William and 'Babykins' Kate: hacking saga comes full circle

Long-running scandal all began with William when his friend Tom Bradby realised he'd been hacked

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:52 ON Fri 20 Dec 2013

THE “babykins” transcripts of Prince William’s phone messages to Kate Middleton, read out yesterday in the News of the World hacking trial at the Old Bailey, raise questions about the security of the royals in 2005-06.

The jury was told that the recordings came from phone messages hacked in 2006. But that was several weeks after Tom Bradby, the political editor of ITN and a close confidant of William, had warned the Palace that William's mobile phone had almost certainly been targeted by hackers.

Given the security implications for the second-in-line to the throne and his then girlfriend, why the delay? The publication in 1992 by The Sun of the “squidgy tapes” - private calls between Prince William’s mother, Diana, and her friend James Gilbey – had long ago shown that the Royal Family were potential targets. 

The Old Bailey transcripts of the voice recordings, discovered by detectives at the home of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, were read out to the jury by Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting.

Among them was a call from William to Kate in which he said: "My head’s all right. I’ve just picked up your message. Oh, my little babykins! I hope you are all right."

The court heard the ‘babykins’ nickname appeared in an exclusive by royal correspondent Clive Goodman on 12 February 2006 which said: "Wills wants the girl he calls 'babykins' to be his princess."

In another hacked message, William, who was attending Sandhurst military academy at the time, greeted Kate with "Hi baby" and went on: "Had a busy day today again. I’ve been running around the woods of Aldershot chasing shadows and getting terribly lost, and I walked into some other regiment’s ambush, which was slightly embarrassing because I nearly got shot. Not by live rounds but by blank rounds, which would be very embarrassing though."

In January 2006 a story appeared in the News of the World headlined: ‘William shot in ambush’.

Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner and former editor Andy Coulson are accused of conspiring to hack phones between 3 October 2000, and 9 August 2006, along with former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks. They deny the charges. 

Yesterday's Old Bailey revelations in effect bring the long phone-hacking saga full circle – in that it was Prince William it all started with. 

Tom Bradby, who had won the trust of William when he was ITN's royal correspondent, called the prince in November 2005 about meeting to discuss a project. When details of the meeting appeared in a News of the World article, Bradby realised the royal phone must have been hacked and encouraged Buckingham Palace to go to the police.

Paul Larosa of CBS said later he had been told by Bradby: "The phone hacking thing started with me, actually and bizarrely.... When I was royal correspondent, [phone hacking] was kind of an open secret and I remember having chats with tabloid hacks about how phone hacking is, you know, kind of rife."

Prince William turned Bradby’s information over to his secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who contacted the police.

Eventually, in 2007, Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages on royal aides' phones. In July 2011, Rupert Murdoch took the drastic decision to close the paper.

As Bradby told the Radio Times in 2012: "Ultimately, it was that tiny nexus on a trivial, unimportant, irrelevant story that triggered this avalanche."

He added: "I had no idea this was going to happen, and neither did he [William]. Have we both occasionally been quite shocked by the scale of the avalanche? Yeah." ·