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Harry, Meghan decry ‘predatory’ tabloid practices as private investigator comes clean

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, walk hand-in-hand while the prince waves
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have responded to a confession from a private investigator who stole their information.
(Frank Augstein / Associated Press)

Prince Harry and Meghan are once again denouncing tabloid culture after a private investigator confessed to stealing the Duchess of Sussex’s personal information while on assignment for Britain’s the Sun.

According to a report published Thursday by the BBC, Daniel Hanks was hired by the Sun to obtain private details about the former Meghan Markle. He provided the media outlet with the duchess’ phone number, addresses and Social Security number, in addition to intel on her family, ex-husband and a former boyfriend.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex 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,” a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said in a statement provided Friday to The Times.

“They are grateful to those working in media who stand for upholding the values of journalism, which are needed now more than ever before.”

Two decades after a tragic end for Princess Diana, nothing has really changed at Buckingham Palace.

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Hanks, a private investigator from the United States, expressed remorse for the violation upon coming forward to “clear my conscience,” and offered to cooperate with the Sussexes should they decide to take legal action. It would not be the first time Harry and Meghan have sued a publication for snooping through their personal materials.

“I’m deeply sorry for what I did,” Hanks told the BBC before addressing the Sussexes directly. “I’m available if your lawyers need to talk to me. I’m ready to give you what I know. Supply you with any information. I just wish this had never happened.”

Hanks added that he accessed most of the data legally — except the Social Security number, which he deemed “the key to the kingdom.” In a statement to the BBC, the Sun’s publishers maintained that Hanks was paid $250 for his services, “was not tasked to do anything illegal or breach any privacy laws” and “was instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully.”

There’s a lot to unpack from Prince Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which re-airs Friday. Catch up with all of our related coverage.

“In 2016, the Sun made a legitimate request of Mr. Hanks to research contact details and addresses for Meghan Markle and possible relatives using legal databases which he had a license to use,” News Group Newspapers said in its statement.

“The information he provided could not and did not raise any concerns that he had used illegal practices to obtain the information. At no time did the Sun request the Social Security number of Meghan Markle, nor use the information he provided for any unlawful practice.”

Hanks’ admission comes weeks after the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan opened up about the toll incessant tabloid harassment took on her mental health upon joining the royal family.

“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she told Winfrey. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”

‘It wasn’t a complete surprise,’ Michelle Obama said on NBC’s ‘Today’ of Meghan’s troubling stories about racism within the royal family.

Last month, the former “Suits” actress won her legal battle with media company Associated Newspapers, which stood accused of invading Meghan’s privacy by publishing substantial excerpts from an emotional letter she wrote to her estranged father after marrying into the British monarchy.

According to the Associated Press (not to be confused with the defendant), a British judge ruled in February that Associated Newspapers misused the duchess’ personal property and infringed her copyright.

“For these outlets, it’s a game,” Meghan said after the verdict. “For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.”


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