Rupert Murdoch was today facing a deepening crisis at News International amid claims that journalists from one of his newspapers accessed the medical records of Gordon Brown’s son.
As the media mogul’s bid to take control of BSkyB appeared to be hanging by a thread, it was alleged that personal information about the former prime minister was targeted by The Sun and The Sunday Times.
Mr Brown and his wife Sarah were apparently in the sights of the News of the World’s private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who has been convicted of phone hacking on behalf of the now-closed Sunday tabloid.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were also allegedly targeted and there are claims that the News of the World paid royal protection officers for information.
But the allegations have spread to other News International titles last night, with claims that The Sun accessed his son Fraser’s medical records and The Sunday Times gained information from his Abbey National bank account and from his lawyers.
Today MPs will grill police chiefs about Scotland Yard’s failure to uncover the scale of the scandal during an earlier investigation.
The Browns said they were “shocked” by the alleged “criminality” and “unethical” methods used to intrude into their private life.
Mr Brown’s spokeswoman said: “Gordon Brown has now been informed of the scale of intrusion into his family’s life.
“The family has been shocked by the level of criminality and the unethical means by which personal details have been obtained. The matter is in police hands.
“The police have confirmed Mr Brown is on Glenn Mulcaire’s list. And some time ago Mr Brown passed all relevant evidence he had to the police.”
Last night Sky News quoted News International sources as being “comfortable” that stories reported by the Sun about Mr Brown’s children were obtained via legitimate means.
A News International spokesman said: “We note the allegations made today concerning the reporting of matters relating to Gordon Brown.
“So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us.”
The claims came as Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt referred the highly controversial bid by Mr Murdoch’s News Corp to take over of BSkyB to the Competition Commission. Prime Minister David Cameron urged News Corp to address “the mess” at News International before making its next corporate move.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates is to appear before MPs on the Home Affairs Committee again today amid calls for his resignation for allegedly lying to parliament.
He will face questions about why he declined the opportunity to reopen the police investigation in 2009 when allegations surfaced that phone hacking at the News of the World was more widespread than previously acknowledged.
Yesterday, he denied being asked to review his force’s original phone-hacking investigation from 2006, which resulted in royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Mulcaire being jailed.
In a letter to the committee, he wrote: “In relation to events that took place in 2009, I was provided with some considerable reassurance (and at a number of levels) that led me to a view that this case neither needed to be reopened or reviewed.”
But in the Commons Labour MPs Tom Watson and Chris Bryant accused Mr Yates of misleading Parliament and said his position had become “untenable”.
Using parliamentary privilege, Mr Bryant said: “Assistant commissioner Yates repeatedly lied to Parliament. Surely he should resign.”
Also due to appear before the Home Affairs Committee is Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the new investigation into phone hacking, and Andy Hayman, who was assistant commissioner at the time of the original probe which failed to uncover the scale of the scandal.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will this morning meet the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by the News of the World while she was missing.
After meeting Deputy Prime Minister Clegg yesterday, the Dowlers said that News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of The Sun when Milly’s phone was hacked, should do the “honourable thing” and quit.
Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation, the parent company of News International, yesterday withdrew its offer to hive off Sky News as a separate firm as part of its bid to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own.
In a statement that defied City expectations that it would drop its takeover plans, it also said it was ready to “engage with” the Competition Commission over full ownership of the broadcaster.
With the bid referred to the regulator, News Corporation now faces a six to eight-month wait to learn whether the deal can go ahead.
It emerged yesterday that emails handed to detectives suggest the News of the World paid protection officers around £1,000 for the contact details of senior members of the royal household.
One email showed former royal editor Goodman asking then-editor Andy Coulson for cash to buy a confidential directory of royal phone numbers, the BBC reported.
Goodman, 53, and Coulson, 43, have been arrested and bailed until October on suspicion of bribing police officers.