Man who scrapes the bottom of the barrel for profit

With his flat cap, donkey jacket and thick glasses, Benjamin Pell looks like a harmless eccentric. But in the past week his peculiar choice of career has brought this dishevelled figure into the national spotlight. Pell, better known as Benji the Binman, sorts through rubbish bags for juicy stories to sell to the press.

With his flat cap, donkey jacket and thick glasses, Benjamin Pell looks like a harmless eccentric. But in the past week his peculiar choice of career has brought this dishevelled figure into the national spotlight. Pell, better known as Benji the Binman, sorts through rubbish bags for juicy stories to sell to the press.

With a hunt afoot to discover who leaked embarrassing memos from Tony Blair and his friends, Philip Gould and Lord Levy, fingers are pointing at this freelance binman from Hendon, north London.

Since he started several years ago, the former trainee lawyer, 36, has cornered a niche market supplying sensitive documents recovered from the dustbins of law firms, celebrities and people in the news. Most national newspapers have dealt with him at some stage, and he has unearthed some of the biggest stories of recent years.

He started by running anoffice cleaning company and began to branch out into collecting rubbish from outside the offices of lawyers. By 1997 he had hit the big time.

An invoice from News International, the owner of The Sunday Times, The Times, The Sun and the News of the World, shows Pell was paid £3,375 in April last year for stories on Jonathan Aitken, James Hewitt and allegations of ballot rigging in Hackney, east London. The invoice appears to have come from The Sunday Times.

Another invoice, from Mirror Group Newspapers, now part of Trinity Mirror, detailed a payment of £1,435 made last July showing for items ranging from £15 for a tale about the television presenter Clive Anderson to £400 for a story about former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. The Mail on Sunday has admitted it used his material in the past. Punch is also in the frame.

Pell works hard at his job. He dresses like a binman complete with a fluorescent jacket. He and his van became a familiar sight around the Inns of Court, where Britain's top barristers work, and outside top lawyers firms around the capital. Money, however, is not the only motive for Pell's activities. He has worked with Max Clifford and in the past has left uncashed cheques lying around the office of the public relations consultant.

He was arrested in February after being found loading bins into his van outside Harkavy's, a solicitors in Harley Street, central London, whose clients include Jonathan Aitken, at 5.30am.

Psychiatric reports suggested that Pell suffered from a severe form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Pell pleaded guilty in November to five counts of theft and was fined £20. When the police raided his semi-detached home in Hendon, which he shares with his mother, they found an estimated 200,000 documents stored in the garden shed. Piles of bulging bin bags were also found in the house.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss