The Sun hired a private investigator in 2016 to get all of Meghan Markle’s info

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A few weeks ago, Byline Investigates had a story about how the Sun (the UK tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch) had hired an American private investigator to dig into then-Meghan Markle’s life in 2016. It was soon after the British tabloids learned that Prince Harry and Meghan were quietly dating throughout the summer of 2016, and a rash of stories about Meghan appeared in those tabloids starting in September 2016. The private investigator got so much information about Meghan, her family, her colleagues, and a lot more. He even got her Social Security number. The investigator passed it all along to the Sun. All of that has now been confirmed, and Meghan and Harry reacted to the news.

A US private investigator has told BBC News he was paid by the Sun newspaper to obtain personal information about the Duchess of Sussex in the early days of her relationship with Prince Harry. But Daniel Hanks says he unlawfully accessed detailed information including Meghan’s social security number. The Sun’s publisher said it requested legitimate research and instructed Mr Hanks he must act lawfully.

Meghan and Harry said it was a “moment of reflection” for the media industry.

BBC News has seen the so-called “comprehensive report on Meghan and her family” which the investigator, also known as Danno Hanks, passed to the Sun. It included her phone number, addresses and social security number as well as information on her family members. His report also included information on her ex-husband and a former boyfriend. In the US, licensed private investigators are allowed full access to databases of personal information for some permitted reasons such as court reports. But accessing this additional level of detail for journalistic purposes is unlawful.

Mr Hanks said: “Pretty much everything I found out they could find out themselves using legal means – with the exception of the social security numbers. When you have that information… it’s the key to the kingdom.”

While there is no evidence it happened in this instance, social security numbers in particular could potentially be used to further other intrusive investigations.

A spokesman for Harry and Meghan said: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex feel that today is an important moment of reflection for the media industry and society at large, as this investigative report shows that the predatory practices of days past are still ongoing, reaping irreversible damage for families and relationships. They are grateful to those working in media who stand for upholding the values of journalism, which are needed now more than ever before.”

[From BBC]

It really was so much, so fast for Meghan. She met a cute prince, said why not, then everything went sideways in a few months. The only thing she could hold onto, to anchor her, was Harry, who had some inkling about how his future wife would be treated. But holy sh-t, if I was dating a guy and after a few months, a national British paper gained access to my Social Security number and all of my vital information – not to mention the information about my family – I would be out the door. It wasn’t Harry’s fault, of course. This part of it wasn’t even the Windsors’ fault. But I would not have been able to handle it with any grace. I would have sued everybody and thrown a huge incandescent fit. While it’s not clear whether Meghan knew – at the time – that a private investigator had accessed her SSN, she knew pretty quickly that September/October that the media had their hands on her address, phone numbers, and family information. The Murdoch media empire needs to be dismantled, my God.

The Duchess of Sussex attended the opening of 'Oceania' at the Royal Academy of Arts

Harry Meghan engagement

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, WENN.

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86 Responses to “The Sun hired a private investigator in 2016 to get all of Meghan Markle’s info”

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  1. S808 says:

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that they got her SSN number like oh my god…..the first thing I thought was “and they still found nothing”.

    • Cecilia says:

      Right? And they somehow wanted to believe she’s the spawn of satan.

      • Elizabeth Regina says:

        The silence of the British Media on this is so telling. Also, no member of the royal family has even said anything. They are both disgusting and deserve their warped psychologically damaging relationship. I am looking forward to the press turning on the Maga 7 soon.

    • Jay says:

      That was my first thought, too! The Sun went all in with a shady PI to dig up whatever dirt they could and got bupkiss for their trouble. Ha!

      • Lorelei says:

        Vile as this is, in retrospect I think it’s so validating for Meghan.
        After having access to every detail of her life, the absolute WORST thing they could come up with was a crazy half-sister Meghan hadn’t seen in over a decade? Lol.

    • Myra says:

      After they found nothing, they started to manufacture some. We, as intelligent beings, are now supposed to believe that after 36 some years on this earth, Meghan suddenly became a bully when she joined a lily-white institution. Out of the blue, just like that, she terrorised people.

      • Sunday says:

        Exactly, Myra. It’s a terrible invasion of privacy, and yet the only things they were ever able to unearth were greedy family and a friend or two who wanted to make a quick buck and had no problem doing it off Meghan’s back. They they tried so hard, you KNOW they did, and yet they found nothing, so they just twisted, manipulated, and created stories out of whole cloth. If she had gotten a ticket for jaywalking or speeding it would’ve been front page news.

      • Elizabeth Regina says:

        Spot on Myra! Even Andrew Morton moved to Hollywood for 18 months and could not find anyone to say anything nasty about her. The BM are just a disgusting lot and the RF ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        and, interestingly, she only terrorized white people . . .

    • Nev says:

      WORD.
      I am in awe that they didn’t divorce up to now. It takes a real man in my experience to fight against all these forces.
      It must be true love.
      Wow.

  2. Cecilia says:

    Im sorry but this girl must have been foolishly in love to agree. And i cannot imagine to begin how harry must feel. They’ve put this girl through hell when she was only his girlfriend. When she agreed to marry him he must’ve thought it would put and end to all the criminal practices because she would be protected. His family let them down so much.

    • Snuffles says:

      That’s why Harry put out that strong statement in October 2016. He had to do something to show Meghan that he was ride or die. Because if he didn’t, she would have dipped.

    • Belli says:

      I can’t help but wonder whether that factored into their timing at all. They knew they loved each other and that this was it for them and they wanted to be together, but if they thought that they needed to be married for Meghan to be protected by the Firm and they were going through so much, it might have accelerated the timeline a little.

      And then the palace threw Meghan under a fleet of buses.

      • Snuffles says:

        I think the speed was only because they were in their 30s and just ready to start a family.

      • Cecilia says:

        Nah meghan was a 34 or 35 when she met harry. She was married before, and then divorced. She traveled, has had plenty of jobs, she dated. In other words she experienced life. She knew what love was and i think harry knew as soon as he saw her. Im a sceptic when it comes to romance but this seems very much like a love at first sight thing. There simply was no need to wait any longer. And im 100% sure it ticked some people at the palace off because they planed on slowly but surely letting the tabs go in on her so that she would leave on her own accord.

      • Susan says:

        I think Meghan had been through the Hollywood ringer—and all that entails—for some time and so she felt, already being somewhat famous, she knew what could happen. I think she underestimated what being Angelina Jolie famous is like vs cable TV show/influencer famous. The former is toxic; the latter is probably for the most part charming.

    • Sunday says:

      I think part of it is that, despite all their underhanded tactics, they found nothing on her. She’s squeaky clean, and so I think to a certain extent H&M thought that would protect her from the most vicious coverage, because they’d have nothing to exploit. It was only through the weakness, selfish greed, and outright betrayal from people who she used to call family and friends that the press had anything they could really use against her. That must’ve come as a huge shock and disappointment to her, and only made her and Harry’s bond closer.

    • Ginger says:

      The RF lied to Meghan and said they would protect her. I’m sure they did the same to Harry and said they would protect her.

      • Becks1 says:

        And she really had no reason to doubt that. The royal family protected Kate once she married in – yes some bad press but most of it deserved (articles about lack of work, etc), articles scrubbed from the internet, the press backed off in a MAJOR way when she was pregnant, etc. Why wouldnt Harry and Meghan assume the same would happen for Meghan?

  3. Snuffles says:

    Pretty sure that detective also said he was willing to talk to Meghan and Harry about everything. I have no doubt their lawyers will take him up on that offer.

    And even with all that digging they found ZERO dirt on her so they proceeded to lie, twist and smear. And capitalized on jealous relatives.

    • Elizabeth Regina says:

      Yes their lawyers definitely should but they should be careful. I don’t trust vile pieces of garbage who offer to snitch.

    • I think all this new info — is going to play well into Harry’s involvement in the ongoing class action suit now called Levinson2 and — given this guy’s willing to testify, may play into a new, personal. Lawsuit against the Sun. Byline Investigations is doing a 2 part article on this as it developes. Team Sussex!

      • Lorelei says:

        @LowCountryLady I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s so hard to be optimistic — everyone thought things would change after the phone-hacking was revealed, because that was SO outrageously intrusive. Yet here we are, how many years later? And so much of the same disgusting tactics are still being used.

      • Shahad says:

        Just some information for those who don’t know the Australian Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into Murdoch media in Australia. I am guessing this could lead to them suing the Murdoch media empire in US because the violation took place in US , where punitive financial judgments can be huge compared to commonwealth countries where it is hard for courts to give victims large sums of money in court judgments .

        I hope they sue for billions !

      • Golly gee says:

        @loralei. I feel the same way. The first Levinson inquiry was cut short. Byline Investigates has already shown that the tabloids use their hacking to get or try to get information about judges in the inquiry and I wonder if blackmailed judges shut down the inquiry. If these tactics worked for the first inquiry, they will use them to try to shut down the second one as well.

  4. L84Tea says:

    I know I should be shocked and appalled by this, and I am. But I am not the least bit surprised in hearing this. This is exactly the kind of dirty, disgusting tactic I expect from the UK tabloids. They are an absolute disgrace.

    Also, I may sound naive, but what could they do with her social security number?? Why would they even need that? I hope they’re all shitting their pants right now because besides being sued, isn’t this criminal activity???

    • lucky says:

      I think they can run super detailed background and financial checks, lord knows what else.

      • Desdemona says:

        you can do that n the USA?In my country with a social security number you can’t run anything. Even the police can only do so (try to find info about you) if they have a court order..

    • Chaine says:

      Get her credit reports to learn if she has any debts and to whom, if she was ever evicted or has any judgments against her and by whom, if she has any arrest records, etc.

  5. Noki says:

    What was even the point of discontinuing News of the World,its like blocking someone and they just find another way to get to you.

  6. Spanky says:

    Here’s what I don’t get about this investigator (an American named Danno): he sold pieces of this story to Bylines Investigates, which is a website that goes after smarmy newspapers. They were the ones who broke this story.

    So he got paid $2000 from the Sun back in 2016, when he originally did the illegal research. Then got paid by Bylines recently. Now he’s apologizing to the Queen AND to Meghan that he did this dirty work, and has agreed to talk to the Sussexes lawyers.

    Sounds to me like Danno is still trying to profit from this.

    • Yoyo says:

      Who said Bylines paid him?
      This story was out there floating around, the newspapers were not to to investigate it because they use the same means.

      • Pétulia says:

        Byline paid him not for the story but for the dossier he built on her. This PI is shady but the fact he is willing to help their lawyers is a good thing.

    • Mich says:

      He explains why he is talking now in the NYTimes piece.

      • Spanky says:

        Thanks, I haven’t read it yet. What did he say? (I’ve run out of free articles with the NYT!)

      • Spanky says:

        Never mind, just went onto another browser and got access to it. Danno claims he’s now feeling guilty about the hurt he has caused people, yet…..I smell a book deal here. I think he wants to capitalize on what’s going on with the smarmy tactics of the British media. He claims that he looked up dirt on a lot of people in the past, and I bet he wants to make money on it now.

        He lost his PI license because he was found guilty of extortion a few years ago and went to jail. So Danno looks to me like another skank accessory to the British media, desperate for cash.

      • Golly Gee says:

        @Spanky: it doesn’t matter what his motives are. He’s got the receipts and is willing to give them up. I’d be willing to give the smaller scumbag a pass to get at the bigger scum bags.

    • Kalana says:

      Hugh Grant recently did the WTF podcast with Marc Maron and he talked about his privacy was violated by the British press and the police were encouraged to look the other way. His front door was taken off the hinges, they know his medical records, they tapped his home phone.

      These same goons who did this work are angry they’re being held to account but the editors are getting away with it so they’re coming over to the other side and helping the investigators.

      • Lorelei says:

        @Kalana I have the Hugh Grant episode of Maron in my queue and have been planning on listening to it, but haven’t yet…they TOOK HIS FRONT DOOR OFF THE HINGES?! What the actual…?

    • pottymouth pup says:

      he may also be willing to assist to avoid law suit and/or her pushing for charges to be pressed against him

    • Lorelei says:

      Maybe he somehow knew that it was about to become public anyway, so he figured he’d try to get ahead of it, to try and salvage what he could of his reputation while making a little profit on the side?

  7. Sofia says:

    I can see the palace telling Harry “tell her not to sue and you’ll put out a statement instead” because of their reasons and then saying “only wives get palace protection” (despite the palace allegedly coming to Kate’s aid during the girlfriend years) or something like that.

    • Amy Bee says:

      The Kate stans take pride in the fact that Kate was hacked 155 times but she has never sued the tabloids. Kate was likely told not to sue because the Palace will protect her. The stans don’t want to admit she can’t sue because of that invisible contract the Palace has with the press.

      • Sofia says:

        She also didn’t sue because she knew once she stood up for herself and put her foot down, William would permanently leave.

      • Elizabeth Regina says:

        The guy who hacked her went to prison for 4 months! I don’t know why her stans keep distorting the truth.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        she may also not have sued because what could become public due to discovery for a lawsuit is worse than what was published

  8. clomo says:

    I really hope they enjoy life in their new town. My mom lives really near them, I used to live there too and loved biking around that hood, the houses are epic. The .01%ers are all over but the nature in the hills above is very peaceful and away from the So Cal rat race. It will be quite the culture shock for Harry but he has his own family to raise independently and he gets to make decisions instead of The Firm and that freedom is priceless. Screw life in the royal gilded cage. Jeans in the backyard with the kids, yay!

    • Southern Fried says:

      It looks really really beautiful, ideal for raising a family. Hope they have neighbors with kids, playing around in your neighborhood with a pack of other kids is just the best!

  9. equality says:

    Sounds like it is time to limit what private investigators are allowed to access.

      • windyriver says:

        There’s a legitimate website (may have read it’s run by TransUnion?) which has this information (scary in itself) which licensed PIs and others are permitted to access for very specific purposes. Selling the info to newspapers is not one of them.

        ETA: appears comment I was replying to was deleted

    • Lorelei says:

      @Equality, I’m pretty sure that up until the actress Rebecca Schaeffer was killed by her stalker, anyone could get access to someone’s home address from the DMV? I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember laws in the US were changed after her death.

  10. Yoyo says:

    Andrew Morton was also in LA looking for dirt on Meghan for his book, he had to resort to Scammy and the ex-friend Priddy.
    Priddy went for the quick buck, and sold all of her pictures/videos with Meghan, Scammy uses the only three pictures she is in with Meghan to prove she was in Meghan’s life, mind you the pictures are years apart.
    The Royal Family will have also invested Meghan and they found nothing otherwise it would’ve been LEAKED.

    • Andrew Morton really showed his ass with that book on Meghan. I stopped reading anything he puts out as he found nothing and still wrote it in a biased way so it smears Meghan. AM = money, money, money. Me, I can’t wait for Tina Brown’s new book, The Palace Papers.

  11. Pétulia says:

    It’s funny to me that the only thing they could find was that Harry bombarded her with texts. And they still trying to convince us that she actively pursued him.

    • Sunday says:

      Was it the Sun who ran that story? Wasn’t there also a story about which emojis they used a lot, was that the sun too? That just proves that they used the info the private investigator gathered. I wonder if this will all be a part of Harry’s phone hacking suit.

      • Pétulia says:

        Harry is suing for phone hacking that occurred before 2011 so this story isn’t part of it. But it’s clear now they hacked her phone too.

      • Golly Gee says:

        Byline Investigates Talks a lot about indicators in articles that the information has been obtained from hacked phones. When a story talks about texts or focuses on calls, it’s a sign that they’ve used info from a hacked phone. I gather this is used as proof in court.

    • Ginger says:

      The haters really want her to be a gold digger. And here is was Harry actively pursuing her. This must kill them.

  12. Lucylee says:

    Her father should really feel foolish now.

  13. Izzy says:

    She needs to sue the Sun and Murdoch empire. In the US. Where they award huge damages. The only way the Murdochs will ever care is if it hits them in the wallet.

    • MsIam says:

      Exactly, my first thought was “Lawsuit!”

    • Golly Gee says:

      Apparently Murdoch or DM’s owner (can’t remember which ) have been very careful to make sure his US media is not involved for this very reason. But I think I was reading that one of the US bureaus of the daily mail or the sun had some connection to the phone hacking. So this may change the level of damages that can be sought.

  14. Nyro says:

    This shocking but not surprising at the same time. And to think, these are the people the royal family have thrown parties for. There are pictures of Charles and Camilla hosting a party for The Sun reporters, complete with a big ass cake decorated with a big ass “Sun” logo. They let these people into their homes for off-the-record lunches, they celebrate them, they let them lay wreaths on Remembrance Day, etc. I think the most underrated bombshell in the Oprah interview was Harry talking about the invisible contract between the British tabloids and the crown, and all the fear and control that’s going on because of that.

    • Spanky says:

      Agreed. That shocked me. There’s an old saying: “you lie with dogs, you get fleas.” The RF is now being bitten by their parasites.

    • Golly Gee says:

      The RF have to play nice because they fear them.

  15. Amy Bee says:

    Given the Palace’s relationship with the press, I’m not sure they’re innocent in this. The royal rota has not reported on this either.

  16. Becks1 says:

    this is a big story – the NYT and BBC are covering it – and it really is so disturbing. They were dating. They had pretty much just met, right, when the Sun hired this PI? She never even had a chance against the British press.

    • L4frimaire says:

      None of the British tabloids are covering this and former Sun reporter Emily Andrew’s is squawking like a hen denying any wrongdoing. The thing is this is out there now, it’s becoming a big story beyond just the Oprah interview and illegal stuff was done. There is someone on Twitter dragging Jason Knauf, listing his burner accounts ( not interested, seems personal). The royals relationship with the press is so corrupt and messed up.

  17. Nana says:

    The Murdoch media is a stain on humanity. The damage Murdoch rags and viper columnists have wreaked against democracy and fairness, the environment and against society will reverberate globally for generations long after we’re gone….

  18. aquarius64 says:

    They couldn’t find anything on Meghan. If I were the Markles I would be worried. This PI has dirt on them; if they gave information on Meghan illegally they are in trouble.

  19. KS says:

    There needs to be some ethics standardized in journalism and media. That’s crossing too many lines.

    • Shahad says:

      I am just so surprised that journalists don’t have independent bodies to investigate misconduct. Doctors, Nurses , Social workers , teachers can loose their registration for misconduct but anyone can call themselves a journalist and there there is no way to stamp out unethical practices. Mind boggling!

  20. candy says:

    There should really be a law against this, it’s not like she was running for office. I also don’t see these smear campaigns ramp up for men. It’s only women and gasp, their past lovers. What year is this, 1810?

  21. L4frimaire says:

    What’s so interesting about this, which Byline themselves have pointed out, is that this story is all over international media, but only a handful of outlets in the UK.None if the hateful tabloids and the Times and Telegraph are also saying nothing. Scobie published the Sussexes response but nothing from the usual suspects ,and we know why.

    • MsIam says:

      Wow, that is like some stuff you see in Russia or China where the press is controlled by the government. I wonder if they are consulting with the royals to see how to respond or to give a coordinated response. If I lived in the UK I would be concerned. Even though this is not a life or death story, media manipulation is never good..

      • Golly Gee says:

        Yes. We are so complacent in the west that we believe we live in a democracy. It is much less democratic than we think, which is becoming shockingly clear.

  22. Shahad says:

    Well love can be blinding , her only mistake was to fall in love with a prince . I also feel sad for Harry too , I guess he was not allowed to fall in love with whoever he wanted to , he should have married someone he did not have strong feelings for, he was to just find someone that fits his dysfunctional family’s requirements.

    This saga really hits home for me in different ways . I fell in love with someone of different religion than my own but it was never going to work , our families would have hated each other , not only were we from different religions our two countries are neighbours and in active war against each other quite often so there were strong nationalistic politics to add to the mix . It was untenable, we even contemplated moving to a different country and cutting off both our families but I am too close to my family, in the end my head won over my heart and we broke up , I moved countries to get away from everything for a while. My ex is still not over everything, he has not had a serious relationship in the last 10 years since our breakup , he is in mid 40s still not married , he is a kind , romantic decent guy, a successful engineer, owns multiple homes , good looking , a good catch but I worry that our relationship has permanently damaged him . I chose self preservation but carry a lot of guilt .

    So whether she bounced or stayed the consequences of such a move is still going to felt either way .

    • Lady D says:

      I hope you’re taking care of yourself, Shahad, that’s a sad story. I hope you can both find some peace.
      *I can’t get this comment to post under Shahad’s story.

      • Shahad says:

        I have been taking care of myself Lady D , thanks for the kind words . It was 10 years ago and have moved on . I guess I am more rational and saw our situation for what it was unlike my ex who was a more emotional and has had a far harder time moving on .

    • JK says:

      I’m so sorry to hear your story, Shahad. Yes, love can be blinding. I have experienced it too.

      • Shahad says:

        Oh tell me about it ! I think Meghan got caught up it whirlwind of it all to rationally analyse what kind of institution she was joining. The whole “i did not look up or read about the royal family “ stance she took when dating Harry was stunningly naive.

        This is a family deeply entrenched in the power and politics of several Anglo countries and you don’t try to read about their history? Where their politics lie ? Who their supporters are ? Will my values gel with theirs? Especially for someone who is more progressive and you think they will not see you as a threat ? When their power comes from aligning themselves with right wing brits and right wing media who hate everything you represent. She should have read how ruthlessly they have treated those who diverged from the script and the cold and calculated way they treat their own kin and blood .

  23. ABritGuest says:

    Well paparazzi hasn’t been the critical issue for the Sussexes& practices like phone hacking& using PIs etc were meant to have ended after the Leveson inquiry so no don’t think she could have expected this.

    The last person to marry in was Kate & the palace denied things as trivial hair extensions for her. When she was criticised over her appearance by the Mail the Guardian pushed back. When Hilary Mantel had comments about her, all the royal reporters pushed back & the prime minister & opposition leaders condemned it. It could be easy to think once married in apart from usual press dog whistles, spare v heir treatment, Meghan might have enjoyed similar protection. But Meghan never had the benefit of that establishment support.

    I don’t think she was expecting pro monarchy papers to keep on smearing her after she married in, that trying to work hard would count against her& people from the firm would join the take down. Don’t think anybody could have expected the level of double standards eg that saw Harry, William, Charles visiting a site being reported as a cultural centre but when she supported it, it was a hotbed for terrorism.

    Finally the media usually gives breathing room to high profile women & especially royals when they are pregnant. With Meghan the media upped the negativity. Meghan was an unprecedented bride during an extreme climate in the U.K. post brexit referendum and her treatment was unprecedented. so don’t think much could have prepared for this.

  24. Keri says:

    Meghan must be a very good woman. I would not survive it if a private investigator went through my life. I would rather give up a position in the limelight than ever let that happen. Waaaaaaay too much in my closet.

  25. Lyra says:

    I hope Meghan and Harry sue those publications to hell. It’s not only about them, but about racism, sexism and criminal behaviour. People and DESERVE a transparent media, if they want to manipulate reality those publications should end.