Sucheta Dalal :How the reporter Scooped UK Royalty using his mobile phone
Sucheta Dalal

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How the reporter Scooped UK Royalty using his mobile phone  

December 1, 2006

When Clive Goodman tapped into the mobile phone messaging services of Prince William's closest aides he was laying a trail that led police straight back to his own phone. It was this particular lack of guile that surprised investigating officers and allowed them to build a criminal case around a practice they had long suspected some journalists of using to get their scoops.

Goodman was caught telephoning the mobile phones of senior figures within the Prince of Wales's household. After ensuring the mobiles were switched off, he would wait for the message contained on every phone asking the caller to leave a message after the tone.

At some point during this message Goodman would punch in the code programmed as the security number in most mobile phones- 4444, or any similar repetition of a digit - and gain instant access to messages in the personal mailbox.

Because most people forget to change the security code in place when they buy the phone, the method worked beautifully for Goodman.

What astonished many newspaper colleagues was that Goodman, a veteran tabloid reporter, had risked so much for stories which were, in the end, so minor.

It was when these tales, which involved Prince William, appeared in Goodman's Blackadder diary column in the News of the World that aides to the prince and his father began to get suspicious.

The first item was an article on November 6 last year stating that Prince William had consulted doctors about a pulled tendon in his knee. It went on to say the injury had forced the prince to postpone a mountain rescue course.

So few people were aware of his doctor's appointment that the prince was puzzled as to how it had been discovered.

A week later the diary ran another article, stating that Tom Bradby, ITV's former royal correspondent, and a man known to have built a good relationship with the prince, had lent him some broadcasting equipment. Another clue to aides was that the piece appeared a week before Bradby was due to meet William.

Mr Bradby said when they eventually met William said he was concerned about how the information had been leaked. "We worked out that only he and I and two people incredibly close to him had actually known about it," said Mr Bradby, who is now political editor for ITN.

Among the prince's entourage is a Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, an ex-SAS officer with experience in detecting far more sophisticated techniques than adopted by Goodman. He quickly spotted how the tapping was being carried out and the prince's staff contacted police.

The inquiry was handed to the counter-terrorism branch of Scotland Yard. The investigation found that among those targeted were David Blunkett, while he was home secretary, the government minister David Miliband, the England and Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell, the editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade, the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, the supermodel Elle Macpherson, and the publicist Max Clifford. Most had no idea about the tapping.

Goodman used a private investigator for much of the work. Glenn Mulcaire, 35, a former Wimbledon footballer, invoiced the reporter for the work he did, without specifying the nature of it.

Fourteen other charges were left on the file, involving the alleged phone-tapping of Mr Lowther-Pinkerton, Helen Asprey, the Prince of Wales's aide, and Paddy Harveson, his communications secretary. Scotland Yard is not pursuing the cases.

Goodman, who has been suspended by the News of the World, apologised in court to the three members of the royal household staff concerned and their principals, princes William, Harry and Charles.

Andy Coulson, the paper's editor, said: "The News of the World will ... be making a substantial donation to charities of the Princes' choice.",,1960253,00.html

Sandra Laville and Owen Gibson

November 30, 2006

The Guardian

-- Sucheta Dalal