Hacking: Attempt to prove Harry not Charles' son

Hacking: Attempt to prove Harry not Charles` son London: A private investigator working for media baron Rupert Murdoch's newspapers had made a bizarre attempt to prove that Prince Harry was not really the son of Prince Charles.

This was disclosed by Nick Davies, an award-winning journalist who has detailed several instances of unethical and illegal practices on Fleet Street in his book, 'Flat Earth News'.

Davies said a private investigator, who worked first for Murdoch's News of the World and then for the Sunday Times, was involved "in a bizarre and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prove that Prince Harry was not really the son of Prince Charles.

"This (the private investigator's attempt) involved trying to follow the Prince around in order to seize a drinking glass or a used tissue to test his DNA."

Davies, a journalist writing for The Guardian who has doggedly exposed the dubious news-gathering practices in the British press, also said that besides 'blagging', phone-hacking, 'pinging' (tracking location of mobile phones), computer hacking and bribing policemen, another method used to gather information is scavenging dustbins.

Davies details how one Benjamin Pell - known on Fleet Street as Benji the Binman - made a fortune from newspapers by selling them scraps of papers and information gathered by painstakingly going through dustbins.

"While reporters slept comfortably, Benji was out on the streets of London, six nights a week, driving his little van from bin to bin, sometimes collecting a hundred bags of rubbish in a night and then spending half the following day panhandling the filth in search of treasure for the tabloids," Davies writes.

One of Benji's 'star' discoveries were documents found in bins outside the office of solicitors hired by former minister for defence procurement Jonathan Aitken, who was under suspicion for using his position to set up arms deals.

He was convicted for perjury in 1999 and jailed. Davies writes: "Digging around in the bins outside the offices of Aitken's solicitors, Benji unearthed documents which showed that the former Minister had indeed been setting up a sequence of huge arms deals..."

He adds: "The truth is that what was once an occasion indulgence of a few crime correspondents has become the regular habit of most news organisation... The hypocrisy is wonderful to behold.

"These organisations exist to tell the truth and yet routinely they lie about themselves... If falsehood and distortion are now the routine products of the corporate news factory, corruption is its most dangerous by-product."