Prosecutor: Hacking reporters targeted UK princes

LONDON – A prosecutor gave jurors juicy details of tabloid misbehavior at Britain’s phone hacking trial on Friday, describing how journalists targeted celebrities, government ministers and even Princes William and Harry.

The never-ending demand for royal stories at Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids led employees to hack voicemail messages left by the princes, target senior aides and pay thousands of pounds for a photo of Prince William in a bikini, prosecutor Andrew Edis said.

Journalists at Murdoch’s News of the World routinely used phone hacking to back up tips and find evidence for stories, he said – using a “perfectly rational but entirely illegal system.”

In three days of opening statements, Edis has taken the jury at London’s Central Criminal Court on a methodical journey through the “dog-eat-dog” tabloid battle for scoops.

Former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, both 45; Brooks’ husband Charles and five former staff of Murdoch’s British newspapers are on trial in the first major criminal case spawned by the revelation in 2011 that employees of the tabloid eavesdropped on the voice mails of celebrities, politicians, top athletes and even crime victims.

The eight defendants deny a variety of allegations related to phone hacking, bribing officials and obstructing a police inquiry.

Coulson and Brooks have said they were not aware that hacking was going on when they were in charge of the News of the World – she from 2000 to 2003 and he between 2003 and 2007.

But prosecutors say they and other senior staff must have known that illegal activity was taking place at the popular paper.

Edis said one email from Coulson to a subordinate, referring to hacking target Calum Best – a minor celebrity and son of the late soccer star George Best – contained the instruction: “Do his phone.”

Other targets, the prosecutor said, included actors Jude Law and Sienna Miller; Paul McCartney and his then-wife, Heather Mills; politicians Tessa Jowell, John Prescott and David Blunkett; and aides to royals William and Harry.

One message left by Harry for his private secretary asking for help on an essay while he was a cadet at Sandhurst military academy in 2005 was hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, a private eye working for the News of the World.

In the transcript, Harry asked for information on a 1980 siege at the Iranian embassy in London, “because I need to write an essay quite quickly on that but I need some extra info. Please, please email it to me or text me.”

The resulting News of the World story was headlined “Harry’s aide helps out on Sandhurst exams.”