Protection officers 'sold private details of royal family' to NOTW

News International executives knew staff at the News of the World were paying corrupt royal protection officers for information on the Royal Family, but withheld it from police investigators for nearly four years, it was claimed yesterday.

An internal investigation, held in 2007, allegedly found a bodyguard from the elite Royal Protection Command had taken sums of up to £1,000 a time for phone numbers and tips on the whereabouts of the Queen, Prince Philip and their closest aides.

But despite what one former Met commander branded the "biggest breach of national security in living memory", it was kept secret from the Yard until last month. The details were unearthed only when other executives discovered emails during a fresh inquiry into the prevalence of phone hacking on 20 June this year.

One of the emails, disclosed by the BBC, reveals the newspaper's disgraced royal editor, Clive Goodman, requesting cash from the then-editor, Andy Coulson, to buy a "Green Book" containing a trove of telephone numbers for the Royal Family and all their staff. The numbers could then have been used to hack phones.

The email implied that a senior member of the royal protection team had stolen the directory – apparently with "secure" stamped on the cover – and was prepared to sell it to Goodman for £1,000. The BBC said the email suggested that it wasn't the first time the News of the World had paid royal bodyguards – who number about 400 – for access to the book.

Goodman, 53, and Mr Coulson, 43, were arrested on Friday and bailed until October on suspicion of bribing police officers. The Met's Assistant Commissioner, John Yates, has promised that any police found to have been paid cash for stories would be jailed.

But the revelations pile further pressure on the Government and the Met to smoke out the officers responsible for the leaks and restore falling public confidence in Britain's largest force.

John O'Connor, the former commander of the Flying Squad at the Yard, described it as the worst betrayal of trust he had seen and called for a "clear-out" of Royal Protection Command management. "I am absolutely horrified," he told The Independent. "It's about the worst betrayal there could ever be and the worst form of corruption I've ever heard of.

"Royal protection officers have one of the most privileged jobs in the force... They are privy to a lot of highly sensitive information about the sovereign and the sovereign's family and that's being traded off for a few quid."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links