Charles and Brown Named as Possible Murdoch Victims

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Grierson

RUPERT MURDOCH'S bid to take control BSkyB was hanging in the balance last night as it was claimed his journalists targeted Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales with illegal techniques.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt referred the media tycoon's proposed takeover of the satellite broadcaster to the Competition Commission amid further developments in the phone-hacking and police-corruption scandals at the News of the World.

The crisis enveloping Mr Murdoch's empire widened as it was reported that journalists from other News International papers illegally obtained private information about former prime minister Mr Brown.

Mr Brown was targeted by the Sun and the Sunday Times, which accessed details from his legal file, Abbey National bank account and his baby son's medical records, the Guardian and the BBC claimed.

Last night, Sky News quoted News International sources as being "comfortable" that stories reported by the Sun about Mr Brown's children were obtained via legitimate means.

The Guardian also reported that police have warned Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, that their voicemail messages may have been hacked by the News of the World.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "We are not commenting on an ongoing police investigation."

In a statement, News International said it noted the allegations about Mr Brown, adding: "So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us."

Mr Murdoch's News Corporation, the parent company of News International, earlier withdrew its offer to hive off Sky News as a separate firm as part of its bid to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own.

Announcing that he was your referring the bid to the regulator, Mr Hunt told MPs: "It will mean that the Competition Commission will be able to give further full and exhaustive consideration of this merger, taking into account all relevant recent developments. …