Detectives are questioning the News of the World’s royal editor and two other men today in relation to alleged telephone network security breaches at the official residence of the Prince of Wales, Clarence House.
The News of the World's Clive Goodman was among three men held by Scotland Yard officers yesterday in relation to allegations that mobile phones belonging to members of the royal household were intercepted, or hacked into.
The investigation, launched more than seven months ago, has now gone beyond Clarence House – the official residence of the Prince of Wales – to other public figures – understood to include one MP.
Officers have not ruled out the possibility that other royal households, including Buckingham Palace, could have had their phones intercepted, or that the conversations could have involved other politicians or members of the royal family.
ITV News claimed the other public figures who could have been affected included high-profile celebrities and Cabinet-level ministers, but not Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Scotland Yard could not confirm this but sources said detectives were investigating a large number of other telephone numbers, who they belonged to and whether they had been subject to interception.
The three arrested men, aged 35, 48 and 50, are being questioned at different police stations across London.
The 50-year-old man arrested yesterday as part of the inquiry has been released on police bail. Police said the man was not Mr Goodman.
A spokeswoman for the News of the World said yesterday: “Clive Goodman, a News of the World journalist, has been arrested and is currently being questioned at Charing Cross Police Station in London.”
A Clarence House spokesman said they would not be commenting.
The investigation is being handled by a small team of officers from Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Branch because of the wider security implications of the allegations. Officers from the Specialist Crime Directorate are also involved.
They have searched a number of addresses, including business addresses at the offices of News International in Wapping.
Inquiries began in December last year when three members of the royal household at Clarence House – but not members of the royal family itself - contacted the police about alleged repeated security breaches within its telephone network.
According to the BBC, the three staff members were Prince Charles’s communication secretary and two workers who deal with Princes William and Harry.
It is understood the allegations relate to the interception of mobile phones, rather than landlines.
Sources said the allegations did not relate to the tapping of live telephone calls, but another method of telephone interception or alleged hacking of phones.
The other two men arrested are not journalists, although it is not yet clear exactly what their occupations are.
The 48-year-old man was arrested at his home address in Putney, south London, while the 35-year-old was held at his home in Sutton, also south London, both at 6am yesterday. The 50-year-old was arrested in Sutton shortly before 9.30am yesterday.
All three men were arrested under Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Officers have searched the residential address in Putney and the Sutton address of the 35-year-old man.
Scotland Yard said in a statement: “Police launched an investigation after concerns were reported to the Met’s Royalty Protection Department by members of the royal household at Clarence House.
“It is focused on alleged repeated security breaches within telephone networks over a significant period of time and the potential impact this may have on protective security around a number of individuals.
“The investigation initially focused on complaints from three people within the Royal Household. As a result of their inquiries police now believe that public figures beyond the royal household have had their telephones intercepted, which may have potential security implications.
“Police continue to work with the telephone companies concerned and continue to have their full support in attempting to identify any other person whose telephone may have been intercepted.”
Police have been liaising closely with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Former royal aide Dickie Arbiter told Sky News there was considerable sensitivity within the royal family over phone interceptions following the infamous “Squidgygate” episode in the 1990s, when details of an intimate telephone conversation said to be between Diana and long-standing friend James Gilbey were published.