The Sun’s American Private Investigator denies obtaining Meghan Markle’s phone bills to count Prince Harry’s text messages – despite carrying out the illegal practice in the past

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex during a Creative Industries and Business Reception in Johannesburg, South-Africa. (Photo by DPPA/Sipa USA)
  • Dan Hanks admits selling The Sun the Duchess of Sussex’s phone number – but says that he didn’t probe her call data.
  • ‘I stopped obtaining phone records over a decade ago,’ the LA detective claims.
  • But The Sun published a story about Prince Harry’s texts, which hacking ‘lawyers’ say must have come illegally from her mobile bill.
  • However, mystery surrounds how the paper got this information.
  • Because the Murdoch paper claims ‘a friend’ told them about the private phone data.
  • And publisher News Group Newspapers denies any wrongdoing.
  • IN PART 1 of this special investigation, we revealed how LA-based PI Dan ‘Danno’ Hanks was commissioned by The Sun to spy on the Markle family.
  • IN PART 2, we reported the response of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who condemned The Sun’s predatory practices.
  • IN PART 3, Byline Investigates raised questions about how The Sun got that information about text messages.
  • The story continues in PART 4 below….

By Graham Johnson | Editor, Byline Investigates

THE SUN’s American Private Investigator, who spied on Meghan Markle, has told how he used to peddle illegally-obtained phone records to British tabloid papers.

Danno Hanks paid another detective firm, to ‘blag’ itemised billing data from phone companies on his behalf, so that he could find out exactly who Hollywood celebrities were calling – and when.

Then, he sold the lists of private numbers and call times to UK red-tops, so that journalists could see which stars were dating who.

Dan ‘Danno’ Hanks, the Los Angeles-based private investigator who was paid by The Sun to target Meghan Markle, her father Thomas, her closest friends and family.

But the 72-year-old retired detective added: ‘I have sold illegal phone tolls (bills) plenty of times to Fleet Street newspapers – but on this occasion, I’m an innocent man.

‘How did The Sun find out about Meghan Markle’s texts? I can only speculate.’

Hanks explained why tabloid newspapers are prepared to buy illicit phone records on the black market.

Hanks’ 2016 The Sun / News UK invoice, for investigative work concerning Meghan Markle and her father Thomas

He told Byline Investigates: ‘Phone tolls (bills) are very valuable to papers that are obsessed with the love lives of the rich and famous.

‘They are useful, because you can prove that celebrity X is going out with person Y.

‘If two people suddenly start calling each other, or texting each, that’s evidence that there in a relationship.

‘Often, you can figure out if it’s romantic relationship because of the volume of traffic, and the time of the texts.

‘So, for example, if two people are making lots of late night calls to each other, the chances are is that they’re dating…’

The Sun story in question.

Last week, Byline Investigates revealed how The Sun published a story about how Prince Harry was ‘bombarding’ Meghan Markle with texts shortly after they first met.

The suspicious article was published two days after the paper’s US Editor James Beal tasked Hanks to target Meghan Markle – which the detective went on to do unlawfully.

In response, the Murdoch paper has not suggested that what the PI did was legal.

However, publisher News UK denied asking him to do anything unlawful on their behalf.

Hanks has admitted that he provided Meghan’s phone number to The Sun, but he denies doing any ‘follow-up phone work, such as getting her toll (billing) records.’

He said: ‘My expertise is databases. I don’t do phone tolls – at least, not anymore, I don’t.

‘If that happened, it definitely wasn’t me, this time,’ he stressed.

However, the former law enforcement agent, said that it was perfectly possible that The Sun went on to task another PI – known in America as an information-broker – who specialised in obtaining billing data.

‘It would have been relatively easy to do,’ Hanks continued, ‘and I should know, because I used to do exactly that for the tabloids.

‘In fact, I have done it specifically for Murdoch media, in the past.

‘All that I needed, to get a phone bill, was the target’s phone number, which I supplied to my sub-contractor, who specialised in getting toll records.’

The professional confidential informant – who has worked with the FBI, DEA and local police, added: ‘All that I needed, to get a phone bill, back then was the target’s telephone number, and supply that to my sub-contractor.

‘Sometimes it was just a name and address. They were that good.

‘In the case of Meghan Markle, I already got that for The Sun – her mobile number was at the top of the 90-page comprehensive report, that I sold them on October 30, 2016.

‘There was also her address, of course.

‘Then, if all that data is given to another PI, he can then call-up Meghan’s phone company and pretend to be her, because he has effectively stolen her identity, and can answer the security questions, and so on.

‘In the trade, it’s called “spoofing.”

‘In the UK, this is called “blagging.” But it’s the same thing.

‘The other PI will get a woman in his office, to call the phone company and say, “I’m the subscriber Ms Markle, can you please tell me or email me a copy of my July mobile phone bill.”

‘Or something like that, you get the picture.

‘Obviously, you set-up a phoney email, to receive the data, and so on.

‘There are also computer hackers who can get into their online accounts and get the same billing data that way. And IMSI-catchers which eavesdrop. But my sub-contractor used the “spoofing” method.’

The Sun’s response

More follows in Part 5 of our series on The Sun, Meghan Markle and Danno Hanks.

More articles filed under The Sun

BREAKING

Rebekah Brooks sent email ordering illegal activity, High Court hears

Graham Johnson
BREAKING

The Sun dramatically caves-in on a landmark ‘phone hacking’ case

Graham Johnson

Liverpool fans blast “hypocritical” Sun for trumpeting football race boycott

Euan Burns