Steve Whittamores lucrative network of private information | Media | The Guardian
When a small team of officials from the Information Commissioners Office visited a family home on the Hampshire coast in March 2003, they had little idea what they were to uncover. In four A4 notebooks – coloured red, blue, green and yellow – the private investigator Steve Whittamore, the well connected middleman who satisfied Fleet Streets thirst for private information about those in the public eye, had meticulously documented his work.Over six hours in Whittamores New Milton house, the five-strong team of officials found that almost every newspaper “except the Beano and Dandy” had paid Whittamore for access to this lucrative network of private information.The investigator apparently enjoyed access to social security records via a civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions; he could search the police national computer through a worker in Wandsworth police station; two men sold him vehicle registration numbers, and others could blag ex-directory telephone numbers linked to a range of targets, from celebrities to murder victims including Holly Wells, Sarah Payne and Milly Dowler.Whittamore had logged tens of thousands of requests from journalists for confidential data. No journalists were ever charged – although the files contained prima facie evidence of criminal offences on the part of the investigators – and the victims were never told they were targeted. The records became the starting point for the information commissioners Operation Motorman investigation into the data trade between private investigators and the press.