Listening device found at footballer's home

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A recording device that looks like a small piece of cardboard was planted at the home of a Premiership footballer to record details about his private life, MPs were told yesterday during an inquiry into the murky world of private investigators.

The transmitter was picked up during a security sweep of the player's house after he became suspicious about stories in the media, said Gerry Hall, managing director of security company IPS. He declined to name the footballer, who is still playing in the league.

Mr Hall said the small square of cardboard had a transmitter embedded in it that worked at a range of up to 100 yards. "It could easily be dropped into a wastepaper basket and transmit for 30 hours," he told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee.

He highlighted the sophisticated nature of surveillance devices available at low cost to private investigators operating in the unregulated industry.

He demonstrated one device resembling a memory stick that could be plugged into a computer to record conversations in the room. Ten years ago, it would have cost about £20,000, now it was available for around £10.

Mr Hall said an investigator could easily persuade a company receptionist to let them in and would need just seconds to plant the device. He said his company had just found one in a chairman's office.

The chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, said: "Recent high-profile events, such as the phone hacking scandal, have thrown light on the sometimes shady world of private investigators. Despite this, the industry still remains entirely unregulated."