LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday accused Rupert Murdoch's News International media group of using criminals to illegally obtain information about his private life and of the shock he felt when it published a story about his baby's ill health.
He said the Sunday Times newspaper had obtained access to his building society account and other personal files, and said he had seen evidence collated by the Guardian newspaper that News International were using known criminals to obtain private information.
“My tax returns went missing at one point, medical records have been broken into. I don't know how all this happened but I do know ... that in two of these instances there is absolute proof that News International was involved in hiring people to get this information,” he said in a BBC television interview.
“And I do know also that the people that they work with are criminals, criminals with records, criminals who sometimes have records of violence as well as records of fraud.”
He said he was devastated when told in 2006 by News International's Sun newspaper that it was to publish a story that his newborn son Fraser had cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which often leads to an early death for the sufferer.
The Sun was edited at the time by Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, the UK arm of the News Corp media empire.
He said he was “in tears” about the disclosure. “Your son is going to be broadcast across the media, Sarah and I were incredibly upset about it.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said his predecessor appeared to have suffered an “appalling invasion of privacy.”
“My heart goes out to Gordon and Sarah Brown. To have your children's privacy invaded in that way is completely unacceptable and heartbreaking for the family concerned,” Cameron said. He promised that a new police investigation into the hacking scandal would “find the culprits and ... make sure they are punished.”
“I am absolutely determined we will not rest until we get to the bottom of these problems,” Cameron said.
News International says it is satisfied the Sun story was obtained from a legitimate source. “We note the allegations made concerning the reporting of matters relating to Gordon Brown,” the company said in a statement and requested information so it can investigate the matter. Brown said he made no allegations about how the information was obtained, however he was disgusted by recent revelations in the Guardian about the Sunday Times and criminals.
“I have only found out the links between the Sunday Times and what I would call elements of the criminal underworld who were being paid, while known criminals, to do work that was the most disgusting of work not against me only but against people who were completely defenceless.”
Brooks was the editor of the News of the World tabloid in 2002 when it is accused of hacking into the voicemail of a missing teenage schoolgirl later found murdered. She denies wrongdoing and Murdoch has stood by her. The company has shut the News of the World after 168 years to try a quell a growing scandal over its reporting methods that has stalled its efforts to complete a takeover of pay TV company BSkyB .
Brown, who was at the centre of British politics between 1997 and 2010 as finance minister and then prime minister, told the BBC he had “absolute proof” that News International had hired people to get information about his own personal life.