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Thursday 15 September 2011

Independent – Not New News (Again)

Today, the Independent has yet again splashed on the world of private investigator Steve Whittamore. And yet again, much of what it reveals is not new news. The amounts paid by the various hacks in and around the Fourth Estate may be an interesting addition to what we already know, but much of the rest has already seen the light of day, mainly in Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News.

And the revelation that J K Rowling’s name appeared in Whittamore’s records has already been eclipsed by her being revealed by the Guardian as one of the 46 “core participants” to the upcoming Leveson enquiry. The news that Ken Livingstone was targeted was in Flat Earth News. Likewise the BBC executive and the former Big Brother housemate.

And so was Wayne Rooney: in fact, Davies is more specific than the Indy in saying it was his mother who was the subject of Whittamore’s attention. The location of the stag and hen parties of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones was previously mentioned in Davies’ Guardian article on Operation Motorman back in 2009, as was the targeting of Ms Dynamite.

Also previously revealed by Davies is the network around Whittamore, which included a former Hell’s Angel who lived on the south coast: again, Davies is more specific than the Indy and pinpoints him to the Sussex coast. The Guardian piece also covers the obtaining of information from the Police national computer: Davies identifies the source as a civilian worker at Wandsworth Police station.

The only significant new find from the Indy is the targeting of Kate Middleton and sister Pippa, and Davies may not have considered this worthwhile including, given the length of the on-off courtship with Prince William and the lower media profile the sisters enjoyed two years ago. But set against this bonus is the detail Davies extracted from the pursuit of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

Hislop had been targeted by sleb snapper Jason Fraser, who had obtained the Eye man’s phone records, firstly for his house in London, and then when he moved out of town, at his new address. Fraser used the services of Whittamore’s network to facilitate his frankly vindictive pursuit.

But the Indy does at least offer up a nugget of original information: that Whittamore was grilling sausages when the Information Commissioner’s men knocked at the door. And there isn’t much more: it’s a desperately thin brew, especially considering the build-up and the headlines.

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