Piers Morgan.
Itemised billing data was often acquired by Fleet Street reporters by tasking private investigators, such as ELI, to ‘pull the phone bills’ of subscribers.
The quarterly or monthly phone bills, of victims like Mills or McCartney, cost the Daily Mail on average between £125 and £250.
Once the instruction was given, the PIs then obtained the raw data illegally from phone companies by deception, often posing as telecoms engineers.
The process took no more than a few hours.
By comparing phone bills, and analysing the most frequently dialed numbers, reporters could demonstrate that estranged couples were in touch again.
Or that two apparent strangers, were in fact, in a relationship.
Then, by contacting associates listed under ‘Friends and Family’, journalists could ‘stand-up’ the story further, by asking ‘insiders’ for tidbits and comments.
More intrusively, specialist ‘blaggers’ were employed to illicit medical information from hospitals and GPs.
Richard Simpson mentions phone calls and texts in stories involving:
- Singer Kylie Minogue and her ex-lovers Andres Velencoso Segura and Olivier Martinez.
- Colin Montgomerie, his ex-wife Eimear, and his ex-model girlfriend Ines Sastre.
- Hugh Grant and his one-time partner Jemima Khan, a socialite and campaigner.
- Model Kate Moss and rock star Pete Doherty.
In a file submitted to the Leveson Inquiry by Associated News, there are nine jobs labelled ‘Simpson’ on September 27th, 2006, adding up to £1797.78.
Simpson left the Daily Mail in June 2011 to go freelance – around the same time that the phone hacking scandal was coming to a head.
One month later, the News of The World, owned by rival Rupert Murdoch, was shut down after The Guardian revealed that journalists had hacked murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The Sunday tabloid had tasked Private Investigator Glenn Mulcaire to intercept her voicemails.
Eight months later, in February 2012, Paul Dacre tried to distance his papers from the News of The World’s criminality.
He told the Leveson Inquiry that the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday did not use phone hacking.
Challenged on this at the Inquiry, Mr. Dacre said: “I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into the newspapers’ practices – and held an inquiry – that phone hacking was not practiced by the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail. You know that because I gave this inquiry my unequivocal assurances.”
On Glenn Mulcaire, he added: “I have carried out a major internal inquiry into our payments and our computers. We have never paid any payments to Mr Mulcaire.”
However, in previous installments of this series, Byline Investigates revealed that Mail on Sunday columnist Katie Nicholl published stories based on Mulcaire’s hacking.
In addition, her boss Chris Anderson was sent emails containing transcripts of Mulcaire’s hacked emails.
Recently, we told how Mulcaire hacked former Justice Minister Simon Hughes for the Mail on Sunday.
By giving the wrong evidence to a Public Inquiry, Paul Dacre may have committed a criminal offence under the Inquiries Act 2005, punishable by up to 51 weeks in jail.
In addition, to using his own unlawfully-gathered information, Richard Simpson lifted hacked stories from the News of The World, which were written by well-known hackers.
A spokesman on behalf of the Daily Mail said:
‘As we made clear when Byline last published these claims three years ago, our use of inquiry agents – and the decision in 2007 by the Editor-in-Chief to ban all use of them – was covered in our evidence and submissions to the Leveson inquiry and we have nothing further to add. Furthermore, as we have also repeatedly made clear, both Richard Simpson and the Daily Mail categorically deny any involvement in phone hacking.’
More follows in Part 3 of our series on Richard Simpson.