British police may probe Blair, Middleton hack claims

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British police said Thursday they may widen an investigation into phone hacking claims after reports that former prime minister Tony Blair and Prince William's wife Catherine were among the victims.

Scotland Yard has come under pressure to expand an existing probe into the hacking of mobile phone messages of public figures to include the activities of a private detective who was named in parliament this week.

Lawmaker Tom Watson told British MPs on Wednesday that private detective Jonathan Rees, who was contracted by Rupert Murdoch's News International, had targeted ex-prime minister Blair for "covert surveillance".

The Independent and The Guardian newspapers then reported that other suspected victims of Rees included Blair and the former Kate Middleton, who was targeted before her marriage in April to William.

In a letter to the two newspapers on Thursday, Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick of London's Metropolitan Police said the claims fell outside the force's ongoing probe into hacking by the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid.

But Dick said it was "misleading to suggest that allegations concerning the actions of private investigators that have appeared in the media are not being properly considered by the Metropolitan Police Service."

"Officers from within the Specialist Crime Directorate have been conducting a formal assessment process of the considerable information in their possession, to assess whether the available evidence would support further criminal investigations," Dick wrote.

"As in other cases, this ongoing process will, in due course, involve consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and will result in a formal decision as to whether new criminal investigations will be commenced."

The development comes two days after the News of the World apologised in court for hacking into the messages of actress Sienna Miller and agreed to pay her £100,000 ($165,000, 110,000 euros) in damages and legal costs.

Two months ago the News of the World printed an apology for phone-hacking in a controversy that has engulfed a string of high-profile figures and in 2007 led to the jailing of a journalist and a private investigator.

Police were forced to reopen an investigation in January following a stream of fresh allegations, and have arrested several journalists from the newspaper in recent months.

© 2011 AFP

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