Hundreds of computers linked to press hackers

Scale of Scotland Yard inquiry suggests a scandal to rival phone hacking by newspapers

The police investigation into computer hacking on behalf of newspapers is examining nearly 20 machines seized from private investigators and other individuals, suggesting that hundreds of individuals were targeted, The Independent can reveal.

A small Scotland Yard team of eight detectives and support staff is examining an archive of hundreds of thousands of messages and documents from the machines, amid suggestions that the number of victims of computer hacking on Fleet Street's behalf could eventually rival the total targeted in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Operation Tuleta, as the investigation is known, was launched in January to run alongside Operation Weeting, the Yard's ongoing investigation into voicemail interception at the NOTW. But it is understood that the remit of Tuleta is not limited to a single title and is investigating the alleged commissioning of computer hacking by several newspapers.

Sources with knowledge of the police inquiries said that officers are looking at 16 computers seized from private detectives suspected of carrying out the hacking. Another machine is understood to be linked with an unnamed former NOTW journalist.

Tuleta has been overshadowed by the far larger Weeting inquiry, which is staffed by about 120 detectives charged with sifting through more than 11,000 pages of evidence seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is in overall charge of both investigations, said last week that the number of phone hacking victims stood at 803 and she was confident that all those whose voicemail messages were intercepted had been identified.

Campaigners believe that the computer hacking inquiry has the potential to uncover a similar number of victims. The Independent understands that police could be investigating "hundreds of victims", including a second Labour Cabinet minister besides former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, who was targeted in 2006.

The suspicion that hackers may have attempted to extract this sensitive material was seen as further evidence of the potential gravity of electronic intrusion on behalf of newspapers.

It is not known what type of information might have been targeted – but Mr Hain, who declined to comment on reported contacts between him and officers from Tuleta on the grounds that it was a "matter of national security", would have had access to highly classified information about informants and terrorist threats.

A BBC documentary this week reported concerns that Tuleta will need increased resources if it is to fully investigate the material in its possession. Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing prominent hacking victims including the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, said: "This will have to be pursued in a way that will put the magnitude of the civil operation and possible criminal charges over and above anything that is happening in phone hacking." Scotland Yard declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Radio 4's Report also disclosed claims that investigators working for one south London detective agency, Southern Investigations, were adept at computer hacking. Jonathan Rees, the owner of Southern Investigations, has denied ever selling or passing on information obtained through illegal methods.

A former undercover police detective claimed the firm supplied to journalists information obtained from the accessing of computers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee