The Sun had commissioned Dan "Danno" Hanks to find information on her ex-husband, Trevor Engelson, and two other rumored partners.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, have been battling British tabloids for some time now. And, a recent report revealed that they have good cause for that.
A private investigator in the US confessed that he was engaged by The Sun to "dig some dirt" on the Duchess of Sussex. They had commissioned Dan "Danno" Hanks to find information on her ex-husband, Trevor Engelson, and two other rumored partners. When they couldn't find anything scandalous on her, they targetted her far-off relatives.
Byline Investigates interviewed Hanks about his interaction with the British tabloid, owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch. The Sun was told to find information on Markle, her parents, other family members, her ex-husband, and business associates. Hanks revealed that he had used illegal methods to do so and the paper would have known this. However, the newspaper has denied knowledge of the unlawful activity. They also denied knowingly using information he provided illegally. The investigation into Markle reportedly took place soon after they began dating in 2016.
Among the data Hanks found out about her were her and her family members' social security numbers, which is a criminal offense in both the US and the UK. Private phone numbers connected to her and her family were also found using a protected database. Soon after, The Sun had published an article quoting an anonymous "friend" who said that Prince Harry had "bombarded Meghan with texts" before their first date.
Hanks has publicly apologized to Markle now, saying, "I’m sorry to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry for targeting her family, particularly her dad, on behalf of The Sun. I never wanted to cause Meghan Markle harm, and wouldn’t have done the job if I’d have known it would lead to all these problems. I also wanted to take this opportunity to apologize to The Queen, because I realize the harm of what I did for The Sun has affected the whole family."
The private investigator revealed that he was commissioned by The Sun’s US Editor James Beal based in the publication's New York bureau. At the time, Beal's bosses included controversial newspaper executives like The Sun’s editor Tony Gallagher, the editor of The Sun on Sunday Victoria Newton, and the CEO Rebekah Brooks. All three of them have faced investigations for unlawful information gathering in hundreds of cases, which are being heard in the High Court in London.
"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," Hanks said, according to BBC. The Sun has denied asking for her social security numbers.
News Group Newspapers said it paid the P.I. $250 "to research contact details and addresses for Meghan Markle and possible relatives using legal databases which he had a license to use," reported the Independent.
Now retired, Hanks has been jailed four times, including for extortion. He said that The Sun had contacted him after an inquiry into press standards and asked him to sign certain documents. He was made to sign documents that said he would be using lawful ways to gather the information. However, he says that the same wasn't communicated verbally. "Then the reporters came back to me and said, ‘But if you want to get work, keep doing what you’ve been doing,’ with a nod and a wink," he told The New York Times.
The Duke and Duchess released a statement through their representative. "The Duke and Duchess 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 said. "They are grateful to those working in media who stand for upholding the values of journalism, which are needed now more than ever before," the couple added.
In a statement to @BInvestigates, a spokesperson for The Sun denies knowing that the newspaper was commissioning unlawful activity when they hired the private investigator and denies knowingly using details obtained.— Omid Scobie (@scobie) March 18, 2021
Full report here: https://t.co/sQhscdMMQ5
The royal couple has been successful in suing the Mail on Sunday after they published a private letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. They also affected the British press in other ways with Good Morning Britain's Piers Morgan and the boss of the Society of Editors, a media industry body, resigning for their remarks on Markle, writes The Guardian.
The press also paid people to lie and talk badly about her. Here are some examples: pic.twitter.com/BOdCv2HsWd— buskyta 🌺🛡️ (@buskyta) March 18, 2021
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by WPA Pool