London: The phone-hacking scandal appeared to be spreading to British newspapers beyond those owned by embattled media baron Rupert Murdoch, with fresh claims dragging the Mirror group into the mire of allegations of eavesdropping on celebrities.
In a dramatic turn to the scandal, former journalists at the Mirror group said they witnessed phone hacking at their newspapers and that the practice was "endemic".
So far, the allegations had clouded newspapers of the News International group, the largely affected being the now closed News of the World.
In fresh developments, James Hipwell, a former journalist of the Daily Mirror told The Independent that he would be willing to testify in front of a public inquiry into the episode headed by Justice Brian Leveson.
The BBC also quoted a former employee of the Sunday Mirror as claiming that he witnessed routine phone hacking in the newsroom, with celebrities including actress Liz Hurley and footballer Rio Ferdinand targeted.
The two newspapers were among the main competitors of News International`s tabloids.
However, Trinity Mirror defended itself against the allegations and said its journalists work within the criminal law and Press Complaints Commission code of conduct.
Hipwell, 45, also alleged that hacking took place on other newspapers within the Trinity Mirror group, including
The People, where Sean Hoare, the whistleblower who died recently, was working before moving to the News of the World.
"It was endemic. Sean didn`t suddenly move from one tabloid where it didn`t happen to another where it did. But at the time it wasn`t illegal," he was quoted as saying by The Independent.