Key witness in the mail case says hacking allegations are “wrong”: private investigator denies allegations

A private investigator whose “confessions” are a key element of a privacy case brought against Associated Newspapers by Prince Harry, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Elton John and others has denied their claims that he was acting on behalf of the Daily Mail or illegally against them I have mail on Sunday.

The development came as the Duke of Sussex made a surprise appearance at a preliminary court hearing after flying in overnight from the US.

Dressed in a smart black suit and blue tie, Harry sat behind his solicitors in Court 76 of the Royal Courts of Justice, listening intently and taking notes.

Sir Elton and his husband David Furnish appeared in court in the afternoon, as did Baroness Lawrence, while actress Sadie Frost, like Harry, was present throughout the day.

Plaintiffs allege they were told investigator Gavin Burrows admitted to hacking phones, bugging landlines and bugging cars. The allegations were set out in a statement he provided to her lawyers 18 months ago.

Surprise appearance: Prince Harry arrives today

Plaintiff: Sir Elton John in court

Plaintiff: Sir Elton John in court

According to documents filed by his lawyers, Prince Harry said he looked into the case after being told Mr Burrows had “admitted to targeting me”.

Baroness Lawrence said she launched her case after being informed that Mr Burrows and another private investigator had recently confessed to carrying out a variety of criminal activities on behalf of the Mail newspapers. Sir Elton, Mr Furnish, Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost also cited Mr Burrows’ alleged confessions.

However, according to written submissions from Associated attorney Adrian Beltrami KC, Mr. Burrows has “submitted signed testimony denying that he was hired or directed by Associated to engage in unlawful activity.”

The Mail’s publisher previously said in a statement: “We categorically reject and will vigorously defend the very serious allegations made in this litigation – should it prove necessary.”

The case has not yet gone to trial and three applications to the judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, were due to be heard at yesterday’s hearing.

The judge quickly awarded the mail the victory in the first application. It asked for anonymity for the journalists named in the lawsuits to avoid tarnishing the reputations of respected journalists if the lawsuits never progress to a full trial. Mr Judge Nicklin said it was justified.

The Mail’s second request yesterday related to documents – accounting books – that were confidentially supplied by the Mail to the Leveson Inquiry 12 years ago. Those documents are now being used in the case – in violation of a confinement order and confidentiality obligations given to the investigation, the newspaper group said.

Mr Beltrami told the judge: “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation where the only clear evidence of the use of unlawfully obtained information comes from the plaintiffs themselves.”

The judge has yet to rule on that request. In its third application, the publisher requests the judicial determination of the statute of limitations for the claims. They refer to events said to have taken place up to 30 years ago, the vast majority before 2007.

By law, data protection claims must be made within six years. This is to ensure justice for all parties and prevent evidence from being tainted by fading memories, mental incapacity and/or the death of potential witnesses (at least three have died in this case).


Plaintiff: Baroness Lawrence in court

The Duke of Sussex did not speak at yesterday’s hearing. Arriving at court with his bodyguards, Harry smiled at TV cameras and photographers. Sky News pointed out that the Duke made no statement but chose to come through the main entrance, unlike Miss Frost who used a side entrance.

His attendance at the Royal Courts of Justice is believed to be the first time a British king has appeared in a courtroom since Princess Anne pleaded guilty in Slough County Court in 2002 after her dogs bit two children.

The Duke sat flanked between his lawyer, Callum Galbraith, and Ashley Hansen, his Archewell Foundation’s communications director. He had a spiral-bound notebook, a bottle of water from Pret, and his cell phone, which he used to text occasionally. He spent most of the hearing watching the attorneys discuss legal issues.

Next to him sat Miss Frost, while Sir Elton, Mr Furnish and Baroness Lawrence all sat behind them in the visitors’ gallery.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in October last year. Her attorney, David Sherborne, alleged in written submissions to the court that the newspaper group “illegally tapped voicemail messages, tapped live landline calls, obtained private information… and used private investigators to commit these unlawful information-gathering acts on its behalf.” .

Baroness Lawrence is said to have become “deeply paranoid” over the “unexplained disclosure of information” which she believed was due to police leaks.

Mr Sherborne said: “She has a hard time believing the level of duplicity and manipulation that was clearly at play, knowing now that the Daily Mail’s outside support for her fight to bring Stephen’s killer to justice was hollow and worse was WRONG.’

Associated Newspapers strenuously denies any allegations against it. Last night the newspaper said in a statement: “While the Mail’s admiration for Baroness Lawrence remains undiminished, we are deeply saddened that she has been persuaded to bring this case up.

“The Mail remains very proud of its central role in the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence. His famous “Murderers” front page sparked the Macpherson report.

The Mail successfully lobbied to bring Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice. The 1997 front page headlined “Murderers” over images of five men accused of killing Stephen was a pivotal moment in the history of British race relations and launched a campaign that eventually led to the Macpherson Inquiry. Two of the identified thugs – Gary Dobson and David Norris – were later convicted of Stephen’s murder.

The hearing continues. Key witness in the mail case says hacking allegations are “wrong”: private investigator denies allegations

Emma Colton

Janice Dean is a WSTPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Janice Dean joined WSTPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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