Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has described new allegations that the press employed the services of private investigator Jonathan Rees, who is said to have used illegal information gathering methods including hacking into bank accounts, as "massively serious".
MacKenzie, reviewing the papers for Sky News last night said "Phone hacking is one thing ...climbing into someone's financial details that's serious. When your bank details are being hacked that's beyond anything."
MacKenzie has in the past criticised the large scale of the phone hacking inquiry and claims "no-one cares" if Lord Prescott left a message saying he'd ordered a Chinese. But on Sky he said the new allegations, raised in Parliament by Labour MP Tom Watson, were "literally exploding around this guy Rees."
He predicted the phone hacking inquiry and investigation into Rees would come together.
A report by Nick Davies in the Guardian today reveals that the former prime minister Tony Blair is among the suspected victims of Rees, who was involved in the theft of confidential data, the hacking of computers and, it is alleged, burglary.
According to close associates of Rees, he also targeted: Jack Straw when he was home secretary, Peter Mandelson when he was trade secretary and Blair's media adviser Alastair Campbell. Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, all of whom are said to have had their bank accounts penetrated, and Kate Middleton when she was Prince William's girlfriend. The former commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir John Stevens, and the current assistant commissioner, John Yates, who later supervised the failed phone-hacking inquiry for 19 months. The governor and deputy governor of the Bank of England, whose mortgage account details were obtained and sold.
Rees, who worked for the Mirror Group as well as the News of the World, is also accused of using a specialist computer hacker in July 2006 to steal information about MI6 agents who had infiltrated the Provisional IRA.
The Guardian has previously identified other suspected targets of Rees, including Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, George Michael, Linford Christie, Gary Lineker, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, and the family of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.According to the Guardian, Rees worked freelance for the Mirror Group and the News of the World from the mid 1990s. His agency was earning up to £150,000 a year from the News of the World alone.