Hacker stole secrets of stars from dustbins

A TRAINEE solicitor collected secret information on some of the top names in showbusiness - including Elton John and Lord Lloyd-Webber - by hacking into their agent's computer and rummaging through his dustbins.

Other stars whose personal details he obtained include Lloyd Cole, Lionel Ritchie, the dancer Michael Flatley and Barry Humphries.

Among items seen by The Independent are tour arrangements for Sir Elton, details of a private performance he gave for the Sultan of Brunei, the home telephone numbers and worldwide addresses for a host of stars and even an internal memo to staff warning them to be careful of how they dispose of their rubbish. Some documents bore the words "To be shredded".

Benjamin Pell, 34, who is now being sued by Sir Elton and the agent, John Reid Enterprises, says he amassed 75 bags of papers, including bank statements, confidential legal correspondence and tour arrangements before being stopped by a High Court injunction.

For six months after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Mr Pell kept an electronic and physical vigil on the London offices of Mr Reid in the hope of discovering secrets about her friendship with Elton John, whose song "Candle In The Wind" was re-dedicated to her.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how easy it was to get hold of this stuff," Mr Pell, who also works as a freelance music journalist, told The Independent. "I went through their rubbish and I got some very clever computer nerds to hack into the system for me. Getting into the computer system was even easier than getting into the rubbish.

"I am a fan of Elton's and I wondered whether I could find anything out after Diana's death. I certainly don't usually go through people's rubbish or hack into their computers."

Through his dual snooping, Mr Pell found copies of Elton John's bank statements and letters from his accountants, Price Waterhouse, expressing concern over his rates of expenditure on luxury items. These details were published in the Mirror newspaper, resulting in writs being issued against Mr Pell, the publicist Max Clifford and the Mirror.

He also found copies of letters from Sir Elton and Richard Branson arguing over the inclusion of "Candle In the Wind" on a charity album. He insists that the Price Waterhouse letters and the Branson exchanges were found in rubbish outside the agent's offices.

Mr Pell is now limited in what he can say about the affair. Lawyers for Mr Reid succeeded in having a strict Anton Piller order issued against him, allowing them to freeze his assets and search at his address. They did not manage to recover any of the documents, which The Independent understands are still in existence, possibly abroad.

Mr Reid is in Australia on business. Nicola Turnbull, his director of business affairs, said the company was unable to comment because of the pending legal actions. It is understood, however, that the company will deny that confidential information was thrown out as rubbish.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

Business Analyst

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Job Title: Business Analyst Rate: £300 - £350 per...

C# .NET Developer

£290 - £291 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Manchester C#.NET ...

SAP FICO Consultant - Midlands - Contract

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: SAP FICO Consultant - Midlands -...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform