Jonathan Rees, co-founder of private detective firm Southern Investigations, has alleged that the News of the World hired his company in 1999 to spy on former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Lord Stevens, reports the Independent.
Meanwhile, a mole from Scotland Yard who was embedded in Southern Investigations at the time has alleged that the private detectives engaged in “a large amount of criminal activity on behalf of the News of the World,” according to the Telegraph.
Southern Investigations, based in London, is infamous for an unresolved murder case involving Rees’s co-founder being discovered in a London parking lot with an axe lodged in his head in 1987.
Rees told the website Independent Voices that the tabloid had hired his detectives to monitor Lord Stevens, allegedly in connection with rumours that the then-Deputy Commissioner (Lord Stevens served as Commissioner from 2000-2005) was misusing a police plane.
“We did organise a surveillance team because it’s what the News of the World wanted …but [Lord Stevens] never showed so whether the allegation is true or not, who knows,” Rees told the website. “The allegation was that he was using…a Metropolitan police federation plane bought by donations from charity, and the petrol, the fuel, to travel up to Northumbria to see his mistress. You can see why people wanted…that story.”
A spokesman for Lord Stevens has denied that he had a mistress, or that he had ever flown to Northumbria.
While all of this was going on, Derek Haslam, an undercover officer for Scotland Yard, was planted in Southern Investigations. Working under the code name “Joe Poulton,” his job was to survey the surveyors. In a confidential briefing for investigators obtained by Independent Voices, Haslam called Southern Investigations “a corrupt organisation that was corrupting police officers and illegally accessing all kinds of information,” and alleged that they were trying to “control” Lord Stevens with embarrassing information.
Rees dismisses Haslam’s claims as “nonsense” and “blatant lies,” saying that the mole was planted by the police to smear his firm at a moment when it was working to dig up evidence of police corruption at the behest of the press.
The Independent also revealed today that Southern Investigations apparently broke into the home of a “newsworthy individual” while it was working for the News of the World in an attempt to dig up “salacious information.”
This new plot thickener comes from a police intelligence report allegedly held by Operation Tuleta, the police investigation into non-phone-hacking illegal newsgathering techniques. It is the first implication of a connection between the News of the World and burglary, reports the Independent.
Haslam has similarly claimed that Southern Investigations broke into the homes of Members of Parliament, and various celebrities whose phones were allegedly hacked, such as Hugh Grant, also “fell victim” to mysterious burglaries in which “nothing was stolen.” There is no evidence, however, that these burglaries are tied to News International.
Grant, who recently became a director of a new non-profit set up by anti-press-intrusion group Hacked Off, is one of the hundreds of phone hacking victims seeking damages from News International. The Notting Hill star has “vowed to give any money he gets to helping fellow victims," the Guardian reports.
Friday was the deadline for civil damages claims pertaining to phone hacking, and Grant’s was among at least 50 new cases filed in time for the deadline. Other high-profile victims include Russell Brand, Cherie Blair and Jude Law.
Photo courtesy of T.D.H. via Flickr Creative Commons