Exclusive: News of the World 'ordered burglary'

Police probe link to break-ins at homes of MPs and stars

Detectives have evidence which suggests that a notorious private detective agency carried out a burglary while working for the News of the World.

In the latest twist to the phone-hacking scandal, a police intelligence report indicates that Southern Investigations, based in south London, targeted the home of a newsworthy individual in an attempt to dig up salacious information.

The Independent has established that the material – the first suggested link between the News of the World and burglary – is being held by Operation Tuleta, the police inquiry into illegal newsgathering techniques other than phone hacking and corruption. It refers to a "sortie" carried out into a woman's home in Ascot, Berkshire, and mentions the name of Alex Marunchak – a long-serving executive on the News of the World.

A police assessment indicated that Southern Investigations or an associate had "gained unauthorised access into a private domestic premises with a view to gaining information on the resident".

Separately, a former undercover policeman who infiltrated Southern Investigations said that it burgled MPs' homes in an attempt to obtain embarrassing information for the newspaper. All those involved in Southern Investigations, and Mr Marunchak, deny any involvement in break-ins or knowledge of any illegal acts.

Tom Watson, the Labour politician who campaigned against phone hacking, said that, if proven to be evidence of burglary, the material showed further serious wrongdoing at the News of the World.

There have long been concerns that, as well as phone hacking and police corruption, burglaries took place in an attempt to land stories.

Several public figures whose voicemail messages were hacked by the newspaper, including the actor Hugh Grant, the Football Association executive David Davies, and Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney's former agent, fell victim to break-ins where nothing was stolen. The Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant and other MPs are thought to have been similarly targeted.

The Independent does not know of evidence to connect break-ins at their homes to the News of the World. But the new evidence provides an apparent link between at least one burglary and the newspaper. Police obtained the material in 2002 during an investigation into one of Southern Investigations' two partners, Sid Fillery.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the agency, based in Thornton Heath, used corrupt police officers to supply information to newspaper groups, notably News International and Trinity Mirror. At the News of the World, its contact was Mr Marunchak.

In a statement to The Independent, Mr Marunchak denied he had any involvement in any illegal acts. He said: "I have never commissioned Southern Investigations or any other third party to carry out any burglaries or any illegal acts whatsoever. I have no knowledge of any alleged burglaries being committed by Southern Investigations."

When contacted. Mr Fillery, who now runs a pub in Norfolk, also issued a denial, saying: "It's most definitely not correct. Let me tell you about the News of the World – despite their reputation, they behaved very correctly. The only reason they employed us was to stand stories up. We committed no criminal offences."

The London Evening Standard quoted a former Metropolitan Police undercover officer, Derek Haslam, yesterday as saying that Southern Investigations burgled MPs' homes. Jonathan Rees, Mr Fillery's partner at Southern Investigations, told the newspaper: "He [Haslam] alleges that [Southern Investigations] burgled an MP's garage to remove a briefcase, photographed the contents of the briefcase and put that back. That's a lie."

A spokesman for Scotland Yard declined to discuss the progress of Operation Tuleta. A spokesman said: "We are not prepared to discuss any specific operational matters."

News International, Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper group, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment while the police investigation was continuing.

Mr Watson, whose garage at his constituency home in West Bromwich was broken into and paperwork rifled through in 2009, said: "News Corporation in the UK stands accused of phone hacking, computer hacking, bribery, conspiring to pervert the course of justice, inappropriate covert surveillance, lies and cover-up. Now added to the list is the allegation of burglary.

"During the course of investigating phone hacking, I met many victims who had also suffered mysterious break-ins – burglaries where easily stolen valuables were left. I will be raising this in Parliament at the earliest opportunity."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions