British police widen phone-hack probe

10th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

British police will contact potential new victims of a newspaper phone hacking scandal, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott, after new evidence emerged, Scotland Yard said Friday.

Reports said police would write to nearly 3,000 people telling them that their names were found on documents seized as part of a probe into the hacking of mobile phone messages by the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World.

The Metropolitan Police launched a new investigation less than two weeks ago after the tabloid passed it fresh information on the scandal, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief last month.

In a statement, it said analysis of data seized in 2005 during the initial probe "identified some individuals who were previously advised that there was little or no information held by (Scotland Yard) relating to them."

"At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that their voice mails were hacked but this will be an important and immediate new line of enquiry," it said.

Sue Akers, the top police officer leading the new investigation, said Scotland Yard would contact everyone whose contact details were found in the documents.

In all 2,978 phone numbers and 91 personal identification codes were recovered during their initial inquiry, according to reports in British media, although only a handful are thought to have been hacked.

Prescott, the deputy premier in the previous Labour government, said he had been invited to a meeting with Akers and was told there was "significant new evidence relating to phone hacking and myself."

He criticised the original police investigation and said there were now a "lot of questions" about the relationship between Murdoch-owned newspapers and the Metropolitan Police.

The News of the World's royal editor and a private investigator hired by the paper were jailed in 2007 for hacking into voicemails belonging to Princes William and Harry.

The paper's editor at the time, Andy Coulson, resigned but insisted he had known nothing about the hacking -- a position he maintained when Cameron hired him as communications chief a few months later.

Coulson quit Cameron's team last month, saying the row was proving too distracting. He continues to deny any wrongdoing.

© 2011 AFP

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