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NotW reporter accused of hacking over 100 mobiles

Guardian gnaws at old bones

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Disgraced former News of World royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and a private eye accomplice, Glenn Mulcaire, allegedly tapped into the voice-mail records of far more celebrities and public figures than previously admitted according to mobile phone records.

The pair were jailed in 2007 after both pleaded guilty to hacking into the voice mail messages of royal aides. Mulcaire also admitted to five counts of unlawful interception of communications offences over hacks into voice mail messages involving Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, supermodel Elle Macpherson, publicist Max Clifford, football agent Andrew Skylet, and Gordon Taylor, boss of the PFA (football players' union).

Police and News International maintained afterwords that there were "only a handful" of victims in the scandal. However after reporting last July that the NotW paid out more than £1m to settle privacy lawsuits Taylor and two others, The Guardian decided to keep digging into the affair.

The left-leaning paper is seeking evidence to support a theory that phone tapping of celebrities was endemic and ongoing at the News of the World at a time when Andy Coulson, current Tory communications director, edited the paper.

Rather than accepting the official line that only a handful of celebs were bugged by a rogue reporter, The Guardian says it has discovered from mobile operators that "more than 100 customers" had mobile phone voice-mail messages accessed by phone numbers used by Goodman and Mulcaire.

Orange, O2 and Vodafone identified the numbers three years ago after Scotland Yard passed them phone numbers linked to the NotW three years ago, but the number of people affected has only just come out.

The Guardian reports that only O2 notified its customers directly. Vodafone and Orange left matters in the hands of the police and in at least some cases unnamed victims knew nothing of any breach until The Guardian got in touch.

A freedom of information request from The Guardian also revealed that police found PIN codes reportedly linked to 91 different people when they arrested Goodman and Mulcaire.

The twin revelations are further grist to The Guardian's mill but are unlikely to re-ignite the scandal for a second time. Prosecutors long-ago decided to proceed only with sample charges against Goodman and Mulcaire in order to keep proceedings manageable.

Furthermore, the Met Police dismissed the possibility of reopening the phone-tapping investigation shortly after The Guardian re-opened the pay-off scandal back in July. A Press Complaints Commission inquiry concluded last November that there was "no evidence that it was materially misled by the News of the World, and no evidence that phone message hacking is ongoing".

However another inquiry, from the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, is yet to report. ®

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