The former royal editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid admitted for the first time at a London court yesterday that he had hacked the voicemails of Britain's Prince William and Prince Harry, and William's wife Kate Middleton.
Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for illegally accessing the voicemails on the mobiles of royal aides, told the jury at the Old Bailey court he had hacked Queen Elizabeth's grandsons in search of stories while working at the now-defunct tabloid.
Middleton's phone was hacked 155 times, William's 35 and Harry's nine times, the court heard.
He targeted Middleton, who married William in 2011, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2005. Despite her often changing the PIN number to access her voicemails, she was repeatedly hacked. The last time was on August 7, 2006, the day before police arrested Goodman.
William was hacked for the first time in late January 2006, the court heard, the first time it had been revealed that his voicemails had been accessed.
Despite numerous hackings of the royals, Goodman said detectives had never before asked him about his tapping of the princes' phones.
Police reopened their investigation into phone hacking in 2011. The subsequent scandal rocked the British establishment and led Murdoch to close the 168-year-old News of the World.
Goodman had been absent from court since falling ill in March during cross-examination from Timothy Langdale, the lawyer for former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
In earlier testimony, he said Coulson had agreed a project to fund a private detective to hack the phones of staff working for William and Harry.
Asked why he was now admitting hacking the royals themselves, Goodman said he could speak freely as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had made it clear he would not be facing any further action over hacking.
"I'm happy to give a full account of every single one of these" hackings, Goodman said.
Langdale asked why he had not disclosed these details in response to questions he had put to him weeks ago when he only recalled hacking five royal aides and the son of Camilla Parker Bowles, the second wife of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.
"Had you really forgotten that you had been hacking" Prince William, Langdale asked.
"I didn't recall specifics," Goodman replied.
The trial had already heard that Goodman had targeted the royal trio but it was the first time the full extent of the hacking had emerged.
Murdoch shut down the Sunday tabloid in disgrace in 2011 amid rising public outrage over the hacking scandal.
Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were both convicted in 2006 and jailed for phone hacking but are now on trial for conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
The trial, which started in October and is expected to finish in June, has already heard transcripts of intercepted phone messages from the days when William and Kate were courting.
The second in line to the throne referred to Kate as "babykins" in one message.
In another, he put on a high-pitched voice and pretended to be his "ginger" brother Harry's then-girlfriend Chelsea Davy.
Goodman, charged in this trial with paying public officials in exchange for stories, last gave evidence on March 21 and was cleared to resume yesterday.
Middleton, now known as the Duchess of Cambridge, was of interest to the News of the World because of her growing profile as William's girlfriend, Goodman said.
Goodman, 56, is now on trial accused with Coulson, later Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief, of authorising illegal payments to public officials.
Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, another former editor and later chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper arm, are also accused of phone-hacking.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg