Phone hacking scandal

Gordon Brown's shock that his family medical records were hacked

Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, contacted the Browns, informing them that she had obtained medical details about their four-year-old son Fraser

The crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch's global media empire dramatically worsened last night when it was claimed that private investigators working for The Sun and The Sunday Times targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown.

In another extraordinary day in the phone-hacking scandal, News International's denials that illicit newsgathering techniques stretched beyond the News of the World came under strain in the face of well-sourced claims that two of its other best-selling titles were also involved in serious wrongdoing.

As Scotland Yard launched a fierce attack on News International for undermining its new inquiry into the alleged bribery of police officers by reporters, it was claimed that private investigators for Britain's largest newspaper group attempted to access Mr Brown's phone, medical records and bank account.

Illegal attempts were made by a "blagger" apparently working for The Sunday Times to access Mr Brown's account from the Abbey National bank in 2000. In a letter to The Sunday Times' editor John Witherow, Abbey National's senior lawyer wrote: "On the basis of facts and inquiries, I am drawn to the conclusion that someone from The Sunday Times or acting on its behalf has masqueraded as Mr Brown for the purpose of obtaining information from Abbey National by deception."

Separately a tape obtained by the BBC showed a "blagger" identified as Barry Beardall seeking, also in 2000, to trick Mr Brown's solicitors into handing over details of the amount he paid for a flat in Westminster owned by one of Robert Maxwell's companies. A story claiming that Mr Brown had underpaid for the flat by up to £30,000 was the subject of a story in the paper.

In another case, in October 2006, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, contacted the Browns, informing them that she had obtained medical details about their four-year-old son Fraser. The Sun subsequently published a story stating that Fraser had cystic fibrosis.

Friends of the Browns said Ms Brooks' call caused them considerable distress, as they were seeking to come to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. Police are thought to have evidence that the News of the World's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had targeted Mr Brown and his wife, Sarah. In a statement, the Browns said: "We are shocked by the scale of law-breaking and intrusion into our private lives."

News International – whose chief executive is Ms Brooks – said it would investigate the allegations. The targeting of Mr Brown came as emails indicated that the NOTW had been bribing a Royal Protection Squad officer for personal details about the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, are also understood to have been informed by the new Metropolitan Police inquiry into phone hacking, Operation Weeting, they too may have been targeted by Mulcaire.

Completing an awful day for Mr Murdoch, the Government reversed its strong support for the tycoon's £9bn bid for BSkyB, whose full ownership would have given total control of its fast-rising revenues and the ability to cross-sell his newspapers to its 10 million subscribers.

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, executed his U-turn in the face of public revulsion sparked by claims that Mulcaire had deleted emails from the mobile phone of the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, giving her family false hope she was alive. After visiting Nick Clegg in Downing Street yesterday, Milly's parents, Robert and Sally Dowler, called for Ms Brooks to resign. Mark Lewis, the family's lawyer, said: "They don't see why she should stay in the job. They see this as something that went right to the top."

As the cosy relationship between Scotland Yard and News International collapsed, the police took the extraordinary step of accusing Mr Murdoch's company of undermining Operation Elveden, its new inquiry into alleged payments by the NOTW to corrupt officers. Scotland Yard said an agreement by NI not to make public details of internal emails outlining the claimed payments had been breached by the "continuous release" of information, which is known to only a handful of individuals. They said it threatened to hamper the operation, which last week arrested the NOTW's former editor Andy Coulson.

The Met believed the existence of the emails, which were handed to it by News International in June, would be kept secret until at least early next month, to allow inquiries to be conducted into the alleged corruption involving about five serving officers.

But the BBC journalist Robert Peston disclosed the alleged payments to Royal Protection officers yesterday, after apparently receiving information about emails from News International. The police were last week concerned about news of imminent arrests in The Times. The Met said it believed there was "a deliberate campaign to undermine the investigation into the alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers and divert attention from elsewhere".

The fallout appeared to have spread across the Atlantic, as shareholders filed a lawsuit stating it was "inconceivable" that James Murdoch and other board members were unaware of illicit newsgathering practices in his British newspaper group. The class action accused Rupert Murdoch of using News Corp like a "family candy jar".

Today, attention will shift to the Met's mishandling of the original investigation into phone hacking in 2007, and its subsequent insistence that there was no need to re-open the inquiry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Davidson performs his comedy show at Edinburgh Festival 2014
TV
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor