Before The Princes and the Press (Part 1) aired on the BBC last night, the BBC broke some news in advance. In the documentary, there’s an interview with a private investigator (Gavin Burrows) who was hired by News Corp (Rupert Murdoch’s papers) to dig into the backgrounds and tap the phones of anyone involved with the royals, especially Prince Harry’s girlfriends. Some of this came out during the phone-hacking scandal and the subsequent Leveson Inquiry in 2011-12. Basically, both William and Harry were targeted by Murdoch’s papers for years and years when those papers hired third-party investigators to hack into associates’ phones and more. Gavin Burrows told the BBC that he hacked into Chelsy Davy’s phone when she dated Harry and that Harry was always the bigger target and the more interesting brother to the red-top tabloids.
A private investigator has apologised for targeting the Duke of Sussex’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy for surveillance when they were dating. Gavin Burrows told the BBC the press had focused on Prince Harry in the 2000s as “the new Diana”.
Prince Harry is one of several people pursuing legal action against the publisher of the Sun and the News of the World, News Group Newspapers, as well as the owner of the Daily Mirror, over allegations of phone-hacking and other illegal newsgathering activity.
The private investigator’s claims feature in a BBC documentary that investigates the relationship between the younger princes and the media. Media editor Amol Rajan speaks to journalists about how they were briefed on stories, including claims about the behaviour of the Duchess of Sussex. Mr Burrows’ account sheds new light on the background to an impending conflict over the conduct of the press.
Prince Harry, who has sharply criticised the media and advocated for reform, has so far declined to settle his phone-hacking claim, raising the prospect of a trial. Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the prince battling newspapers in court over allegations of unlawful activity – seemingly driven by “avenging” what he sees as unfair treatment of his mother – would be a “massive” moment in British public life.
Mr Burrows told the programme there was much greater interest in Prince Harry than in Prince William when he began working for the News of the World in 2000.
“As explained to me by a couple of editors, Harry had basically become the new Diana,” he said. Editors had told him putting Prince Harry on the front page sold more copies of newspapers than Prince William, Mr Burrows said. The private investigator said when Prince Harry began dating Ms Davy in 2004, it opened a lucrative new avenue of business as her communications were targeted.
“There was a lot of voicemail hacking going on, there was a lot of surveillance work on her phones, on her comms. Chelsy would brag to her friends when she was going to see him,” he said. He said investigators were interested in her medical records, ex-boyfriends and details of her education.
Mr Burrows apologised, saying he was “very sorry” and that he acted this way “because I was greedy, I was into my cocaine, and I was living in a fake state of grandeur”. But he said there was a “ruthless” culture in parts of the media around that time: “They’ve got no morals – they absolutely have got no morals.”
He also said he regretted his treatment of Prince Harry. “I was basically part of a group of people who robbed him of his normal teenage years,” Mr Burrows said.
I don’t even believe they had much on Chelsy beyond “she likes to party and have fun” and she apparently “bragged” to friends about seeing him. There was no reason to enter into all of these highly criminal activities to monitor a private citizen. The Sun (again, a Murdoch outlet) did the same with Meghan too – a private investigator admitted getting access to Meghan’s Social Security number and finding out her bank account information, address, mother’s address, everything. It makes my skin crawl to think of someone in the media poring over my personal information, my medical records, my finances just because I went on a date with a prince. It’s completely disgusting.
Also: “…There was much greater interest in Prince Harry than in Prince William when he began working for the News of the World in 2000…” A tradition which continues to this very day. While William obviously never wanted the press to crawl up his ass, let’s also be clear that William has always had a chip on his shoulder about Harry being naturally charismatic, watchable and interesting. William was always the “boring brother.”
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.