Wayne Rooney may have been phone-hacking target

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police investigating the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World are studying whether Manchester United star Wayne Rooney was targeted by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and journalists from the paper.

The inquiry into whether the England striker had his voicemails intercepted by the Sunday tabloid comes after it emerged that Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, is set to become the latest public figure to sue the paper for illegally accessing his voicemails.

Mr Stretford, who has represented Wayne and Coleen Rooney for nearly nine years, was earlier this week shown pages from notebooks kept by Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 after he admitted hacking the phone messages of royal aides and celebrities, including the supermodel Elle Macpherson.

The Independent understands that the private investigator's notes included Mr Stretford's mobile phone number and those of friends and associates. Rooney, who has been the subject of intense media interest since he burst into the Premiership as a 17-year-old for Everton, has spoken to Mr Stretford on an almost daily basis since the agent took charge of his affairs.

Mr Stretford, who is said to be "furious" at the evidence he has seen, is preparing a damages claim against the NOTW. As an agent for players who have included Stan Collymore and Andy Cole, the 53-year-old would have received phone messages dealing with issues from transfers and sponsorship deals to the personal lives of his clients.

Meanwhile, detectives on Operation Weeting, the new Scotland Yard inquiry into phone hacking, are consulting the records seized from Mulcaire to see whether Rooney is also named. A source said: "The documents are being looked at very closely indeed."

Mr Stretford, who was reportedly paid a fee of up to £1.5m for arranging Rooney's transfer from Everton to Manchester United in 2004, has overseen a succession of lucrative sponsorship deals for the England player, including tie-ups with Mercedes-Benz and Nike.

The agent is the latest football figure to find himself caught up in the affair. Sky Andrew, who represents former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell, last week became one of eight victims who were offered an unreserved apology by the NOTW and an admission that their messages had been listened to.

In a separate development, a senior Tory MP joined calls for a public inquiry into illegal newsgathering at the tabloid, saying it raised questions about Scotland Yard and national security.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Media Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4's The Media Show: "It seems pretty extraordinary that newspapers are able to listen in to the private conversations of Downing Street, royal staff and others. I'm wanting to know why those responsible for safeguarding security weren't able to do anything about it."